The New Jersey Devils' season came to an end on Tuesday after the NHL abandoned the rest of the regular season and announced plans to head straight into the playoffs with 24 teams.
Only seven teams were left out of the postseason under the plan commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled to resume the season later this summer. It has been paused since March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Devils had a 28-29-12 record in a regular season that saw both coach John Hynes and general manager Ray Shero fired.
"It is disappointing being left out,” interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald said in a video conference call Tuesday. "But you know what? We we respect the league’s decision on this. And, you know, it is what it is.”
Fitzgerald said management has not informed either him and interim coach Alain Nadreddine whether they would be retained in their current roles next season. He said the team will continue to prepare for the draft, which probably won't be held until after the playoffs end.
The postseason may last the entire summer, provided there are no setbacks.
A lottery will be held June 26 to determine the top three picks. They Devils have the second best record among the seven teams who did not qualify. They could draft anywhere from first to ninth.
New Jersey has had the No. 1 overall pick twice in the last three years, taking centers Nico Hischer and Jack Hughes.
New Jersey may also get Arizona and Vancouver's first-round draft picks. They would get Arizona's if the Coyotes don't get a top-three pick. They would get Vancouver's first-round pick if they make the playoffs.
Arizona and Vancouver are among the 16 teams that have to play in a best-of-5 series to qualify for the final 16. Whether that counts as making the playoffs remains to be determined.
"I have read tweets that it’s not going to be considered the playoffs,” Fitzgerald said. "So like I said before, I think the league’s going to a hard job and to accommodate 31 teams and their liking. Not every team is happy. Not every team. We all accept what’s going on here.”
The Devils had only themselves to blame for missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years. They got off to a bad start and never recovered.
"It just tells you there’s any lessons when the puck drops October, whatever Game 1, you’re gonna be ready to play and every game counts,” Fitzgerald said.
Under the league plan, teams can start training in July. Fitzgerland say the Devils will be allowed to bring some players in during that time. He plans to have exit interview remotely in the next month.