What would seem like an easy choice for the Devils could become a hard one when looking at money available and players signed through next season already. The obvious choice would be to make Ryan Miller the loyalty as he was traded last year from the Canucks and Maple Leafs to be the teams starter for the next few years. After a rather hapless start to his career as a Devil, he and the rest of the team went on a great run to end the season 1st in the Eastern Conference.
However, Miller soon went back to his early season ways when lost in the first round in 5 games. With many D injured for the first game Miller knew he had to stand on his head, and while he had a solid playoffs - the only numbers that matter when it comes down to it are wins and losses. Now being worse next year than he was this year in terms of ratings the Devils have to take stock and see if they can't use that $5,000,000+ million better. With 79 OV Valamov waiting in the farm to take over starting duties and also set to make a big raise the team isn't sure what direction to go. After all take a look at Miller's last few years in the playoffs...
the last 3 seasons he's...
While this year and 2008-09 aren't awful years statistically, like I said...it's the losing atmosphere around Miller that the team doesn't want around the team. His career playoff record is 6-16..pretty atrocious for a guy who is usually thought of as a top 10 NEFHL goalie.
With the lack of D signed up for next season, another choice for loyalty would be Jan Hejda. A UFA signing a couple years ago, Hejda has played well the last couple years. Getting his share of points 2 years ago (26) while maintaining decent production this year (16). However what's been key has been his stability on the back end (a combined +25 the last 2 seasons) as well as throwing over 300 hits over that timeframe. Going into next year he's also looking at a sizeable raise either from New Jersey or another team but with that kind of production, he's not the type of defenseman the Devils want to let go. While McQuaid might be ready for more responsibilities, Salo and Salei are also UFA's and Sheldon Souray has retired. The rest of the team isn't great defensively so having that stability dissapear could hurt.
So the question will be to try and repeat this season, with weak defenseman and strong goalies and hope for the best; or get another 1A to split time with Varlamov and use Miller's money on Hejda and to fill other holes.