Devils On The Green

Wednesday was the perfect day for golf.  The weather was absolutely perfect, warm weather with a light breeze.  Fall has definitely begun in New Jersey.  The scent of change in the seasons is a reminder that it is time to return to hockey.

Every year, prior to training camp, the Devils alumni host a charity golf tournament to benefit various charities and scholarship programs.  Devils alumni, current players, management, and coaching staff participate in the event, which brings in thousands of dollars.

While many of the writers headed back to their offices before the first tee, I stayed the entire day at the Upper Montclair Country Club, running around the golf course in a golf cart, snapping photographs of the Devils, coaches and alumni.

Stopping at each of the pars, you learn a few things…like what everyone did over the summer, who is horrible at the game of golf, and what everyone is talking about.

Sheldon Souray

A topic of surprise, bright and early on a Wednesday morning, was the future of defenseman Sheldon Souray.  A few of his old teammates were shocked to learn on Tuesday that he was not invited to Oilers camp.

Souray’s future is in limbo.  He decided to head to LA to visit his children before his future is decided.  One of his former Devils teammates gave him a call on Tuesday after learning what happened and reported that Souray had no idea what was going to happen.

This past June, when I interviewed Souray, he was very vocal about being traded away from the Oilers.  Throughout the summer, the Oilers tried to grant him that wish by actively seeking to trade him, but there were many issues involved in orchestrating that trade.

While the world awaited the Ilya Kovalchuk decision, other hot, younger defensemen were on the market for a much cheaper price than Souray.  Teams were snatching them up as quickly as possible.  Tomas Kaberle’s name also surfaced as trade bait out of Toronto, but it didn’t amount to anything.  None of these defensmen were expected to command a cap hit of $5.4 million over the next two seasons, like Souray.  Throw in the fact that Souray hasn’t been in a game in nine months.

Yes, he’s a hard sell for the Oilers to trade to another team right now.  What are they to do?

Interestingly enough, discussion of re-entry waivers came up on the golf course yesterday.  As in, the only way this will work is if he’s put on re-entry waivers.  Now, you should be asking why the Devils players are talking about Souray on re-entry waivers.

There is talk that three players will be moved during training camp to get the Devils under cap.  Who those players are, we can only guess.  No one, not even coach John MacLean, knows.  But it almost seems like a trade for Souray would work for the Devils.

Souray, a former Devil, would be amongst the many players that returned to the place where it all began for their professional hockey careers.  He started his career as a Devil.  He could end his career as a Devil. Back in June, when we spoke about this possibility, he had many great things to say about his former club.  He even mentioned that he had spoken to his old teammate, Jason Arnott, right after he was traded to New Jersey.

With this being the final years of Martin Brodeur’s legacy, along with the return of Arnott, it would make sense that their old buddy should return to where it all began so that they could end their careers together.  The Devils are in need of another defenseman, they need to lose three players to get under cap, and the Oilers are looking to rid themselves of their problem.  Edmonton may even be in the market to remove him completely from the Western Conference.

Back in June, Souray didn’t think coming back to the Devils would be such a bad idea.  But back in July, and all the way through September, the Devils were focused on re-signing Kovalchuk.  Another big contract like Souray’s was not an option at the time.  Until now.

Souray to the Devils makes a lot of sense for the Arnott crowd.  His old teammates want him back.  The Oilers need to get rid of him.  They’re getting closer to doing whatever it takes to rid themselves of this issue, even if that means re-entry waivers and taking on half of his salary.

The Looming Trade

The future of the Devils is a time of uncertainty.

While some commented on how strange it was that the Devils were in the news the entire summer for the first time ever, they were glad that it was over with.  They don’t blame Kovalchuk as being the guy that is the cause behind three of their friends/teammates being traded.  They are happy (and relieved) that he is a member of their squad.  Being involved in a trade is part of the job.  It’s always shocking when it happens, but it is the nature of the business.

MacLean has given a definite as far as who will be on the left wing this season: Zach Parise, Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias.  Any additional information (such as complete lines), the coach won’t reveal, and rightly so.  He needs to see which players work well together as a unit before completely assigning a line.

This is also a great opportunity for the young guys to prove their worth.  They have to prove they are worthy of a spot on the roster.  With the loss of three players in the upcoming weeks, that means there are potential spots available.

Vladimir Zharkov, who did an excellent job in the minors under MacLean, will still have to win his spot this season.  MacLean said that Zharkov was one of his better players, but his lack of confidence in the NHL has prohibited him from scoring more goals.  If he can regain his confidence as an NHL player (not a minor leaguer), then he will be a phenomenal addition to the roster.

As for the only name to pop up as heading to the trade block, Dainius Zubrus is the only sticking point.  He knows that his name is on the trade block.  Only time will tell if he is actually moved.

What Happened to the Summer?

Catching up on how the summers were spent, a few Devils shared what took place this summer…

Parise usually heads somewhere tropical when he goes on vacation each year.  This summer, he headed to St. John, Virgin Islands.  The rest of his summer was spent back home in Minnesota.  He returned to New Jersey in time to attend the US Open (one of the major highlights of his summer).

David Clarkson spent some time in Las Vegas with Brodeur, Yann Danis and a few other good friends, before he got married in July.  He also did something amazing…he did a ride with Lance Armstrong for charity.

Brodeur not only spent some time in Las Vegas (for the NHL Awards), but he also spent some time up at his summer home in Lac-Sainte-Marie, Quebec.

Johan Hedberg has been in New Jersey for over a month, getting used to his new home and surroundings.

Who’s the Better Golfer?

The worst Devils golfer is Parise.

“Golf is not my forté,” he told me right before he putted the golf ball two yards away from the hole.

The best golfer is Arnott.  His group came in first place, Colin White’s group came in second, followed by Brian Rolston’s group in third place (after a tiebreaker).

David Clarkson had the longest drive at 295 yards.  MacLean followed with a 285-yard drive.

ETC.

Training camp for the Devils veterans begins on Friday.  Their first pre-season game takes place this coming Tuesday in Philadelphia, against the Flyers.  Their first home pre-season game will be on Saturday, September 25 against the New York Rangers.

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