There was once upon a time where the New Jersey Devils lived in the glory days. The core of the team was based around stat goaltender Martin Brodeur and stout defence in Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, and Scott Niedermayer. Prolific forwards made a name for themselves and the team went on to win the Stanley Cup three times. That was all before the salary cap era and the mini-dynasty they had going for them is all but a distant memory. The salary cap era began, and a new era of Devils hockey came with it, as the New Jersey Devils made plenty of free agent signings.
The Best And Worst Signings In New Jersey Devils History
In that span, the team has undergone three regimes. Long time manager Lou Lamoriello, Ray Shero, and now currently under Tom Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, the Devils have been rebuilding since 2012, but brighter times lie ahead. Moves that have made them better, but let’s take a dive into the New Jersey Devils best and worst free agent signing under the salary cap era.
This was the best New Jersey Devils free agent signing. Fitzgerald hit the jackpot when he signed Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton was arguably the best free agent on the open market, and he landed in the Garden State. Even though the Devils have had good blueliners over the years such as Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, and Damon Severson, none of them are Hamilton.
Dougie Hamilton, signed 7x$9M by NJ, is one of the league's top offensive defenceman. He's got an elite shot and loves to use it and drives play like few other blueliners in the league. Does have some issues in his own end and has a tendency to take bad penalties. #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/oyKmbcFxyj
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 28, 2021
After spending the year prior with the Carolina Hurricanes, Hamilton would sign a contract with the New Jersey Devils for 7 years and carries an AAV of $9 million per season. Hamilton has a solid two-way game as he is good defensively. Hamilton has the ability to produce on the power play, and he is a true number one defenceman. That is something the Devils have not had in a very long time.
It's official 😈
— NHL (@NHL) July 28, 2021
In his first season with the team, it did not go as planned. He had his worst statistical season but he also sat out due to a broken jaw. He finished with nine goals and 21 assists, and 30 points. It was only year one out of seven, and Hamilton is still the present and future of the Devils back end. Without question, the best free agent signing and the most important of the salary cap era.
Honourable Mention: Dainius Zubrus
This was a New Jersey Devils free agent signing that people forget. A player that could have been forgotten, but was a solid player was forward Dainius Zubrus. He was not the most electric player, but he was consistent and productive in his time with the club. Zubrus joined the Devils in 2007-08 and signed a six-year contract that was worth $3.4 million per season.
Zubrus had a solid career in a Devils uniform. Throughout his tenure, he hit the 30-point mark four times and forty twice. This signing worked out for the Devils. Zubrus was at the peak of his career at the time, after coming off back-to-back 50+ point seasons. He was a solid two way player and could be put in any situation. His puck control was good, as well as his defensive ability to shut down the opposition.
He had his best seasons as a Devil in 2011-12 as he finished with 44 points as well as hitting 40 again prior in 2008-09. In 554 games played, he scored 87 goals, 137 assists, and 224 points.
This is the worst New Jersey Devils free agent signing. After suffering goodbyes to Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and David Clarkson, a new influx of offence was in need. Lou Lamoriello got his wish in free agency in 2014. Forward Michael Cammalleri would sign a five-year $25 million dollar contract. The goal was for him to replace the production lost and be the go to guy in the lineup for offence.
New Jersey Devils sign Michael Cammalleri (5 Years, $25M)
— NHL Score Updates (@NHLScoreUpdate) July 1, 2014
It went well at first. In year one, Cammalleri went on to score 27 goals and 15 assists. He was brought in for his goal-scoring ability which he did achieve. However, things went south quickly for the forward. He would fail to remain unhealthy, nevertheless never returning to form. Cammalleri was inconsistent and only scored 24 goals for the remainder of his tenure. When Ray Shero took charge, he bought out the final two years of the contract.
Honourable Mention: Anton Volchenkov
The Devils free agent signings got worse under Lamoriello. Lamoriello even to this day has a thing for veterans. Veterans who are past their primes, but still get rewarded with hefty contracts. In the summer of 2010, Lamoriello would continue that trend and sign physical defender Anton Volchenkov to a six-year $25.5 million dollar contract. Something Lou never learned was signing aging blueliners that were slow. In addition to signing Volchenkov, in the past, he signed Dan McGillis, Richard Matvichuk, and Vladimir Malakhov.
Volchenkov was about as what you’d expect, but wishing you had more. The rugged blueliner blocked shots, delivered hits, and was a solid penalty killer. Initially, he saw his ice time decrease and he dropped down the depth chart. Like Cammalleri, Volchenkov had the final two years of his deal bought out to rid themselves of the horrible deal.