2017-18 team-by-team NHL season outlook: Previewing the New Jersey Devils

As October creeps closer, another NHL season creeps with it.

In the fifth of a series of team-by-team summer reviews and season previews, here's a glimpse at the ...

New Jersey Devils

Right there with the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes in terms of goal differential, the Devils stumbled their way to the finish line in yet another less-than-mediocre season, their fifth straight campaign without a playoff berth. They ended 2016-17 with a 28-40-14 record and just 12 wins on the road.

Taylor Hall and the Devils are looking to rebound from five straight seasons without a playoff appearance. USATSI

General manager Ray Shero had an excess of salary cap space this summer, and he left this year's draft with top prize Nico Hischier, so New Jersey has inklings of promise as its sights are set on at least restoring competence and laying the foundation for a brighter future this season.

The moves

Key additions: F Marcus Johansson (trade with Capitals), F Brian Boyle (Maple Leafs), D Brian Strait (Winnipeg Jets), D Mirco Muller (Sharks)

Key losses: F Michael Cammalleri (Kings), F Jacob Josefson (Sabres), F Beau Bennett (Blues)

The biggest haul came when Shero took advantage of the Capitals' financial restraints and landed Johansson, a top-six forward coming off a career year, to bolster New Jersey's long-term offensive prospects. To the disappointment of Devils fans, it didn't accompany a similar splash on the other side of the ice, where coveted free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was a reported target before landing with the New York Rangers. It also didn't accompany any movement on the Ilya Kovalchuk front, where Shero reportedly couldn't find any serious takers for the team's nostalgic trade chip.

Still, New Jersey did offset some reserve losses with a few veteran pickups in Boyle and Strait. And with Johansson joining Hischier in the fold to replace a bought-out Cammalleri, the question now is whether Shero could still use his ammunition, particularly cap space, to pull off another blockbuster or at least open the door for a low-risk, high-reward addition like that of former Colorado Avalanche draft pick Will Butcher.

The verdict

If the Devils' only move this offseason were adding Hischier at No. 1 in the draft, it'd be a nice start for New Jersey, which has been scratching and clawing -- unsuccessfully -- to surround young standouts like Taylor Hall with help. In fact, losing injured top center Travis Zajac for as many as six months, while unfortunate, doesn't even hurt as badly because of Hischier's presence in the pipeline. And throwing Johansson in the mix certainly spices up an offense that ranked among the league's least productive in 2016-17, giving the team both contender experience and down-the-road potential.

Nico Hischier's presence alone should give the Devils reason to have high hopes moving forward. USATSI

The blue line is where the questions remain. After swinging and missing on Shattenkirk, whose arrival may have at least cut in half the Devils' need for top-four defensemen, Shero could be prompted to get serious in negotiations with restricted free agent Damon Severson. And unless someone like Muller develops quicker than expected, the team could still use plenty of depth, not to mention first-line talent, in front of Cory Schneider.

All in all, the Devils should be pleased with where they're headed. A step up from 2016-17 should be in order. A full turnaround will take time, however, especially considering the 18-year-old Hischier's reputation as a raw talent. If you're talking playoffs, you're still probably talking about a couple-year window.

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