Pieces Coming Together for Devils

In this week’s Q&A, Ken Daneyko evaluates the Devils’ early offseason moves.

MSGNetworks.com: The free agent frenzy may have started slowly for the Devils, but it certainly picked up with a couple of moves by Ray Shero. What’s your take on their activity so far?

Ken Daneyko: Ray has certainly made some smart moves in the last week or so. You have to have patience and this wasn’t the strongest free agent market if you compare it to recent years. Obviously, Kevin Shattenkirk was the biggest piece out there, but he wanted to go to the Rangers and I commend him for that. He wanted to fulfill a childhood dream and Ray made an honest effort.

[Maven’s Ravin’: Kevin Shattenkirk is Coming Home]

After that, people want you to sign whoever’s left. But there’s a certain criteria when it comes to adding players for Ray and his scouting group. They might not think that a certain player fits in the with the team or is good enough. You don’t sign anybody to just to sign anybody.

Ray talked about being patient and looking at teams that are up against the cap. You have a such a good, sound player who had such a terrific year in Marcus Johansson. If you watched the playoffs last year, he scored some big goals against the Maple Leafs in Game 6 of the series.

Marcus Johansson shares his initial reaction to learning he was traded, what position he's most comfortable playing and how excited he is to be joining the Devils.

The Devils have made some real good savvy decisions, including the addition of Brian Boyle. He’s a piece they wanted and the Devils needed a guy with a little bit of bark and leadership, not only on the ice, but off it as well. I know Brian Boyle and he’s the type of guy that will speak up in the room. From a leadership standpoint, the Devils can use more of that. He’s also a good solid pro, good at faceoffs and doing the little things.

[Read Devils Press Release on Boyle]

It’s an important signing especially for the young group that’s coming up. We might have four or five young guys that may make the team next season. That’s a good thing.

MSGNetworks.com: Boyle has had experience on winning teams like the Rangers and Lightning. How important is it to add that veteran presence on a transitioning team like the Devils?

Ken Daneyko: You hear the phrase “he’s good in the room” or “he’s a good leader” a lot. For it to work, it has to be the right guy and the right leader. Being around and knowing him a little bit from my perspective, he’s the kind of player Ray was targeting – a quality guy, a leader, a winner and respected everywhere he’s played. Players know who leaders are and from my perspective being a former player, Brian Boyle is a real leader.

Brian Boyle speaks to the media after signing as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils.

Is he a star player? No. But he’s a sneaky smart addition for the team. He’s going to help you in a lot of areas and he’s going to speak up. In my opinion, when things aren’t going well, you need a guy in the room that will snap once in awhile. Brian Boyle has that type of clout that he can do that. When I say snap, I don’t mean just do it for no reason. But at the right time, it’s necessary to wake up the team when it needs it. He has those type of qualities and he’s going to chip in offensively. We’ve seen him score a lot of big goals in his career in big situations. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a big guy.

MSGNetworks.com: The Devils followed up the Boyle signing with the trade for Johanssen, a player who had a career-high in points last season with the Capitals. Some fans were getting on the Devils for not jumping into the free agent frenzy, but it certainly looks like Shero was able to take advantage of the Capitals’ cap problems by waiting.

Ken Daneyko: Absolutely and the timing was perfect! Those are the type of savvy deals you have to make to continue to grow. I believe in Ray and I know he’s a sharp guy. He wants players that will be a part of the future. Johansson is 26 years old, he can be a part of the future with all the other young talented guys on the roster. But there has to be a little patience.

Devils GM Ray Shero explains how the trade for Marcus Johansson came to fruition with the Capitals and how Johansson fits in with the Devils.

I know some people get impatient and say, “Sign this guy! Give him a long-term deal!” But, if it’s not a fit or the right thing to do, don’t do it! You don’t just throw money around. They’ll be a time and a place to throw money around. Too many people look at the cap now. It doesn’t mean you have to spend to the cap right away. You can add during the year and everything doesn’t have to be done in July. You always want some flexibility.

[Maven’s Ravin’: Devils Use Assets Wisely in Deal for Johansson]

Those are all things Ray preaches and I believe in that, especially with where the Devils are at right now. Everybody is now looking to add a defenseman to the roster. Do I think Ray is out there looking for the right deal? There’s no doubt in my mind he is, but it has to be the right deal. You have to have a willing partner when you’re making transactions or trades. You have to show some patience as a general manager and Ray is doing a good job of that by building it the right way.

MSGNetworks.com: How do you think the new additions will affect the youth movement the Devils are undertaking?

Ken Daneyko: Look at the Maple Leafs this past season and take them as an example. Some of the young guys can have a big impact right now and make the Devils a contender to be in the playoff race. A guy like Pavel Zacha, does he take the next step? I believe he can. John Quenneville is a great young player, Joseph Blandisi is on that list, Miles Wood is going to be better this year. There are a lot of good, exciting pieces and they’re going to be ramped up when they see the additions of Johansson and Nico Hischier.

Everybody is going to be pushing each other and that’s going to make these guys who’ve had a taste of the National Hockey League better as well.

You also have to understand that it’s still a bit of a rebuild and some of these young guys may need time to develop.

MSGNetworks.com: The forward group has improved with the likes of Johansson, Boyle and Hischier being added so far. You mentioned that Shero is looking to add a defenseman. Do you think that’s something that might take a little bit of time this offseason for the Devils to solve?

Ken Daneyko: I think so, but I also think that there is talent and ability on the blue line that’s already there. Everybody gets on the defense because there isn’t an Erik Karlsson back there. Well, I remember a team in 2012 that reached the Stanley Cup Final with a “no-name defense.” I’m not saying that’s what you always want. You always want to continue to improve, but that group was a solid group together and got it done collectively.

Once again, Ray is going to have to be patient and it has to be the right deal. He’ll look for a puck mover and a top-4 defenseman, but it takes time. It might have to be during the season when teams have a need for something else or are willing to part with a top-4 guy. There are so many variables that go into this.

MSGNetworks.com: With the additions the Devils have made, do you think this gets them back in the conversation with some of the other teams at the top of the Metropolitan Division?

Ken Daneyko: Everybody judges teams on paper and the Metropolitan Division is real tough with a lot of good players and teams. Are the Devils going to be improved? There’s no doubt in my mind. If Cory Schneider has a year that I expect he’ll have, it’ll help out the defense as well. Keith Kinkaid will be a formidable backup to like he was last year. These are all big factors that can make them contend and be right in the mix.