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Devils may start season with just 20 players thanks to salary cap crunch

Oct 5, 2010, 4:46 PM EDT

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NewJerseyDevils_logo.gifWe all know that the Devils have some cap issues to deal with by now. They’ve also got some injury problems as well and both fortunately and unfortunately for them, they can use those two issues to help themselves out of a bit of a mess.

Defensemen Bryce Salvador and Anssi Salmela are expected to begin the season on the LTIR which gives the Devils room to go over the cap by the amount of their combined salaries. Even though that hasn’t happened yet, that solution is being counted on to happen and would only allow the Devils to start the year with the minimum 20 players needed to ice a team each night. Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice examines the possibility.

Nothing is certain yet, but as the signs pointed today to the Devils going with only 20 players on their roster to meet Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline to be under the salary cap, there was a definite feeling of relief among the players that were possible candidates to be moved.

Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner admited he felt “a little bit” of relief that it appears he will still be with the team when it opens the regular season Friday night at Prudential Center against Dallas..

“It looks like this is what it’s going to be going forward for a while,” Langenbrunner said. “Everyone will have to fend for their health, but for now the focus is on Friday. All of us in this business know that there’s never going to be relief any time, so I don’t think it’s that’s big of a deal for us. (But) we knew something was going to happen or we thought something would, so there’s a little bit of relief.”

The trick with going with just the minimum of 20 players is that you can’t afford minor injuries to anyone. If an injury isn’t serious enough to put a guy on LTIR (which means a minimum of 24 days lost or 10 games missed) the team can’t do much to replace that player on the roster. As it is, by putting Salmela and Salvador on LTIR, it gives the Devils about $85,000 in cap space.

What that means is if the team wants to bring in Adam Mair, who’s been in camp on a professional tryout, they’ll need to move someone out to free up the cap space, even to sign him to a NHL minimum contract. It makes life difficult for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, but it’s a situation he was more than well aware of.

As it is, hearing the team will only go with a 20-man roster is a huge relief to players like Dainius Zubrus, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston, and Colin White who have had their names bandied about in trade rumors and waiver speculation. Their jobs are safe for now, but once it’s time for Salmela and Salvador to return, things will change.

For now, the Devils just have to keep their heads about them and make sure they don’t get dinged up. With six games in the season’s first nine days, that could be a tall order for the Devils.

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