Devils land free agents Ben Lovejoy, Vernon Fiddler in signing spree

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Ben Lovejoyandcenter Vernon Fiddler and re-signed three players in a big start to free agency.

General manager Ray Shero announced the moves Friday, adding that defenseman Jon Merrill and forwards Beau Bennett and Devante Smith-Pelly were re-signed.

Lovejoy got a three-year, $8 million contract that will count $2.67 million against the salary cap through the 2018-19 season. He'll make $2.5 million next season and in 2017-18 and $2.75 million in the final year of the contract.

Fiddler, who played in all 82 games for the Dallas Stars last season and had 12 goals and 10 assists, got a one-year contract worth $1.25 million.

The 32-year-old Lovejoy won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played in all 24 playoff games and had two goals and four assists.

In coming to New Jersey, Lovejoy is reunited with his former general manager in Pittsburgh (Shero) and his minor league coach John Hynes, the Devils' current head coach.

Lovejoy said he had a lot of teams offering him contracts.

"The Devils were a situation where I was comfortable," Lovejoy said. "I told teams all along that I didn't need to hit a home run. I wanted to come to a place where I felt wanted, where I was comfortable. I wanted to live and play on a team that was good, and I think the Devils were a perfect spot for me."

The Devils did not give Merrill, Smith-Pelly and Bennett qualifying contract offers on Monday, but Shero was confident he would re-sign them.

The 24-year-old Merrill received a two-year contract that will pay him $1 million this season and $1.275 million in 2017-18. He has appeared in 165 games with the Devils, scoring five goals and 25 assists. This past season, he had one goal and four assists in 47 games.

Smith-Pelly, who was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in late February for former first-round pick Stefan Matteau, also got a two-year contract that will pay him $1.25 million this season and $1.35 million in 2017-18.

Smith-Pelly set career highs with 14 goals and 11 assists in 64 combined games this season. He had eight goals and five assists in 18 games with New Jersey.

"I came in right away and the coaches put a lot of responsibility on me," Smith-Pelly said in a conference call. "I thought I responded pretty well and it was a good spot. I've bounced around with a couple of teams the past couple of years, I got some traction here and have a chance to stay at a spot that's [good]."

Bennett got a one-year, one-way, $725,000 contract. He was acquired last weekend from Pittsburgh for a 2016 third-round pick at the draft.

Lovejoy replenishes New Jersey's blue line after the Devils traded Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday for left wing Taylor Hall. Hall gives the Devils their best scoring threat in years.

The Devils also signed defensemen Karl Stollery and 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 in 72 games.

Camper, who will turn 28 on July 6, spent last season with Hershey (AHL), getting nine goals and 25 assists in 64 games.

Stollery, 28, spent last season with San Jose (AHL) getting six goals and 18 assists and 65 penalty minutes in 67 games.