5 moves New Jersey Devils must make to return to playoffs

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 09: Brian Boyle
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 09: Brian Boyle /
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The New Jersey Devils shocked the hockey world by reaching the playoffs in 2018. Now, general manager Ray Shero has to find a way to take the next step.

Before the start of this season, the New Jersey Devils were almost universally picked to finish in the basement of the Metropolitan Division. It seemed a safe choice, with the Devils having missed the playoffs each of the previous five years.

Shockingly, New Jersey tallied 97 points behind an MVP-caliber season from Taylor Hall, and a pair of rookie stars in Will Butcher and Nico Hischier. Additionally, general manager Ray Shero continued his trading way, acquiring Sami Vatanen, Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon during the campaign, bolstering what now is a good, young club with high upside.

Still, work remains, and the onus falls on Shero to make sure the Devils don’t fall back to the middle of the pack. Here are five moves he can make to avoid that scenario.

5. Allow Michael Grabner to walk in free agency

This isn’t because Grabner didn’t produce with the Devils (two goals, five points in 21 games), but rather the situation presented to the Devils. New Jersey has a slew of youngsters trying to earn significant playing time, ranging from Jesper Bratt and Joey Anderson to Michael McLeod and Joel Quinneville. Signing Grabner would put a squeeze on those opportunities, and for a cost that might hurt the team’s pursuit of help along the blue line.

Grabner, 30, is an incredibly fast skater with a scorer’s touch. Shero might want to re-sign him for both his potential and the saving of face, after New Jersey sent the New York Rangers a second-round pick for his services. Still, it’s better to cut losses in this instance, something that will make the Devils better in the long run.