Move To Newark
During the move to Newark, the Devils lost a few prominent members. On July 1, 2007, long-time Devils Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski left the team as unrestricted free agents; Gomez to the rival Rangers, and Rafalski to his hometown Detroit Red Wings. Back-up goalie Scott Clemmensen went to Toronto, and local favorite, forward Jim Dowd signed with Philadelphia. The Devils, however, were able to sign Buffalo forward Dainius Zubrus, and Rangers defenseman Karel Rachunek. On July 5, the Devils signed Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes as a backup to Brodeur, as well as Nashville Predators defenseman Vitali Vishnevski on July 10.
On July 13, 2007, Brent Sutter was named the 14th head coach of the team. Previous coach Larry Robinson was named to aide John MacLean as the second assistant coach. On August 7, 2007, the Devils signed former Islander Arron Asham. As the Devils preseason came to an end, prospects Nicklas Bergfors and David Clarkson made the final roster. The Devils opened their new arena, the Prudential Center, on October 27, 2007, against the Ottawa Senators, after opening the season with a nine-game road trip. The game ended with a 4–1 win for Ottawa.
On October 31, 2007, the New Jersey Devils won their first home game at the Prudential Center by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 6–1. In a dramatic last game of the season against their rivals the New York Rangers, the Devils won in a shootout, giving them home ice advantage over the Rangers in the playoffs, though the Devils lost the series against the Rangers 4–1, losing all three games at home. Brodeur did win the Vezina Trophy for the fourth time in five years for his performance in the regular season.
For the 2008–09 season, the Devils signed Brian Rolston, Bobby Holik, Brendan Shanahan, Mike Rupp, and Scott Clemmensen, all making their second stints with the team. The Devils' season looked to be in jeopardy after Brodeur tore a biceps tendon in November and was sidelined for four months, but strong play by scoring leader Zach Parise and backup goalie Clemmensen kept the Devils atop the NHL standings. Brodeur would return strong and make history. On March 17, 2009, before a sellout home crowd, Brodeur broke Patrick Roy's record for regular season wins with his 552nd victory, while Patrik Elias became the franchise's all-time leading scorer with his 702nd point. In the opening round of the playoffs, the Devils suffered two losses to the Hurricanes within the final minute of regulation play. In Game 4, the Devils overcame a 3 goal deficit, only to lose on a goal with 0.2 seconds left in the game in which Brodeur claimed he was interfered with. The team was eliminated in a Game 7 loss in which the Hurricanes scored 2 goals in the last one minute and twenty seconds of the game to erase a 3–2 Devils lead.
On June 9, 2009, the New Jersey Devils announced that head coach Brent Sutter was stepping down from his position, citing personal and family reasons. However, in a controversial move three days later, Sutter was introduced as the new head coach of the Calgary Flames. A month later, the Devils named former head coach Jacques Lemaire head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Assistant Coach John MacLean was named head coach of the Lowell Devils.After the free agency period opened on July 1, 2009, career-long Devils John Madden and Brian Gionta left to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens, respectively. Scott Clemmensen signed with the Florida Panthers and Mike Rupp signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. All four had won the Stanley Cup with New Jersey.
After several weeks of fruitless contract negotiations late in the season, the Atlanta Thrashers traded star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, along with defenseman and former Devil Anssi Salmela, to the Devils on February 4, 2010 for defenseman Johnny Oduya and forwards Niclas Bergfors, young prospect Patrice Cormier, and a first round draft pick in the 2010 draft. The Devils finished the season in first place in the Atlantic Division, second in the Eastern Conference. Their seeding matched them up against Philadelphia in the first round, who eliminated the Devils 4 games to 1. Kovalchuk was held to two goals in the series.
After head coach Jacques Lemaire retired from coaching, the Devils announced that the team's all-time leading scorer, John MacLean, would become their new head coach. Former team head and assistant coach, Larry Robinson and former NHL all-star Adam Oates joined MacLean as assistants. During the offseason, the Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a seventeen-year contract, keeping him in New Jersey until the conclusion of the 2026-27 season. The contract was the longest contract ever held by an NHL player, beating out Rick DiPietro's fifteen-year contract with the New York Islanders. The NHL rejected Kovalchuk's 17-year contract for allegedly circumventing the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement and Kovalchuk became a free agent for two months before the NHL officially accepted a fifteen year contract worth $100 million.
John MacLean led the team to a record of 9-22-2, and sitting in last place in the NHL on December 23 he was removed in favor of Jacques Lemaire, coming out of retirement for his third stint as head coach of the Devils and second in less than two seasons. During the tumultuous season, the Devils lost superstar Zach Parise to a meniscus tear in November and he finally returned in March for just one game in which the Devils were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Adding to the team's woes, goaltender Martin Brodeur suffered two multi-game injuries, an elbow injury in November and a minor knee sprain in February. Following the trade of captain Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars, the Devils managed an astonishing turnaround with an impressive run of 26-7-3. They saw a dramatic increase in offensive production, in addition to the outstanding performance of backup goaltender Johan Hedberg. On March 12, the Devils found themselves just six points out of a final playoff spot. The other major trade of the season was Jason Arnott to the Washington Capitals for center David Steckel and a second round draft pick.
During their astonishing late winter run the players did not talk about any playoff aspirations and maintained the motto of "one game at a time." Jacques Lemaire also refused to talk about the team's playoff potential and told reporters to ask him about the Devils' chances once they were five points back. The Devils ultimately came within one point of Lemaire's benchmark but were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens on April 2, 2011, thus missing out on the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season. After winning their last game of the season, Jacques Lemaire announced that he would not return as head coach for another season with the Devils. Overall, this was the first losing season for the Devils since 1990-91.
Famous quotes containing the word move:
“To live and die amongst foreigners may seem less absurd than to live persecuted or tortured by ones fellow countrymen.... But to emigrate is always to dismantle the centre of the world, and so to move into a lost, disoriented one of fragments.”
—John Berger (b. 1926)