Ray Shero was recently quoted saying improving the Devils defense would remain a priority for the remainder of the summer. The pickings are slim of what’s left in the free agent market, but Shero does have the cap space and assets to improve his team’s defense via trade. Between teams above or at the ceiling, upcoming arbitration hearings, and having to lock up core players, there are a few organizations with cap constraints that might have no choice in using the trade route to shed salary. There are a few NHL teams that could utilize New Jersey as an outlet for cap relief at the expense of parting ways with some worthwhile players.
Detroit Red Wings…With just over $2 million in cap space, Detroit still needs to re-sign restricted free agents Tomas Tatar and Andreas Athanasiou. According to recent reports, Tatar is demanding around $5.3 million, while Detroit is coming in at a shade over $4 million. Regardless of what happens, the Red wings will be at least $2 million over the salary cap. Throw in the potential $1.5-2 million that Athanasiou could sign for, they will need to shed some salary.
While I’m sure general manager Ken Holland would like to try dealing a forward like Justin Abdelkader or Darren Helm, Shero would probably look at Detroit’s backend. Ideally, the Red Wings would probably want to move one of Niklas Kronwall or Jonathan Ericsson, however both players are in their mid-thirties, have multiple seasons remaining on their contracts, and cap hits well over $4 million.
A more appealing asset for New Jersey could be Mike Green, who’s entering the final season of a three-year $18 million contract. While he doesn’t post the numbers he did in his younger years, Green tallied a respectable 14 goals and 36 points in 72 contests on an offensively inept Red Wings team last season. Given Detroit’s cap situation and that Green is on an expiring contract, Shero could get Green at well below market value, similar to Marcus Johansson.
Edmonton Oilers…As we all know, Ray Shero and Peter Chiarelli have traded before, and it’s not uncommon for NHL teams to swap players more than once. Despite still having to re-sign Leon Draisaitl, who is reportedly looking for $9 million a year, the Oilers have almost $17 million in cap space at their disposal. Earlier this summer, Edmonton re-signed Connor McDavid to an eight-year deal with an AAV of $12.5 million that goes into effect next summer.
Although the Oilers won’t have any issues this season, Chiarelli would be wise to plan ahead in terms of shedding salary so it’s not an issue a year from now; especially since the players he’d try to move presently have genuine value. In terms of defensemen, I can only see Shero looking at someone like Andrej Sekera. The 31-year old defenseman has four years left on his current contract that boasts an AAV of $5.5 million. Sekera registered at least 30 points in three of the last four seasons, which basically equates to Severson’s totals in 2016-2017.
Due to the circumstances, Edmonton could be forced to toss in a young defensive prospect like Ethan Bear or Caleb Jones as extra incentive for taking Sekera’s contract. Since Edmonton won’t have dire cap problems until next season, the Devils could try unloading Ben Lovejoy (at which point Edmonton could buy him out next summer), along with a mid-level prospect like Joshua Jacobs, and low to mid-level draft pick
Dallas Stars…With about $768,000 in cap space, the Stars still have to re-sign restricted free agent Jamie Oleksiak, and will need to create extra space for roster and trade flexibility throughout the coming season. Dallas could very well find a taker for someone like Jason Spezza, who has two years left on his contract with an AAV of $7.5 million, or Antoine Roussel, who has one year left with a $2 million AAV.
For a team like the Devils looking for defensive help, Stars general manager Jim Nill will probably try offering someone like Dan Hamhuis, who has a $3.75 million cap hit and is entering the final year of his contract. Dallas is unlikely to trade John Klingberg or the recently-acquired Marc Methot, but could be forced to part ways with a young asset like Esa Lindell. The 23-year old Finnish defenseman recently signed a two-year extension with an AAV of $2.2 million.
Unless the Stars sweeten the pot by packaging Hamhuis with Lindell or one of their revered defensive prospects like Julius Honka, they’ll have trouble convincing teams to take his contract. If Dallas is desperate enough to create cap space, packaging Lindell with Hamhuis would save them $5.9 million. To replace one of the roster spots vacated by Hamhuis and Lindell, New Jersey could send back a defenseman like John Moore, along with a young forward like Joseph Blandisi, and an early to mid-round draft pick.