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Emptying The Bag

It's always great to answer some reader questions, especially now that we have quite a few games worth of information to go on. If you have a question, always feel free to tweet @SNYDevils.

Jonathan Harpula - @Starpula - Larsson for Yakupov? Who says no at this point?

Tags: Adam Larsson, Analysis, cory schneider, Discuss, Emptying The Bag, Eric Gelinas, Hockey, Marek Zidlicky, MARK FAYNE, Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Pete DeBoer, Peter Harrold
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There's obviously still a lot to digest from the Ilya Kovalchuk news. We covered the contract and the KHL aspect earlier today, but there's still many more factors at play. So here's a collection of thoughts I've had over the past 24-plus hours.

What now?: I touched on this briefly in the immediate aftermath of the Kovalchuk news and it's taken me a little while to get my head wrapped around what the Devils will do without their only star offensive player. In the end, I don't see any immediate additions unless there's a player on the trading block of which I'm not aware. If Bobby Ryan were still around, I'd throw the Devils at the top of his trade list -- but he's in Ottawa for at least a season and a half. The Devils could've used Kovy's money to re-sign Clarkson, but I never got the sense Lou Lamoriello was willing to meet Clarkson's price tag or the term he got as a free agent. They probably could've gone after vets Vinny Lecavalier or Danny Briere, but both of those players are centers and would've displaced two of the main cogs left on the roster in Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique. So what's left? Well, have you ever walked into your kitchen with no idea what you wanted for dinner? That's Pete DeBoer right now. He's gotta take a little bit of this, a lot of that, maybe a splash of this and hopefully find a protein and a starch to carry the dish. Patrik Elias is the starch and Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and Travis Zajac the little bits of spice and sauce that make the dish edible. But where's the beef? Step right up, Mr. Henrique. You are the man, now. Remember that Calder Trophy-caliber rookie season and stellar postseason run? Yeah, you need to do that a lot next season. I know it may be a lot to expect out of a player just entering his third year -- particularly one that struggled as much as Henrique did last season -- but he's got the most potential and the most talent without behind over the age of 28. If Henrique tanks, there's no high-ceiling forward left on this roster right now. At least, not unless Reid Boucher makes the team and has a Henrique-type rookie year.

Tags: Emptying The Bag
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The Devils got busy boosting their offense and there's a good amount to digest. So after a few days, here's my overall thoughts on what they did in the open market and some of the moves they made.

Hindsight is...: There's a reason for this saying. It's always easy to see your mistakes four years after you've made them. The problem for New Jersey is I, no check that, EVERYONE, can see that replacing David Clarkson with Ryane Clowe for five seasons was absolutely awful. I've spent the past few days trying to come up with justifications for the deal -- there are a few -- but any positive feeling is ruined by the five-year term and high AAV for a guy with almost no foot speed and a history of concussions. Is he a potential dangerous power forward for this team? Sure. But do you want him and Dainius Zubrus on the same line? What if Anton Volchenkov is on the ice too? The move limits the combinations Pete DeBoer can put on the ice on a nightly basis. That's not what you want from a big-ticket free agent.

Ruff Ryder Anthem: With the Clowe deal on one end of the spectrum, the Michael Ryder signing is a shining beacon on the other side. The value in terms of years and money is obvious. Seven million over two years for a player who consistently scores 20 to 30 goals is an absolute bargain. Think of how many times during last season you were basically begging for a winger who could put the puck in the net. You can stop counting once you run out of digits. Ryder could be an excellent compliment as the Devils' second-line right wing playing next to Travis Zajac or Adam Henrique. Hell, maybe you put Elias, Zajac and Ryder on your second line and Clowe, Loktionov and Kovy as your top line. This gives you Dainius Zubrus and Henrique to play with on the third pairing AND they can play around with those top three centers depending on chemistry. Ryder isn't going to ease all of the Devils' scoring woes, but considering how many they have, he'll certainly help.

Tags: Emptying The Bag
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Well, the trade deadline is over, but that doesn't mean we can't wring a little bit more coverage out of it. We told you our thoughts on the Devils' acquisition of Steve Sullivan and even covered you with all the trades on Tuesday and Wednesday. Now, here's what's left over in my brain about the deals that were (and weren't) and some of the teams heavily involved in the past two days.

Devils Don't: When the Devils added Steve Sullivan, I think it's pretty safe to say Devils fans greeted it with a conjunctive, "That's it?" Make no mistake, Sullivan can help if he's got anything left, but yesterday was more about what the Devils chose not to do. They didn't jump into talks for a guy like Ryane Clowe, Jaromir Jagr, Jason Pominville or Martin Erat. They only dealt a seventh-round pick for Sullivan, preserving the few top prospects and 2013 draft selections still left in the cupboard. And you know what? It was the right move -- for now and for the next two or three seasons. As much as Devils fans are conditioned to think they can win the Stanley Cup every year, that's not the case this year. One player was not going to fix this team and the Devils didn't have the assets to overhaul their forwards like the Rangers did over the past few days. The Devils are a playoff team, but they might not make the postseason after long-term injuries to Dainius Zubrus, Martin Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk. We wrote before and during the season that the most important thing for New Jersey was to stay healthy. They didn't and it's cost them, but there were no quick-fix answers out there at or before yesterday's trade deadline. In the end, Lou Lamoriello made the right decision by standing pat.

Rangers re-do: I like what the Devils' cross-river rivals did over the past two days. Yes, they gave up a lot, but they completely revamped their team in the style their coach prefers to play, added talented depth and regained the cap flexibility they lost when they traded for Rick Nash. What we're seeing is that (at least for now), teams in this cap era can't afford to be top heavy in salary (Are you listening, Anaheim?). The Rangers had most of their cap tied up in Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqivst and have several very talented RFAs they'll need to sign this summer. More importantly, I think it makes them better this year. Weird, right? Normally trading a proven 40-goal scorer from one of the most offensively inefficient teams wouldn't help that team moving forward. However, the Rangers now have a third-line center (which they didn't), a top-six grinder with a solid scoring touch and a 22-year-old puck-moving defenseman to replace guys like Stu Bickel and Steve Eminger. The Rangers might end up missing Gaborik's scoring touch if they make the playoffs or the draft picked they gave up for Ryane Clowe if they flame out, but that doesn't mean these were bad moves.

Tags: Emptying The Bag, Editorial Aside, Trade Deadline
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New of Ilya Kovalchuk's shoulder injury hit the Devils at the worst possible time. With New Jersey fighting off somewhere between five and 37 teams for one of the final three playoff spots in the East, the Devils can hardly afford to lose their best player. After a couple days of collecting my thoughts on the injury, I decided to "empty the bag" on Kovy's absence, the power play and if it affects the Devils' trade deadline plans.

How long we talkin' here?!: Lou Lamoriello is notorious for his half answers and dodgy "day to day" injury tactics. That was no different for Kovy, who apparently has a shoulder injury but no one will say what exactly is wrong within said shoulder. Also, according to Lou, Kovy could miss two weeks or less than two weeks or possibly three weeks or maybe even four weeks. The Devils even waited seven hours after announcing the timeline to actually place Kovy on injured reserve, guaranteeing he'd miss at least seven full days. The Devils didn't even want you to definitvely know he'd miss that much time! The problem with all of this double-talk and ridiculous injury gamesmanship is that it gets old real fast. How fast? Well, keep in mind that Martin Brodeur was day to day with a minor back issue until he was on IR for a month with a pinched nerve that almost required surgery. Of course, there's also the Henrik Tallinder case and his "minor" lower-body injury that has now kept him out since March 7. And there's Dainius Zubrus, whose "minor" upper-body injury turned into wrist surgery that was only supposed to keep him out four to six weeks. Oh, wait, it's been six weeks already? And Zubrus isn't even practicing? You don't say.

Tags: Alexei Ponikarovsky, DAINIUS ZUBRUS, Emptying The Bag, Ilya Kovalchuk, Lou Lamoriello, Matt D'Agostini, Pete DeBoer, Editorial Aside, TRAVIS ZAJAC
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Martin Brodeur scratched himself from Sunday's game after feeling a twinge or a tweak or a pull (whatever language you prefer) in his back during warmups. Initially, the Devils called him day to day and said the injury wasn't believed to be serious. Brodeur sat out practice Tuesday and was sent to see a doctor.

Then, just before 5 p.m. ET, Brodeur became the third Devil to be place on injured reserve in the last two weeks. After a couple hours to think it over, I've come up with a few thoughts on the injury, the roster move and how this affects the Devils going forward...

Tags: Devils, Devs, Emptying The Bag, Johan Hedberg, Keith Kinkaid, Martin Brodeur, Marty Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, Editorial Aside
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My friend Brian Bassett over at SNY's theJetsBlog runs this occasional feature called "The Junk Drawer." He uses it to basically get out a bullet pointed list of thoughts rattling around his head about a specific move or a specific period of time. I'm officially stealing this idea, with all due respect to Brian, and calling my version "Emptying The Bag" -- an allusion to those days when you'd pull all your stinky hockey equipment out of the bag to air it out before it grew mold. The first version is below and basically empties my head of whatever thoughts I had left regarding the Alexei Ponikarovsky trade...

The (no) adjustment bureau: They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in this case, it creates a lack of waiting time. One of the advantages of Ponikarovsky is the Devils don?t have to spend time teaching him the system or waiting for him to get adjusted to new surroundings or hoping he finds chemistry with his teammates. This is all old news for Poni and the Devils, who already have a limited amount of time as it is in the shortened season. For that reason, I would in no way be surprised if he picked up exactly where he left off last season, when he had seven goals and 18 points in 33 games for New Jersey. Will he score on that pace? Probably not, but with this Devils team, any additional offensive input is a bonus, especially when it comes from the first line left wing.

FLLW: I?ve written multiple times about the way station that has been the left side of the Devils? top forward line. I even have a hastily created acronym for it. But the truth is that even Dainius Zubrus wasn?t producing enough offensively to merit his place on the top line. I like the idea of Poni skating there because he brings the size and physicality that Zubrus brought, but perhaps with a better offensive touch. With Ilya Kovalchuk shooting almost every puck he gets his hand on, a big body like Ponikarovsky could be very useful in the front of the net to help clean up the rebounds. Plus, it allows the Devils to play guys like Ryan Carter and Stefan Matteau on the third and fourth lines, respectively, where their minutes won?t balloon too much and where they?re far more comfortable as players.

Tags: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Analysis, DAINIUS ZUBRUS, Devils, Devs, Emptying The Bag, Krys Barch, New Jersey Devils, Editorial Aside, Stefan Matteau
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