Entering the 2012 summer, the New Jersey Devils list of restricted free agents (RFA’s) is relatively thin. Only one RFA was a mainstay in New Jersey this season and that was Mark Fayne. The Providence College product tops the list of the RFA market in New Jersey, and is due for a well earned pay raise. Also joining Fayne on the RFA market are forwards Vladimir Zharkov and Kory Nagy, defensemen Matt Corrente, and goaltender Timo Pielmeier.
Mark Fayne: The Devils fifth round pick in the 2005 NHL entry draft was called up to New Jersey in a time of trouble. The 6’3”, 215 pound Fayne made his NHL debut in late November of 2010, when playing ‘not terrible’ was good enough to stick around during the Devils disaster of a first half of the season last year.
As the season went on, the 25 year old defenseman was leaned on more and more. Coming into the 2011-2012 season, many wondered if Fayne’s solid play would regress, instead he built on prior success and might have been the Devils most consistent defender from start to finish. Paired with Andy Greene for the most of the year, the duo ate plenty of minutes and provided adequate defense. Fayne played in all 82 games in the regular season, scoring four goals and assisting on 13 others. Fayne played in all 24 playoff games and added three points.
I expect Devils General Manager and Mark Fayne to come to terms pretty easily. On the high side, I could see Mark Fayne getting a three year deal worth $9 million, making the salary cap hit $3M a year.
Matt Corrente: This might be the end of the road for the 6’0”, 205 pound defensemen in New Jersey. The Devils 1st round selection in the 2006 entry draft has been talked about seemingly every year as fans would ask ‘Is this the year Corrente makes the team?’ As Devils property Corrente has spent three years in the OHL and four years in the AHL as a Lowell/Albany Devil to go along with two stints in New Jersey. In thirty-four NHL games, Corrente has accounted for six points and 68 penalty minutes.
Corrente has showed versatility as the defensemen has played as a forward on the fourth line at times under former head coach Jacques Lemaire. However, the 24 year old defensemen was once one of New Jersey’s top prospects and now by some, does not crack their top 20 list. Correnete has been passed up on the depth charts by the likes of Adam Larsson, Mark Fayne, Alexander Urbom, Eric Gelinas, and Jon Merill. Making matters worse for Corrente is that he is coming off an injury shortened season that only saw him play 39 games. If Corrente comes back, it would likely be a short, two way contract at the league minimum.
Vladimir Zharkov: New Jersey’s third round selection in the 2006 Entry Draft has been able to do everything but find the back of the net. Zharkov first caught on in NJ in the 2009-2010 season where he saw action in 40 games, added eight assists, and finished +2 on the year playing in a fourth line role largely. It is clear that Zharkov is an asset as he is a fourth liner that can contribute in all aspects of the game. Zharkov has been leaned on as a penalty killer in the past.
The speedy Russian winger has no trouble drawing penalties yet his main flaw is not being able to find the back of the net. In 82 NHL games, Zharkov only has scored twice. Surprising to many, Zharkov spent the majority of 2011-2012 in Albany where he scored 16 goals and had 45 points. Zharkov was snubbed all season never getting called up down the stretch. I would like to see Zharkov return but after not getting a call up and the emergence of the fourth line in the playoffs, I would think it’s a safe bet that he is headed back to Russia to play in the KHL.
Timo Pielmeier: Pielmeier was acquired in the 2011-2012 season as part of the Kurtis Foster trade with the Anaheim Ducks. The German born goaltender played largely in the East Coast Hockey League this season with the Elmira Jackals. The netminder posted a 2.72 GAA along with a .910 save percentage in Elmira. Pielmeier also played in two games for the Albany Devils. Rather than be a depth goalie in the minor league system, it appears Pielmeier has signed a contract to play in Germany for the 2012-2013 season.
Kory Nagy: Nagy, the native of London, Ontario, was the Devils fifth round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft. The 5’11”, 195 pound center’s most productive season came in 2010-2011 as a Trenton Devil. Nagy produced 22 points, including nine goals in 57 games. With 53 games in Albany in 2011-2012, Nagy had four goals and four assists. If Nagy returns it will be most likely be as bottom six forward depth in the minor leagues.