The New Jersey Devils have generated optimism after hiring a new coach, making three picks in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, and adding several players with something to prove in trades and free agency. The Devils, who failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons and seven of days gone by eight, were 28-29-12 (.493 points percentage) last season and were not among the 24 teams to compete in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. “Where we’re at, I’m not going to pretend we’re on the verge of winning a Glass. We’re not,” general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “Getting competitive right now is the most important thing to me. Putting a competitive team on the ice that can grow together.” Lindy Ruff was hired as coach to replace Alain Nasreddine in July 9.
Nasreddine, named coach when John Hynes was fired Dec. 3, will remain as an assistant. The Devils made eight picks in the 2020 draft, including three in the first round Oct. 6: forward Alexander Holtz (No. 7), center Dawson Mercer (No. 18) and defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin (No. 20). They also signed goalie Corey Crawford to a two-year contract Oct. 9, one day after placing goalie Cory Schneider on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout. Crawford will share the net with Mackenzie Blackwood.
“It’s a group that I feel really confident about likely to and trying to help win more games,” Crawford said. “They’re very underrated.” New Jersey added defenseman Ryan Murray in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fifth-round pick out in the 2021 NHL Draft on Oct. 8, ahead Andreas Johnsson in a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs for forwards Joey Anderson on Oct. 10, and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who signed a one-year contract Oct. 22 after three periods with the Winnipeg Jets.