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Devils Becoming More Competitive

The Devils off season has been eventful thus far, with a vital draft being completed and the teams most important free agency period yet.  The Devils grabbed what they hope to be two franchise players through the draft, have added two new players through trade and another new player through free agency. The Devils have made some waves this offseason, instead of building-down like last season they have begun to move in the different direction, determined not to be last in the league for the upcoming season. By acquiring center Jarret Stoll, defenseman Sheldon Souray and Swedish free agent Fabian Brunnstrom, the Devils believe they can compete for...well not last!

First off, the Devils managed to trade for two-way center Jarret Stoll from division rival - Philadelphia Flyers.  Stoll comes to the team as one of the best players (career wise) the team has had on board in awhile.  With 156 points in 229 games, Stoll obviously knows how to light the lamp and set up teamates.  As impressive as the points is his +44 which really shows his defensive game. At only 26 years old, and with an under 2 million contract the Devils felt he could be either a solid 2nd line player in the future or a great checking line player.  He plays a very similiar game to Brandon Dubinsky and the Devils look forward to Stoll sharing some secrets with the young center.

The Devils didn't like moving draft picks or Slava Trukhno, who they feel could have solid semi-physical 2nd line upside from the port wing, but decided a young center would be worth it.  He will fill a hole in case guys like Dustin Boyd, Vladimir Sobotka and others don't develop as anticipated.

The second move the Devils made was in acquring Sheldon Souray from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rumors persist that the Lightning wanted to move Souray to clear some cap room to sign up Alexei Kovalev and potentially get some key players in free agency.  The Devils wouldn't comment one way or the other, and decided to take on the former top pairing defenseman for a 7th round pick.  A relatively low risk move, the Devils do recognize him as a top pairing guy on this team, but around the league his ratings, plus his 4.4 million dollar contract makes him somewhat of a white whale.  The Devils plan to stick him either with fellow veteran Adrian Aucoin or one of the young guys, likely Alexander Edler.

[img]http://cdn.nhl.com/stars/images/upload/2008/05/brunnstrom250c.jpg[/img]Finally, the Devils managed to sign Fabian Brunnstrom, with help from being the worst team in the league last year. With many potential unsigned players to go for, the Devils sent only one offer out and it was to the swedish "star".  A fast, creative player Brunnstrom was a relative unknown until a few months ago and will look to rocket up the Devils depth charts the next few months.  Scouts are hush-hush, but some believe he could join the team as early next season as a possible top six player. Either way, he'll only be making 500k (50k on the farm) for the next 3 seasons, so a pretty good deal.

Aside from these big events, the Devils also managed to re-sign all their free agents, both RFA and their loyalty - Adrian Aucoin.  Originially not sure if they would re-sign Aucoin, they sent out a feeler offer and it went from there.  He wanted 3 years, but the Devils were able to "persuade" him to taking a 2 year deal at $3.35 million, slightly more than they wanted to pay but...Aucoin will be worth it.  The longest tenured Devil, Aucoin will start 2008-2009 as the team's captain and top pairing defenseman. After scoring 50 points in 2005-2006, and then a sad 13 the year after and 29 last year (with a -58), Aucoin will look to have a strong campaign and could hit 35-40 points with all the icetime he will get.  If anything, Souray and himself will be looked at by the young guys as role models on how to play a two-way game.

Notes:

-The Devils locked up potential powerforward Andrew Ladd to a 4 year deal at only 1 million a season..
-James Wisniewski, Dan Fritsche and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen only signed 1 year deals.
-Recent tradee Blake Wheeler signed a 4 year deal at $850,000. If all goes to play, he could be a pro player next year with a great contract.
-Rumors persist the Devils are looking at multiple goalies around the league, as well as 1 year players.  No news what players exactly, though supposedly they were extremely bummed when Doan was moved to Montreal!