The Devils and Blackhawks
The New Jersey Devils have some work to do this off-season when it comes to reaching the next competitive level. For another installment in the Trade Series, we will be looking at players from the Chicago Blackhawks who the Devils should target through a trade. In my last article as a part of our Trade Series here at the DAB, I discussed some important factors the Devils will have to be considering before making any trade(s) so if you want a refresher or missed it last time, check it out here. When it comes to making a deal with the Blackhawks, it is important to remember that they are also a team similar to the Devils who already have a good amount of talent on their roster and maybe do not have as many holes to fill to get back to their dominance in the Western Conference.
Dominik Kahun is a very versatile player as he can play on either wing or the center position. This is important because assuming the Devils take Jack Hughes first overall in the upcoming draft, the Devils would already have four centers in Hughes, Nico Hischier, Travis Zajac, and Pavel Zacha. Kahun had a pretty decent rookie season tallying 13 goals and 24 assists through 82 games played. Kahun may turn out to be a one season wonder or an undrafted signing gem, but at 23 years old and another season until restricted free agency, the risk may be worth taking as long as the Devils do not overpay in this scenario. If the Devils could land him for a mid and later round pick(s), that would be beneficial. However, given that Kahun has played on the second line this past season for Chicago and he is on a team-controlled contract for the foreseeable future, the price will likely be more than that though. Kahun could well be worth taking a risk on if his potential continues to evolve as it did in 2018-19.
The Devils could make an offer for Saad but only should if Chicago is willing to retain salary. Saad is a great player and only 26 years old, but his $6 million per year cap hit is not something the Devils should take on with three years left on his current deal. Saad has been very consistent through his career producing at least 20 goals and 20 assists in most seasons. Saad could also very well be a core piece for Chicago both now and in the future but it’s never a bad idea to at least ask about a player and see what potential interest would be in a move. Again though, the Devils could gain less from acquiring Saad if Chicago did not retain some of his salary in a hypothetical move. Saad plays both left and right wing so he helps keep the depth of Jersey’s centers from being an even bigger issue and could potentially help convince Taylor Hall to stay.
Erik Gustafsson would be a very good pickup via a trade from Chicago to assist the back end if the Devils could pull it off without giving away too much. Were the Devils firmly a perennial playoff team then the ability to give more to win is totally justified but the Devils are still in the process of setting up the team for perennial playoff appearances and success. That being said, Gustafsson had a pretty good season for Chicago this year in 79 games with 17 goals and 43 assists as a defenseman. He did finish the year -6 but Chicago had a tough year this year with not making the playoffs. Gustafsson is 27 years old and will be on the last year of his contract next season with a cap hit of only $1.2 million. Out of any players that it may be possible to buy low on, Gustafsson could be the one. Overall with any of theses players, the only assets I think the Devils should really move is draft picks or – because of the depth of skilled centers – Zacha, who General Manager Ray Shero should be hesitant to move as there were glimpses at the end of last season showing that he could finally be taking that next big step.
The Blackhawks are a little bit of a difficult partner for the Devils to trade with. Not because either team has a grudge against the other or does not want to make a deal. Rather the reason making a trade would be difficult is because both teams could be viewed similarly with regards to the fact that they both missed the playoffs but might not be that far off from becoming one with a solid core already in place that is looking to be built upon. If there were a deal to be done, these would be the players I would expect to at least be discussed.