The State of the Devils Post Trade Deadline

New Jersey Devils interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald answering questions from the media. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Writer’s Twitter: @ChrisMottHockey

Trade Deadline Recap

The New Jersey Devils were very active on the trade market in terms of selling off assets leading up to the Trade Deadline yesterday. Interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald faced his first trade deadline, and it would be understandable for fans to be nervous about what was going to happen with the Devils and their players leading up to the deadline. The trade deadline has officially ended though, which means we can fully analyze the approach Fitzgerald and the Devils have taken and are going to take with the organization. Below is a breakdown of all the moves the Devils made at the Trade Deadline.

DateTeam InvolvedTeam AcquiredDevils Acquired
February 16
New York Islanders Logo
Andy Greene (D)David Quenneville (D)
2021 2nd Round Pick (NYI)
February 16
Blake Coleman (FWD)Nolan Foote (FWD)
2020 1st Round Pick* (VAN)

* If the Canucks do not make the playoffs in 2019-20, the 2020 1st round pick will transfer to a 2021 1st round pick instead. (Per CapFriendly)
February 24
Buffalo Sabres Logo
Wayne Simmonds (FWD)
($2.5M Retained by Devils)
2021 5th Round Pick* (BUF)

*  If the Buffalo Sabres makes the playoffs and Simmonds plays 10 games the pick will upgrade to a 4th (Per CapFriendly)
February 24
Vancouver Canucks Logo
Louis Domingue (G)Zane McIntyre (G)
February 24

Carolina Hurricanes Logo
Sami Vatanen (D)
($2,437,500 Retained by Devils)
Frederik Claesson (D)
Janne Kuokkanen (FWD)
2020 4th Round Pick* (CAR)

* Devils receive the 2020 4th round pick if Vatanen plays in 5 regular season games. The pick upgrades to a 2020 3rd round pick if Vatanen plays in 12 regular season games or 70% of the 2020 playoff games. (Per CapFriendly)

What is Left for Fitzgerald to Do?

Tom Fitzgerald should be given the full-time general manager title, especially if he can tackle these three items on the agenda. The first is to lock Kyle Palmieri up to an extension. I was sad like many fans when I saw the first Devil traded was Blake Coleman. With that said, you can not hate the result of the trade because of the assets Fitzgerald got back from Tampa Bay. This naturally left many fans afraid that Palmieri would possibly be traded as well. Thankfully, though, Fitzgerald meant what he said when he told teams that in order to get Palmieri, it better be an extremely mind-blowing offer. Palmieri has one more year left on his contract after this season, so there is time to sort out an extension, which guides us to the other two items for Fitzgerald to address.

Both Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt, whom I would consider being core pieces of the future, are going to be restricted free agents this summer. It is imperative for Fitzgerald to get Blackwood and Bratt signed long term this summer and to deals that will not severely handcuff the Devils cap-wise in the future like what we see with the Toronto Maple Leafs. There are other RFAs such as Joey Anderson that the Devils will have to get signed as well, but Bratt and Blackwood will have the bigger contracts out of the other RFAs.

Fitzgerald should absolutely be the full-time general manager, as he was offered general manager and front office positions with other teams while working with Ray Shero and the Devils, but he turned those offers down. Needless to say, Fitzgerald is well respected around the NHL as an executive, and I think he is already developing good chemistry with players in the organization and the culture he wants to build.

What Does the Future Look Like for the Devils?

The Devils are set up very well for the future, and I am beyond excited about it. To recap real quick, Fitgerald turned Blake Coleman, Andy Greene, Sami Vatanen, and Wayne Simmonds into four prospects, including the high potential players in Nolan Foote and Janne Kuokkanen, as well as a conditional first-round pick, second-round pick, conditional fifth-round pick, and the potential to gain a third or fourth-round pick from Carolina as well.

Add all of that into the deal Shero made earlier this year what he traded Taylor Hall and Blake Speers to the Arizona Coyotes for Nick Merkley, Nathan Schnarr, Kevin Bahl, a conditional first-round pick, and conditional third-round pick, and the Devils have really done a tremendous job of flipping their assets for future assets.

We can also combine all of these moves with the fact that the Binghamton Devils have been on fire lately and battling for a playoff spot in the AHL, and it just becomes even harder not to get excited about the future. Many will not be happy to hear the term rebuild, but this is different from a couple years ago. Now we already have great young talent in the system, whereas previously, there was none to build off of at any level in the organization.

Mackenzie Blackwood celebrates his 20th victory of the season with Travis Zajac and Joey Anderson.
Mackenzie Blackwood celebrates his 20th victory of the season with Travis Zajac and Joey Anderson. (Photo Credit: Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Devils also have eight picks in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft and could have another if Vatanen plays in five or more games for the Hurricanes. The only downside may be the Devils’ three picks in the first three rounds and are all in the first round. But, even so, the Devils will have the assets to build a perennial contender off of a strong foundation unlike the beginning of the rebuild. There is so much to be excited about with this team and that is because there is so much young talent in the organization that has shown glimpses of their true potential. I am not talking about:

  • 18-year-old Jack Hughes
  • 21-year-old Nico Hischier
  • 21-year-old Jesper Bratt
  • 21-year-old Joey Anderson
  • 22-year-old Pavel Zacha
  • 25-year-old Damon Severson
  • 25-year-old Will Butcher
  • 23-year-old Mackenzie Blackwood

No, those are all great young players who will absolutely help this franchise turn into a strong competitor, but I am also talking about these prospects as the future as well:

  • Nolan Foote – 19 years old
  • Jesper Boqvist – 21 years old
  • Nick Merkley – 22 years old
  • Janne Kuokkanen – 21 years old
  • Ty Smith – 19 years old
  • Kevin Bahl – 19 years old
  • and many more young players as well

The point is that I know that as Devils’ fans, we really are tired of hearing about the future and waiting for our return to dominance as one of the NHL’s elite teams but have faith, there are so many bright spots to build around in this organization.


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