"The vultures are circling."
It's what happens when the Minnesota Wild lose Josh Harding to a torn ACL and Chuck Fletcher receives plenty of friendly calls from other GMs offering to "help." It's what happens when Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo suffer serious shoulder injuries in Islanders training camp and peers and agents graciously contact Garth Snow with "solutions" to his problem. It's what happens to Calgary's Darryl Sutter and Toronto's Brian Burke the morning after their teams suffer another rip-your-heart-out defeat.
And for the first time in a long time, It's what's happening around Lou Lamoriello and his 8-17-2 New Jersey Devils. If the Devils are a carcass, New Jersey's general manager refuses to have his team be picked at.
Multiple sources have told The NHL Column that Lamoriello is not budging. He may be deeply disappointed in the Devils' plummet in the first official season of the Ilya Kovalchuk era, but New Jersey's boss is not going to compound the error by setting his program back.
Lamoriello will make a move or two, something to shake up the lineup before considering the fate of his respected (by players) and beloved (by fans) head coach John MacLean. But there will not be an overhaul of the roster. The Devils most certainly will not get any older.
"Lou has told everyone -- agents, the other GMs, his own staff -- that one thing he has no interest in is adding veterans on the back end of their primes," an NHL executive tells FanHouse. "Believe me, plenty of people have poked around. There are still a few free agents who could help them the rest of this season. There's a trade or two he can make. But, as you'd expect from Lou, he's not going to go away from what he believes in."
Lamoriello, of course, is doing right by the Devils.
He doesn't want to write off this season; it's still too early. With Martin Brodeur, the Devils have almost always gone on a long, winning run in the regular season. Even without injured Zach Parise, they could still put a streak together with health, hot goaltending and if MacLean can keeps the harmony.
They will have to do it together. Lamoriello will continue the shuttle between Newark and the franchise's AHL team in Albany. Maybe he'll rock the boat by moving a veteran for a prospect or draft pick. But especially after paying the price to Atlanta for Kovalchuk in draft picks and young players, the Devils are done with future-for-present transactions. General managers know by now not to inquire about recent first-rounders Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby. Lamoriello is highly unlikely to move any of the high-quality young defensemen his staff has drafted and developed in recent years. Agents know they won't find a job for their unemployed at the Rock.
If the Devils fail to near NHL .500 by the end of January, Lamoriello knows he's better off watching his team play through the pain. Good seats at the Prudential Center will still be a tough sell, but the Devils need to look at the big picture.
In acquiring Kovalchuk, Lamoriello pointed out how the Devils' status as consistent contenders for 15 years prevented them from acquiring a star with an early pick in the draft. As punishment for what the NHL called "salary cap circumvention" during the Devils' attempts to sign Kovalchuk to a landmark contract last summer, the Devils must forfeit one first round draft pick in the next four years.
Lamoriello will use his pick in 2011. By ignoring the circling vultures, he may even get to draft a star.
Heroes of the Week
There may not be a better team-run charitable event in all of major league team sports than the Philadelphia Flyers Wives Carnival. Held this season on Sunday, Feb. 27, the annual event has raised more than $23 million over the last 32 years. While the players' life partners plan the event for months, everyone in the Flyers organization gets involved. What's great about the carnival is how fans can interact with the players for an entire afternoon. There are the usual photo and autograph opportunities, but fans can also play Wii games or shoot pucks on the Flyers' goaltenders. The Barry Ashbee Research Laboratories at Hahnemann University Hospital is among the many non-profit organizations the Flyers Wives Carnival funds. Check out www.flyerscarnival.com for more details.
-- The NHL Holiday Roster Freeze (cue the Rockettes!) takes effect at midnight Dec. 19 and ends at midnight Dec. 27. Players on active rosters or injured reserve, or have non-roster status, are assured they won't be dealt during holiday week. This does not mean there will be a rash of trades in the days before Dec. 19.
-- For the good people of Phoenix and the Coyotes franchise, here's hoping Matthew Hulsizer really is a white knight. History shows it usually doesn't work out that way in the NHL, but that doesn't mean the Chicago financier cannot be an exception.
-- Brendan Witt, whose 16-year NHL career may have been derailed in part by a personal conflict with ousted Islanders coach Scott Gordon, has sent out word via his agent hat he's available for a second-half run. Witt may not be fleet of foot enough for today's skating game, but his shot-blocking and toughness around the net could be an asset for a good team in search of blue line depth.
-- Gaining momentum as a top-five (or higher) pick in the 2011 NHL Draft in June is 6-1 left wing Gabriel Landeskog. The Swedish-born Landeskog has 21 goals in 27 games this season with Kitchener (OHL).
-- NHL Elite Four -- 1. Pittsburgh 2. Detroit 3. Washington 4. Philadelphia
-- NHL Bottom
-- Today's Three Stars -- 1. Bill Guerin 2. Jere Lehtinen 3. Dean McAmmond (not retired yet).