New Jersey Devils Sign Eight as Free Agency Opens

The New Jersey Devils had a pretty busy day as Free Agent Frenzy opened on Friday afternoon.

Two days after dealing defenseman Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers for forward Taylor Hall, Devils general manager, Ray Shero, acquired a few free agents on the market.


Shero, signed former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, Ben Lovejoy to a three-year deal. The 32-year-old Lovejoy helped the Penguins in their Stanley Cup Championship run, as he put up four goals and six assists, in 66 games, while patrolling the blue line for the team.

He appeared in all 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games for Pittsburgh, adding two more goals and four assists. He had returned to Pittsburgh for his second stint with the club, on March 2, 2015 in the deal that sent Simon Despres to the Anaheim Ducks.

Prior to the trade that brought him back to Pittsburgh, he had played parts of three seasons with the Ducks, between 2012-2013 and 2014-2015. Anaheim had received Lovejoy from the Penguins on February 6, 2013 for a 2014 fifth round pick.

In 334 career games for the Penguins and Ducks, he has put up 15 goals and 63 assists. He has also skated in 58 Stanley Cup Playoff games over the course of his career, adding four goals and 10 assists.

Lovejoy has a connection to Devils head coach, John Hynes from his American Hockey League days. Prior to becoming a full time NHLer, Lovejoy played for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins under Hynes, for parts of three seasons.

The Concord, New Hampshire native was signed by the Baby Penguins to a contract as a free agent in 2007. Prior to playing in the AHL, he spent three seasons at Dartmouth College and one at Boston College. In 118 National Collegiate Athletic Association games, 11 goals and 49 assists.


The Devils also resigned Devante Smith-Pelly to a two-year deal. New Jersey acquired Smith-Pelly from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Stefan Matteau on February 29.

The 24-year-old set career highs, across the board with 14 goals 11 assists and 25 points in 64 games between the Canadiens and Devils this past season. In the 18 games following the trade, he put up eight goals and five assists.

On March 12th, he appeared in his 200th career game, while on the Devils west coast road trip in Los Angeles.

In 213 games, over five seasons, with the Ducks, Canadiens and Devils, Smith-Pelly has scored 29 goals and 39 assists. He has also added six goals and two assists in 24 playoff games.

The Scarborough, Ontario native was Anaheim’s third pick, in the second round of the 2010 National Hockey League Draft.


The team also resigned defenseman, Jon Merrill to a two-year deal on Friday. Merrill has appeared in 165 games for the Devils scoring five goals and 25 assists over the course of his career. During the 2015-2016 campaign, he notched one goal and four assists in 47 games.

Before being called up to the big club, the University of Michigan spent some time with the Albany Devils (2012-2014), of the AHL. At Michigan (2010-2013), he scored 11 goals and 36 assists.

During his freshman season, he helped lead the Wolverines to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, Conference Championship, and was named to the CCHA All-Conference Second Team, CCHA All-Rookie Team and the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team.

Before heading to Michigan, he played for Hynes on the United States National Development Team. The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma native was New Jersey’s first choice, 38th overall, in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft.

Merrill has represented the United States at two World Junior Championships, winning the bronze in 2011.


The Devils also signed, former Dallas Stars center, Vernon Fiddler to a one-year contract on Friday. The 36-year-old Fiddler appeared in all 82 games for the Stars during the 2015-2016 season.

He has 12 goals and 10 assists during the regular season, while adding one goal and two assists in the Stars 13 playoff games. Fiddler played the past five seasons for the Stars, serving as an Alternate Captain in the last two.

Prior to the Stars, he spent two years with the Phoenix Coyotes (2009-10-2010-2011) and seven with the Nashville Predators (2002-2003 to 2008-2009). In his 818 career NHL games, he has scored 102 goals and 155 assists. He has also added four goals and seven assists through 42 post season games.

The Edmonton, Alberta native was an undrafted free agent, signed by the Predators on May 6, 2002.

He began his career in the ECHL with the Arkansas Riverblades before making stops with the ECHL’s Roanoke Express and the Norfolk and Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. He helped Milwaukee win the Calder Cup in 2003-2004.

Fiddler spent his junior hockey in the Western Hockey League with the Kelowna Rockets and the Medicine Hat Tigers.


The team also signed forward Beau Bennett to a one-year deal on Friday. New Jersey acquired the restricted free-agent at the 2016 NHL Draft, in Buffalo, New York, from the Penguins in exchange for their third round pick.

Bennett like Lovejoy was part of the Penguins 2016 Stanley Cup Championship team.

The Devils also made some minor league signings on Friday as well. They had announced that signed Kyle Stollery, Carter Camper and Andrew MacWilliam to one-year, two-way deals.

Stollery spent time during the year with the San Jose Sharks AHL club, Camper spent the past season with the Hershey Bears and MacWilliam spent the year with the Manitoba Moose.