The Devils signed defenseman Ben Lovejoy to a three-year contract with an average annual value of $2,666,666. The salary breakdown is as follows: 2016-17: $2,500,000; 2017-18 & 2018-19: $2,750,000.
Lovejoy, 32, spent last season with Pittsburgh where he recorded 4g-6a-10pts in 66 games with 30 penalty minutes. He played in all 24 games in the Penguins’ run to the Stanley Cup Championship, scoring two goals and four assists with 12 penalty minutes.
This signing reunites Lovejoy with Devils’ Executive Vice President/General Manager Ray Shero and head coach John Hynes. Shero was the general manager with the Penguins and Hynes coached Lovejoy in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ AHL affiliate.
“I picked New Jersey because it’s a situation that I’m excited about and I am confortable with,” Lovejoy said in a conference call on Friday afternoon. “I go way back with Ray Shero and (Devils assistant general manager) Tom Fitzgerald…It’s a group that I’m excited about joining, it’s a young talented team.
“I chatted with Ray (Shero) this morning, and he wants me to bring exactly what I’ve done throughout my career. I’m coming in to be a leader and help the young defensemen and show the team what it takes to be a successful player in the NHL.”
In 334 career NHL contests with the Penguins and Anaheim Ducks, Lovejoy has 15 goals and 63 assists for 78 points to go with 186 penalty minutes. He also skated in 58 Stanley Cup Playoff games, tallying four goals and 10 assists with 24 penalty minutes. Prior to becoming a full-time NHLer during the 2010-11 campaign, Lovejoy played parts of three seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) under Hynes.
In addition to Lovejoy, Shero brought in another player from the Penguins organization in the past week, Beau Bennett. The Devils also have Bobby Farnham, who the Devils picked up from Pittsburgh last October and his enthusiastic style of play made him an instant fan favorite.
“It made coming to New Jersey incredibly attractive,” Lovejoy said of the Devils becoming ‘Pittsburgh East.’ “I have a huge comfort level with Ray. I trust the guys running the show. They (Shero and Hynes) are both great people and very smart hockey minds
Lovejoy is fresh off winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins, who beat the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Final.
“The Cup run was an incredible run for our team,” said Lovejoy. “We got hot at the right time. We were a team that – we knew when we playing out best hockey – nobody could beat us.”
The Devils came close to making the playoffs last season, and are ready to take the next step.
“This Devils team is really good.” Lovejoy said of his new team. “They were fighting for a playoff spot and this is a team that will continue to get better and better and I am excited to be a part of that.
“I think that everybody in the league is trying to get better every year. I think that the Devils are a good team and I think that everybody involved wants to be great and compete for the Stanley Cup. You continue to build piece by piece and you see what Ray (Shero) is trying to do and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Born in Concord, NH, the 6’1’ 205lb. blueliner was signed as a free agent to an AHL contract by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on June 14, 2007. He later signed with Pittsburgh on July 7, 2008. Before his AHL stint, Lovejoy played three seasons at Dartmouth (ECAC) and one with Boston College (HE). In 118 collegiate games, he posted 11 goals and 49 assists with 60 points and 86 penalty minutes.
After five seasons with Pittsburgh, he was traded to Anaheim on February 6, 2013 for a fifth-round pick (Anthony Angello) in the 2014 NHL Draft. He had played parts of three seasons with the Ducks, 2012-13 through 2014-15. On March 2, 2015, Lovejoy returned to Pittsburgh for his second stint with the club when he was traded from Anaheim for Simon Despres.
DEVILS SIGNINGS ON DAY 1 OF FREE AGENCY:
- Re-signed forward Beau Bennett to a one-year, one-way, $725,000 contract. New Jersey had recently acquired Bennett in exchange for a 2016 third-round pick (#77 overall, used to select Connor Hall) at this year’s draft in Buffalo.
- Re-signed defenseman Jon Merrill to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $1,137,500. The breakdown of the contract is as follows: $1,000,000 in 2016-17 and $1,275,000 in 2017-18.Merrill, 24, has appeared in 165 career games, all with New Jersey, scoring five goals and 25 assists for 30 points, to go along with 64 penalty minutes. This past season, he notched one goal and four assists with a career-high 28 penalty minutes in 47 games.
- Re-signed right wing Devante Smith-Pelly to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $1.3 million. The breakdown of the contract is as follows: $1,250,000 in 2016-17 and $1,350,000 in 2017-18.Smith-Pelly, 24, was acquired by the Devils from Montreal for Stefan Matteau on February 29, 2016. He set new career highs across the board with 14g-11a-25pts in 64 combined games this season. He notched eight goals and five assists in 18 games after his trade to New Jersey.
- Signed free agent center Vernon Fiddler to a one year, $1,250,000 contract.Fiddler, 36, skated in all 82 games with Dallas last season, scoring 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points and 31 penalty minutes while serving as an Alternate Captain. He added one goal and two assists in 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
- Signed free agent defenseman Andrew MacWilliam and right wing Carter Camper to a one-year, two-way contracts worth $575,000 each at the NHL level.MacWilliam, 26, spent last season with Manitoba (AHL) scoring one goal and 14 assists for 15 points and 86 penalty minutes in 72 games played.
Camper, who will turn 28 on July 6, spent last season with Hershey (AHL) scoring nine goals and 25 assists for 34 points and 16 penalty minutes in 64 games played.
- Signed free agent defenseman Karl Stollery to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level.
Stollery, 28, spent last season with San Jose (AHL) scoring six goals and 18 assists for 24 points and 65 penalty minutes in 67 games played.