History of the Rosters: Eastern Conference Finals

With the New York Rangers's 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, the Conference finals match--ups were set. There would be a Pacific Division showdown in the West, and an Atlantic Division showdown in the East. While the Pacific Division's success was a bit of a surprise, the Atlantic Division was arguably the best in hockey, so it makes sense that the Eastern Conference's Stanley Cup representative would come from there.

So the Eastern Conference Finals features the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. This is not the first time the Eastern Conference finals was an Atlantic Division match-up; it last happened in 2008 with the Penguins and Flyers. This is not even the first time these two teams have met in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the last time occurring in 1994. You might remember that year as the year Messier cried and Vancouver rioted the first time (I don't, but I was three - and here's the obligatory pause when you feel old).

Just like my previous article about the Western Conference Finals rosters, the purpose of this article is to examine how these two Atlantic Division teams built their rosters in order to be more successful than 13 other teams in their conference. I always find cool pieces of trivia when I do these - Pat Falloon still affects the Sharks' roster! - which is why I continue to create these charts far past the point of sanity.

Below are the charts for both the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. As before, I only included players who have played a playoff game due to the "Black Ace" phenomenon. Unlike before, there's actually an appearance by a backup goalie. Hello, Johan Hedberg!



I admit, I don't know much about the New York area. My knowledge comes almost entirely from Friends, the Real Housewives of New York/New Jersey, and this gif. But what I do know is that New York teams are notorious for signing all the free agents, and these charts do not disagree with that stereotype. Both teams love free agents and hate trades (the Los Angeles Kings are clutching their chest right now). The one difference between the two is their treatment of draft picks.

Here is a handy chart that breaks down the types of players that were used to make up the two rosters:

Eastern Conference Finals Roster History Breakdown

Team Roster Original Total FA Waiver Total Players # Trades Players/Trade Players/Roster
Devils 21 24 37 13 1 62 14 4.43 2.95
Rangers 21 13 21 13 0 49 14 3.5 2.33

Both the Devils and the Rangers have the same number of free agents and trades, which makes for relatively uncomplicated charts. Despite both of their long histories, the charts only go back to 1990 and 1988 respectively; I admit, I was disappointed that I wasn't able to go back to the Colorado Rockies or Kansas City Scouts eras.

The Devils used 24 of their own draft picks to make their roster, four of which are players that are on their roster. Thus, many of their 14 trades involved draft picks over free agents they signed - they only traded away three free agents on this chart. The sheer number of draft picks used in trades also signifies that any transactions they took part in were multi-player trades. In fact, there were no straight-up player-for-player trades on the chart.

The Rangers, on the other hand, were all about the free agents. They used as many of their original draft picks as they did free agents, and traded away seven of each. Either their scouting is sub-par, or the Rangers trade away a lot of picks without getting anything of impact in return.

Breakdown of what picks the two teams used by round:

Original Draft Pick Breakdown

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
Devils 9 5 4 3 2 0 1
Rangers 3 2 4 1 0 1 2

The Devils's breakdown looks pretty standard, with only the 2012 7th throwing off a steady decrease in number of draft picks. Meanwhile, the Rangers have a fairly random draft pick distribution, with the third round ranking as the most productive, roster-wise. That even holds true if you expand it to all the draft picks the Rangers used for their roster (this includes draft picks they received in trades).

In their 14 trades, the Devils had 11 different trade partners. Only the Calgary Flames, St Louis Blues, and Washington Capitals contributed multiple times to the roster.

In the Rangers' 14 trades, there were 12 trade partners. They traded with the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks twice each. In a first, the San Jose Sharks actually contributed to this roster, in the form of a draft pick in exchange for Mark Messier's rights.


In researching these teams, I found a few players and transactions that I found notable for various reasons.

Player that Makes Ann Want to Kill Herself

Jeff Carter Marek Zidlicky, I guess, as his branch was technically the most involved.

Something for Nothing

Ryan Callahan, for Mark Messier's rights. Mark Messier then immediately signed back with the Rangers.

Are You Kidd-ing Me?

The Calgary Flames traded up in the 1990 draft to select Trevor Kidd. The pick they traded away was used to select Martin Brodeur.

Coolest Name

Zdeno Ciger. I don't know about anyone else, but I immediately get a picture of Zdeno Chara nonchalantly smoking a cigar as he skates across the ice in my head.

Photographic Memory Crime Solver

Cam Janssen.

Jawsome Team

The New Jersey Devils has the most ex-Sharks on their chart, with Steve Bernier, Lukas Kaspar, and Claude Lemieux. Fond memories of all them, I'm sure. The New York Rangers, on the other hand, have only one "ex-Shark," which is Mark Messier, who should probably not even count.

Final Notes

While the Western Conference saw a stark difference in methodology, the Eastern Conference sees two teams with very similar methods of building a roster. Both teams love free agents, and tend not to hold on to assets or retain their value through trades. It's also interesting to note that for both teams, the goalie was the earliest acquisition; the Devils in 1990 and the Rangers in 2000. While both West teams have an emphasis on goaltending, the two East teams truly built from the net out.

BONUS: Because these charts take forever to make, I wanted to have both the Rangers and the Capitals ones ready for posting. So here's the Capitals chart, minus analysis, for any who are interested.

As always, thanks to Pro Sports Transactions for the info.