|Date & Time||Wednesday December 31, 1969, 7:00 PM (EST)|
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There was no bigger shock during the off season than Ilya Kovalchuk's sudden "retirement" from the New Jersey Devils. The prolific goal scorer abandoned his club with still over a decade remaining on a $100 million contract to return home to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. It's no coincidence that New Jersey's collapse last season came when Kovalchuk was injured, and now they'll have to face an entire season without him.
The biggest addition for the Devils in the off season was the acquisition of Corey Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks. General manager Lou Lamoriello was looking toward the future and acquired the young American goalie for a top ten pick in this past summer's draft. It was a steep price to pay but one that the Devils hope will benefit them this year with an aging Martin Broduer, as well as in the future when he inevitably retires. New Jersey will need their goaltenders to play at an elite level because without Kovalchuk around they might struggle to score goals.
Travis Zajac had a miserable season last year after signing a big contract, but he's a kid with tons of potential and something to prove. They'll need him and Adam Henrique to really take that next step if they want to be competitive this year. They signed Ryan Clowe to an absurd contract, but money aside he should be able to help this club in the dirty areas. Jaromir Jagr should also be an asset and help this team control the puck for long stretches. If he can stay healthy he could be a difference maker offensively for a club that needs one. Michael Ryder was also brought in and while no one ever sems to notice him he always seems to be good for 20 plus goals.
Defensively the Devils will need Anton Volchenkov to rebound from a lackluster season they'll have to continue to get solid contributions from players like Andy Greene, Peter Harrold, and Mark Fayne. Team defense has always been preached in the New Jersey organization but the defense corps can't have so many breakdowns this season.