Writer’s Twitter: @ChrisMottHockey
The New Jersey Devils are poised for a big off-season on paper and fans have
An important thing to understand with the Trade Series on my part is going to be some common themes. There are a lot of factors that go towards whether a player is worth trading for. Former general manager Lou Lamoriello used to have a big phrase along the lines of “if you have time, use it,” but that does not apply to dollars in terms of “if you have the money, spend it.” Now, there are many factors that must be considered such as:
- when a player’s contract expires
- what they are being paid each year
- will the other team involved be willing to retain some of their salaries
- what is the Devils’ current future Salary Cap situation
- Players who will be UFAs this summer: Kenny Agostino, Egor Yakovlev, Drew Stafford
- Players who will be RFAs this summer: Pavel Zacha, Connor Carrick, Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller, Stefan Noesen
- Players who will be UFAs if no extension before the end of next season: Taylor Hall, Sami Vatanen, Andy Greene, Kevin Rooney
- Players who will be RFAs if no extension before the end of next season: Nico Hischier, MacKenzie Blackwood, Jesper Bratt, Joey Anderson, Brett Seney
- Should the Devils try to keep their picks in the second and third round if this draft is a deep one in terms of prospects (which it looks like it will be)
- Does a new player fit into the system coach John Hynes and the Devils are trying to run
All of these factors come into play before Ray Shero makes any kind of decision. Now not all of these players may be re-signed, but a lot of them will be for the right price which will not be on the low end. This is the battle we have seen Shero, in my opinion, pull off phenomenally with regards to past free agency periods and preparing for the big
Minnesota is also in a difficult situation in terms of understanding their plan. They claimed last year to still be contending and to “be a force in the playoffs” before missing out on the postseason. They traded away some minor assets, and while they do have a decent core of players to build around, they are all for the most part older, with Mikko Koivu at the age of 36, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Eric Staal at the age of 34. With all of that being said, let us take a look at some potential players that Shero and company could possibly show some real interest in from the Wild.
The Devils have some holes to fill but not as many as a team that typically picks in the top three. People who follow this team know that injuries were an issue throughout the year, with the absence of Taylor Hall being the biggest one. That said, one of the biggest areas the Devils may look to address is defense, and the Wild have some good depth on their back end.
Spurgeon is an interesting option because he is only 29 years old but still has some good years left. He also carries a cap hit of just over $5 million, but his contract expires next off-season and he is a UFA. Spurgeon also has a modified no-trade clause, but the interest on his side would need to be there first. When it comes to re-signing him, the Devils would be looking at three defensemen they would be trying to lock up between Andy Greene, Sami Vatanen, and Spurgeon, with Greene being 37 years old at that time. A potential back end would like like such:
Vatanen – Severson
Butcher – Spurgeon
Greene – Carrick/Smith/Santini
Ultimately, a trade for Spurgeon would make sense. And I would avoid giving up too much for him in terms of draft assets because I do believe this will be a very deep draft with a lot of good prospects. Spurgeon is a top-pair defenseman so the cost may end up being too much at the end of the day if the Devils are to hang on to their draft picks.
When it comes to the forwards up front, I feel the Devils have some prospects in the pipeline who may be near ready to play at the NHL level. Going after a top-six forward might not make much sense and here is why. Assuming the Devils draft Jack Hughes first overall, the Devils offensive lines would look something like this:
Hall – Hischier – Bratt
? – Hughes – Palmieri
Wood – Zajac – Coleman
Agostino – Zacha – Rooney
There is a chance that a player like Zacha can grow his game to be able to play on the wing, which would be ideal as I feel Zacha needs to play on the top-three lines. But the line of Wood – Zajac – Coleman has been very productive and should also be a top-three line. Not to mention prospects like Joey Anderson, Brett Seney, Nathan Bastian, and Jesper Boqvist will be looking to show how their game has improved.
Fiala is a nice option because he appears to be a buy low, high reward player. He’s only 22 years old and will be a RFA this summer and can still turn into a great player. Fiala had a good year in Nashville the year they had their cup run, with 23 goals and 25 assists in 80 games, but had a down season this year between Nashville and Minnesota, with 13 goals and 26 assists in 82 games. Fiala may not be a top-six player now, but he may still have the potential to turn into one and might play well in coach John Hynes’ system. The Devils could certainly reach out and see if maybe one of their second or third-round picks and a prospect in the minors would suffice.
The last player that the Devils should at least discuss and see if he would be available via a trade is Jason Zucker. Zucker has been a little underrated the past couple of years, and I say that as he was usually one of my later round
I could see Minnesota asking for at least a second-round pick and a prospect. I doubt Zacha would ever be moved, nor do I believe it would be smart for the Devils to move him, but with the depth the Devils will more than likely have at center, I would be ok with seeing a deal along the lines of Zacha and a second and/or third-round pick for Jason Zucker and Minnesota to retain a portion of his salary to help the Devils in the future with their cap.
I really believe Zacha will take a huge next step next season, which is why I believe he has more value than what paper shows currently. Minnesota more than likely is not interested in moving him, Zucker would be a player the Devils could look at as a top-six forward outside of free agency already locked down for a few years. Oh, and by the way, Zucker does not have a modified no-trade clause until next year.
The Devils have a big off-season ahead of them between the draft, free agency, and trying to acquire assets to get back to being perennial playoff contenders and to ultimately re-sign Taylor Hall. Shero certainly knows what he is doing and has been building towards this for the past couple of seasons.
Information for salaries and contracts in this article were found using capfriendly.com