The New Jersey Devils have been somewhat aggressive in their quest to get back to contender status over the last several years, but nothing has stuck. This time, however, they added an elite defenseman in Dougie Hamilton and locked him up for seven years. They also added 26-year-old defenseman Ryan Graves, who was a casualty of the salary cap in Colorado, forward Tomas Tatar and backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
Without question, the current iteration of the Devils is one of the best lineups they’ve had in years, but will it be enough to compete in maybe the most crowded division in the NHL? The answer is probably not, at least as far as I’m concerned.
The Devils are obviously a better team, but they’re getting a little bit too much love from the public. Hamilton makes New Jersey a team to watch, but if the Devils plan to make a jump, it will probably be over the Flyers and that’s it. And as nice as the other additions are, whether the Devils can outperform this projection and push for a playoff spot depends on whether their young core can perform at a high level over 82 games.
More than two-thirds of New Jersey’s forward group has yet to hit the age of 23, and while optimism about the future is warranted, bettors need to be real about where the team is right now. Statistically, the Devils grade out as a below-average team in just about every category, and I don’t expect a roster mostly made up of unproven players to change that overnight.
The play: Devils to miss playoffs (-200 at BetMGM and DraftKings).