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On letting Cormier walk, Ward's departure, and the return of Kovalchuk

June 2, 2018, 10:54 AM ET [12 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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On Evan Cormier

If the New Jersey Devils wanted to retain Evan Cormier's rights, they had until 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday to sign him. To my knowledge they elected not to do so.

Cormier, a 4th round pick in 2016, is coming off a pretty solid season with the Saginaw Spirit. His .900 save percentage doesn't stand out as impressive but it's important to remember the OHL is a much higher scoring league than the NHL.

Cormier appeared in 61 of 68 games(!) for a very young Saginaw team while leading them to the playoffs. That's a ridiculous workload for a goaltender, especially when you consider there are *tons* of back-to-back and three-in-three situations in junior hockey.

Among 22 eligible goaltenders, Cormier ranked 7th in high-danger save percentage, 4th in medium-danger save percentage, and 4th in Adjusted Goals Saved Above Average.

The Devils are committed to developing Mackenzie Blackwood – they have a lot invested in him – and they did sign college free agent Cam Johnson a few months ago. In that sense, it's not surprising they let Cormier go.

I would have liked to see him get a shot, though. I would think he'll land a pro deal elsewhere.

On Geoff Ward

After three seasons with the Devils, Ward was recently poached by the Calgary Flames.

While many Devils followers were, let's say, content with this news, I don't exactly think it's cause for celebration.

At times the power play was frustrating to watch. Very much so. But at the end of the day, Ward coached two top-11 power plays (based on goals/60) in three years despite not having the best personnel to work with.

In 2015-16, the 10 leaders in power play ice were Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Lee Stempniak, Jacob Josefson(!!), David Schlemko, Damon Severson, Mike Cammalleri, John Moore, and Sergey Kalinin(!!!). They somehow finished 9th in goals/60.

In 2016-17, the 10 leaders in power play ice were Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Taylor Hall, Damon Severson, Mike Cammalleri, P.A. Parenteau, Pavel Zacha, Beau Bennett (#goat), and Miles Wood. They finished 22nd in goals/60.

This year the personnel was much better, obviously, and they made the jump back up to 11th in goals/60 and were top-10 in terms of percentage.

All in all, I think Ward did a pretty good job of maximizing what he had to work with.

On Ilya Kovalchuk

He's coming back. For real this time!

He's looking for a two or three-year deal in the $6 million range (like Patrick Marleau received from Toronto) and winning is a bigger factor than the geography of a team, according to TSN's Darren Dreger​.

Given the Devils are on the up and up, they have money to play with, and they could use some more scoring I've been asked numerous times about him possibly returning to the team. I would think the ship has long sailed on that one.

If Lou Lamoriello can convince John Tavares to re-sign in New York, which appears entirely possible, they could make sense for Kovalchuk.

Before you burst out laughing and say "I thought Kovalchuk wanted to win", let me point out the Islanders have cap space and multiple 1st + 2nd round picks to help them upgrade in goal and on defense. We all know they can score with the best of teams so it's not hard to envision them turning it around with a couple solid additions.

Many teams will be interested, I'm sure, but a wild card for Kovalchuk is Vegas. They have cap space, they own the rights to Nikita Gusev, a teammate of Kovalchuk's with SKA, and Kovalchuk would surely see them as a contender.

You could also make a good case for San Jose, Toronto, Calgary, and numerous other teams. I'm really interested to see how this plays out.

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