With the trade deadline less than a week away, speculation of which players end up on what team has taken off these past couple of days and will continue to increase leading up to this coming Wednesday. The New Jersey Devils aren’t exempt from the onslaught of trade rumors and predictions. Between their current place in the NHL standings, expiring contracts, and surplus of cap space and draft picks, Ray Shero is bound to have at least one or two moves up his sleeve. I was fortunate to link up with my good friend Todd Cordell, who covers the Devils and Calgary Flames on Hockeybuzz.com, and works on the analytics staff for the CHL’s Saskatoon Blades. I got some insight from Todd on what he thinks the Devils will wind up doing over the next six days, how the Calgary Flames are gearing up for a potential postseason run, and much more!
I want to start this Q&A by thanking Todd for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these few questions on the Devils and NHL-related happenings. If you don’t already, make sure to follow Todd on Twitter @ToddCordell, and check out his Devils page on hockeybuzz.com.
On The Devils…
The Devils split their back-to-back against the Islanders and recently lost to the Senators. After the outcomes of these pivotal games, how much do you think they’ll influence what Ray Shero does next Wednesday?
I don’t think Shero’s plans have changed at all based on those games. He is a big picture guy and is always thinking longer term. Even if the Devils won all three games and were still legitimately in the race, he would have sold off expiring contracts like P.A. Parenteau and Kyle Quincey. Those guys have helped the Devils this season but neither player is part of the future. Sending them packing for some assets that could actually help the team down the road was always the smart play.
It’s a tight race in the Eastern Conference standings with four points separating the 8th-13th seeds. After their abysmal start, the New York Islanders have surged in the standings and are currently tied for the second wildcard spot. What have the Islanders been able to do in games these past few weeks that the Devils haven’t?
To me, the biggest difference between the two teams is defense. The Islanders have a more mobile blue line with plenty of capable puck movers and they do a much better job of not only getting the puck in the hands of their skilled forwards, but jumping into the play, supporting them and providing extra layers of offense.
With the trade deadline approaching, Ray Shero is likely to shop veterans PA Parenteau and Kyle Quincey if things don’t improve in New Jersey. When you compare these two with other potentially available players, do you think either of these two players could be on top of any team’s lists or more relegated as Plan B-type targets?
There is always a market for players who can score goals and Parenteau is on pace for just under 20. In saying that, he doesn’t possess game breaking ability, speed that can take the top off of a defense, nor the physicality teams like to have come playoff time. There will definitely be some interest but he’s not a must-have player. I think he’d only be a Plan A guy for teams a) very tight to the cap and; b) without the assets to fetch a big fish. Kyle Quincey will draw interest as well – teams always want a lot of blue line depth heading into the playoffs – but he’s more of a secondary option as well.
Although it’s more likely Ray Shero will be selling at the deadline, he has a stockpile of draft picks and plenty of cap space. How likely would it be for Shero to use these assets in making a significant player acquisition between now and March 1st compared to the offseason?
I wouldn’t expect any big moves from Shero until the off-season. A lot more teams are willing to make significant changes in the summer and there will be way more options available then. To me, it doesn’t make sense to jump on the first player you can get your hands on when there will be so much more variety in a few months. Shero would also have to be careful in who he acquires because it could impact expansion draft plans and, depending on the position, force the Devils to expose a good piece they otherwise wouldn’t have.
On the Flames…
Calgary recently acquired defenseman Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a few draft picks. How many players (and what kind) would you say the Flames are from making a serious playoff run?
I don’t think the Flames are far off at all. If you look at the Western Conference this year the perennial powerhouse teams (Chicago, Anaheim, St. Louis, etc.) seem to have lost a bit of their bite and aren’t quite as scary as they have been in years past. The biggest need for the Flames was a top-4 defenseman to play with T.J. Brodie. They acquired Stone to fill that role but, in my opinion, he doesn’t really move the needle and fill that hole. The Flames think he does, though, so they’re probably done making moves on defense. Assuming the goaltending holds up – Brian Elliott has been better of late – I think the Flames are only one top-9 forward away from being a serious upset threat. It doesn’t have to be a big name, either. Just someone who can chip in some offense and help out in possession a little bit (I’m looking at you, Parenteau).
Around the league…
Our Top 25 Player Watch Chart lists the players our writing staff thinks are most likely to be moved and where they could end up. Who are three players on that list with the most likely chance of being moved to one of their potential destinations?
Jarome Iginla to Los Angeles makes a lot of sense. The Kings play a slow paced game and I think they may be the only potential landing spot where Iginla’s lack of foot speed won’t really hurt him. He also has a long history with Darryl Sutter. Johnny Oduya to Pittsburgh could work assuming he’s healthy. They are really beat up on the back end right now and Oduya seems like a good fit for their style of play. Brendan Smith to the Rangers would make a lot of sense, too. Defense is their Achilles heel and Smith is an underrated guy who could help limit the amount of chances they give up.
Based on how the NHL Standings are shaping up, we could see longtime iconic NHL rivalries clash in the playoffs for the first time in years. What’s one division rivalry matchup you want to see happen in the first round of the playoffs?
I really want to see Pittsburgh vs Columbus. It’s always nasty when they play and both teams have a ton of speed, skill and quality goaltending to go with it. This rivalry has quickly turned into one of the NHL’s best.