It’s been one week since NHL free agency began, and the main stars like Sergei Bobrovsky and Joe Pavelski are off the board (what’s all the fuss about this Panarin clown?), and the list of impactful players without allegiance has shortened. So where can New Jersey Devils’ general manager Ray Shero turn to next?
Restricted Free Agents
The more attractive list is that of the restricted free agents, many of whom proved their NHL potential in a massive way. So much so that teams are wary to offer sheet them, knowing that the compensation may be too costly. For example, no teams have thrown an offer sheet at Mitch Marner because they’d have to give Toronto four first-round picks on top of paying his $11M contract.
Then there’s the possibility that you low ball the offer sheet, like the Montreal Canadiens did with Sebastian Aho. And the team holding the player’s rights get their guy for less than they were willing to pay.
Knowing that, there are just a few restricted free agents that actually make sense for New Jersey to offer sheet. First, you’d have to consider what the Devils need most, which has changed a lot in the past month. With P.K. Subban and Ty Smith jumping in next year, the Devils have drastically improved their defense from the days of Ben Lovejoy and Steven Santini. The focus, therefore, shifts to the wing position, and the general consensus is that New Jersey should get a right-handed winger. After all, they have collected some pretty good left-handed players like Taylor Hall, Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, and Jesper Boqvist. But while those players are talented, they can’t all protect themselves yet.
Shero Takes Action
So Shero, being five steps ahead of everyone else, trades for John Hayden and signs Wayne Simmonds. Two huge, intimidating, right-handed wingers that can skate, even if they haven’t been racking up points recently. Still, some Devils’ fans seem to think they’re not good enough offensively, suggesting they trade with Vegas for Russian winger Nikita Gusev (See last two articles), or target an RFA like Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, or Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks.
Though it’s fun to talk about who the Devils could chase, after the moves Shero has made, it’s logical to question whether it’s worth it to keep buying. By adding a top-six winger, they’ll likely push Hayden out of the lineup, and Simmonds back to the fourth line. Not to mention they’d be taking away a chance from Joey Anderson and Nathan Bastian to crack the lineup, which doesn’t seem fair since they’ve only played a limited number of games on the abysmal 2018 Devils’ team. So perhaps instead of drooling over the costly remaining free agents, it may be wiser to focus on who could step up for the Devils this year.