Season of change continues in New Jersey as Devils fire GM Ray Shero hours before victory

The New Jersey Devils fired general manager Ray Shero on Sunday prior to their 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald will serve as the interim GM, and he will "receive support" from Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is serving as an adviser to hockey operations, according to the team.

"Ray is a talented hockey executive and I am confident he will have great success in the future," Devils managing partner and chairman Josh Harris said in a pregame statement. "However, Ray and I are in agreement that the Devils need to move in a new direction and that this change is in the best interest of the team."

Shero, 57, replaced Lou Lamoriello as the Devils' GM in 2015. Shero previously served as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2006 to 2014. Lamoriello started with the Devils in 1987 and brought the franchise to heights never seen before. New Jersey, with stifling defense as its standard and Brodeur in net, played for the Stanley Cup five times, winning it in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

Shero's tenure failed to live up to that standard. Sunday was the latest fallout from a wildly disappointing season for the Devils, who had playoff aspirations after a series of bold summer moves. Even with the victory over the Lightning, which ended Tampa Bay's 10-game winning streak, the Devils are in last place in the Metropolitan Division, at 17-21-7, with a minus-36 goal differential.

"We're just not getting it done," Harris said in a pregame news conference. "We haven't been winning. It was time."

Coach John Hynes was fired by Shero in early December, and assistant Alain Nasreddine has been serving as interim coach.

"It's never a good time to do this, but once you make the decision, you have to act on them," Harris said. "We thought this was the right thing to do for the franchise."

Fitzgerald, 51, also in attendance at the pregame availability, concurred.

"This is what it is right now. I'm excited for the challenge. I'm sad for my friend," he said. "I'm a young face in this seat, and I'm going to need all the help that I can."

After landing the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft -- selecting American-born center Jack Hughes -- the Devils sped up their Stanley Cup timeline last summer. Shero traded for former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban, signed veteran Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5 million free-agency deal and acquired former KHL scoring champ Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights.

The moves were made with hopes of capitalizing on 2018 MVP Taylor Hall's final year under contract with the Devils and convincing Hall to sign long-term. However, New Jersey stumbled out of the gate, and it was clear that Hall was not going to sign an extension, instead wanting to test free agency this summer.

The Devils traded Hall to Arizona on Dec. 16 for a 2020 first-round pick, a conditional third-round pick, AHL centers Nate Schnarr and Nick Merkley, and junior defenseman Kevin Bahl. The Devils also sent AHL center Blake Speers to Arizona as part of the deal. They have improved since the trade, going 7-4-2.

Since they lost to Los Angeles in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, though, the Devils have made the postseason just once, in 2018. They endured a first-round elimination, to Tampa Bay, in five games.

"We don't do these things lightly. We take a long-term approach," Harris said. "But the reality is we are now in our fifth season, and we've made the playoffs once. It was just time for a change."

Harris said the Devils will launch a formal search for a GM in the "coming weeks and months."

"We are very optimistic about our future and have a lot of talent, both on and off the ice," he said. "Our organization remains deeply committed to creating a sustainably winning franchise. Our fans deserve nothing but the best hockey.

"We thank them for their continued support as we work toward our goals."