Devils to start with skeleton crew

The New Jersey Devils will start the season with just 20 players on their NHL roster, but met the 3 p.m. Wednesday deadline to get underneath the salary cap without giving up any of their players to other teams.

Both D Bryce Salvador and D Anssi Salmela will start the season on injured lists, with Salvador designated for long-term injured reserve and Salmela earmarked as an injured, non-roster player. The cap relief the Devils get from those moves barely scrapes them below the $59.4 million salary cap ceiling for the 2010-11 season.

With the assignment of D Matt Taormina to Albany of the AHL and the recall of C Adam Henrique, the Devils have their roster. The risks of playing with a skeleton crew are many, but foremost the Devils run the risk of an active player injuring himself and needing replacement. Rather than dressing a healthy scratch, New Jersey would have to recall a player from Albany, the team’s AHL affiliate.

Should Salvador get healthy again, the team would first have to clear the necessary cap room before activating him.

For his part, GM Lou Lamoriello noted the proximity of Albany should the Devils need to recall a player and alluded to the fact that the opening day roster may be altered as the season moves on.

"This is just our opening day roster," Lamoriello said. "We will start with 20 people. Rosters can change from day to day and Albany is only an hour and three quarters away so when time is on your side, you use it."

With his well-earned reputation, Lamoriello has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt, but I really question how this can work beyond Oct. 27, when the team begins a five-game western swing against the Sharks, Ducks, Kings, Canucks and Blackhawks. Albany may be an hour and 45 minutes from Newark, but Anaheim and Vancouver are a different story.

And given that the Ducks are one of the most physical teams in the NHL, what happens if a player gets dinged in the Oct. 29 game and then falters in the morning skate the next day? Heck, what about swine flu? Or a common cold? The team would either have to fly out a player from Albany for a game in L.A. Oct. 30 or play shorthanded.

Could more injuries help the salary cap situation? Maybe. But any player with a worthwhile cap hit that lands on the IR would also drain the team’s talent pool. That’s hardly ideal.

I suspect the roster will continue to be a work in progress as the season begins and Lamoriello will continue to try and free cap space by moving a player. It feels to me that logistics just become too complicated otherwise and provide a huge handicap over the course of 82-games. Nevertheless, here’s how the roster shapes up right now:

Forwards: Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston, Dainius Zubrus, David Clarkson, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Rod Pelley, Adam Henrique.

Defensemen: Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene, Colin White, Anton Volchenkov, Alex Urbom, Mark Fraser.

Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg.

Morning Links

  • Tom Gulitti pens an epic post on the Devils’ approach to the Ilya Kovalchuk signing in his Fire and Ice blog. You may need a Power Bar to finish it, but it’s an interesting read, particularly as it disputes the notion that owner Jeff Vanderbeek was driving the movement to sign Kovalchuk against Lamoriello’s judgement.

  • The Post writes that the Devils still lack room to sign Adam Mair.

  • The Post’s team preview emphasizes the Devils’ new-look offense.

  • In Lou We Trust provided four reasons why the Devils’ 20-man roster approach is foolish.

  • And that site also has a few questions about the Taormina/Henrique shuffling.

  • The Star-Ledger rates the Devils No. 2 in the Eastern Conference behind the Washington Capitals in its season preview.