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The NHL playoffs begin in a handful of days and, for the sixth time in seven years, the New Jersey Devils won't be participating.
Their lone trip to the dance during that stretch resulted in a quick five-game exit in which it never, ever, felt like they had a remote chance of accomplishing anything.
As is the case with any team, there were some positives and bright spots this season. It's clear there is a lot of work to be done, though.
At the top of GM Ray Shero's off-season to-do list is re-signing Taylor Hall. I expect the two sides will be able to reach a lucrative agreement. If they don't, Shero will have to trade Hall. Not ideal, of course, but if that's what it comes to, he could surely fetch a big haul for the former Hart Trophy winner who has tallied 120 points over his last 109 regular season games.
Though Hall is the big item Shero has to take care of with regards to the forward core, it's clear he also needs to bring in more secondary scoring. The Devils were once again far too reliant on the big guns to create offense. If they hit a cold spell or were forced out of the lineup due to injury, the team simply couldn't score. At all.
Winning a top pick and plugging in someone like Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, would certainly help. Unfortunately, that's now a little less likely because the Devils won again last night and tossed aside a gift from the Kings. Whatever the case, I think more than one quality forward is needed.
Though the defense isn't a train wreck, it'd be nice to see more changes than simply promoting Ty Smith (assuming he is ready).
In goal, I think the Devils are fine. Mackenzie Blackwood and Cory Schneider showed enough over the last couple months that you can be fairly comfortable with them as the duo provided there's a competent roster in front of them.
While Shero has plenty of holes to fill, he also has a ton of cap space and draft capital at his disposal to help do just that.
I'm expecting an active, exciting off-season and I hope you'll stick with me through it.
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