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As we enter the midst of the pre-season, all 31 NHL teams are trimming their rosters down to the 23-man limit. You can expect a big round of cuts sometime this morning from the majority of teams, as waivers go into effect at noon. Teams are racing to not only trim their rosters, but also become salary cap compliant. There are five teams that, as of writing this, are over the salary cap and an additional six teams that are $3 million or less from the Cap ceiling. Enter the New Jersey Devils, who have an abundance of Cap space, roster spots for skilled players, and an opportunity to take advantage of teams looking to get under the Cap, much like they did with the Washington Capitals earlier this offseason.
The Devils have about $21 million in cap space with Ryane Clowe (career finished) and Travis Zajac (estimated return around new year) on Long-Term Injured Reserve, according to CapFriendly. That’s a lot of room to work with, so with all that room, what could the Devils be looking to acquire, and what do they have to give up?
New Jersey seems to be okay giving their young guns plenty of opportunities to crack the lineup during the preseason. For the first time in a long time, they have a good amount of prospects on both offense and defense that are going to make lineup decisions very difficult for Ray Shero, John Hynes and Co. That being said, Ray Shero has stated in the past he is always looking for ways to improve his team, even if that means taking a potential roster spot away from a rookie for a proven talent.
The Devils have all seven of their 2018 draft picks available, and could use those assets to pry talent away from cap-strapped teams. They also have an abundance of prospects that could go back the other way. The other situation is that New Jersey could take big contracts of declining players plus high picks for lower picks in return.
Here are three teams New Jersey could contact to try to take some Cap-crunching players from, and a few assets from each team that could come back to the Garden State.
- Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are at the Cap ceiling including the relief from Johan Franzen (concussion) being on LTIR, and still have to sign their restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou to what will likely be a decently-sized contract. The Red Wings are reminiscent of the late Lamoriello-era New Jersey Devils in seasons past, with a roster filled with overpaid aging veterans well past their prime, and overpaid under-performing players. One of our articles from the offseason mentioned Mike Green ($6 million, one year remaining) as a viable trade candidate, along with Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million, two years remaining). Both veteran defensemen could provide a boost to New Jersey’s young and largely inexperienced defensive corps. Gustav Nyquist ($4.75 million, 2 years remaining) is another name that could stand out to Ray Shero. If it is deemed that Franzen’s concussion was career-ending, the Devils could offer to take on his contract with the Red Wings retaining some salary and forking over a couple of picks as well.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are an interesting team. They are slated to have Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul on LTIR, which frees up about $10.5 million in Cap space, however the NHL is now investigating the Maple Leafs after Lupul accused the Leafs of “cheating” by putting a healthy player on LTIR to avoid the Cap. Either way, the Leafs have a lot of guys with one year remaining on their contracts and that are getting paid quite well. The Devils may look into someone like Eric Fehr, who would be relatively inexpensive to acquire and could both be dealt at the trade deadline (if the Devils plunder again this season) for more assets. Perhaps Shero would be able to pry James van Riemsdyk from Toronto, who is also on the last year of his contract (and a Jersey boy). Throw in the fact that Lamoriello and Shero have a good working relationship, and there could be some chemistry to a deal.
3. Vegas Golden Knights
The NHL’s newest team is well below the Cap ceiling, but that doesn’t make them any less of a good trade partner. The Golden Knights have 15 players with one year remaining on their contracts, so it’s a safe bet that they’ll be looking to dish out some of those guys for more assets come deadline time. Rumors have been circulating lately that the Golden Knights are looking to dish out a few defenseman since they have a plethora of NHL-ready talent in that department. Perhaps the Devils could ask about a big offensive-defenseman like Jason Garrison, or one of the Knights’ many players set to enter their primes in the next season or two. The price may be steep, but the Devils could negotiate a price that would be better for Vegas than losing that player on waivers for nothing.