Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Decisions Loom for Area Clubs

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Decisions Loom for Area Clubs

Article excerpt

Welcome to the summer of change, as it relates to the three local NHL teams.

The Islanders joined the Devils and Rangers in the off-season with a meek, 4-0, loss to the host Lightning in Game 5 of their second-round series on Sunday.

Just like the Rangers, who bowed out in five games to the Penguins in the first round, the Islanders seem to have gotten as far as they will with this configuration of their roster and face several crucial personnel decisions.

Meanwhile, the Devils, who missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season and will be under general manger Ray Shero's guidance for the second summer, must continue to improve their roster to once again be a perennial playoff contender

It's not crazy to think of the Devils as the team with the highest ceiling of potential over the next few seasons, though the fickle nature of waiting for potential to develop makes even that statement pretty much a crapshoot.

Here's a look at their off-season needs:

DEVILS: With nine unrestricted free agents and six restricted free agents, Shero will have plenty of opportunity to augment his roster. Regardless of who goes or who stays, the Devils need to produce more goals in 2016-17 after an NHL-low 184 during the regular season. For the Devils, though, it's all about the future and the development of players such as Pavel Zacha, the sixth overall pick in 2015 who made his NHL debut in the season finale, Joseph Blandisi, Miles Wood, RFA Reid Boucher and defensemen Jon Merrill, Damon Severson and Steven Santini, though that's far from a complete list.

Shero made a deft trade last summer to get Montvale native Kyle Palmieri, who responded with 30 goals and 27 assists. Look for Shero to make a similar impactful deal this summer.

With Shero and coach John Hynes, who impressed in his first NHL season, the Devils have the foundation to get better quickly. …

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