The Stanley Cup Finals have concluded, the St. Louis Blues have been crowned champions, and we can finally focus on the event we’ve all been waiting for: The 2019 NHL Entry Draft. It begins Friday, June 21st, and the New Jersey Devils will select first with the no. 1 overall pick. In all likelihood, they will choose Jack Hughes, bringing a young talented center into the Devils’ forward group. But after that, nobody knows what New Jersey will do with their nine remaining picks; the Devils have three second-round picks (34th, 55th, and 61st), two third-round picks (70th and 80th), one fourth (96th), one fifth (127th), one sixth (158th), and one seventh (189th).
Now I could talk about what a great draft this will be, and who the Devils could take in the second round. But at Devils Army Blog we acknowledge the fan’s perspective, and it’s easy to lose confidence in the rebuilding process when you get caught up waiting for prospects. Whether it’s fair or not, fans group together players like Michael McLeod, John Quenneville, and Nathan Bastian to point at the draft and say it’s not working. But the reality is, the next nine draft picks the Devils have are assets, and if general manager Ray Shero uses them wisely, he can start the Devils’ offseason with a bang.
Where to Start
It’s no secret that New Jersey has to improve on the blue line to compete next year, so hopefully, Shero is looking at defensemen the Devils could potentially trade for. The best place to start looking are teams with little cap space that need to get rid of contracts. One team like this is the Calgary Flames, who are practically begging for someone to take their defensemen. With $14 million in cap space and virtually no contracts expiring this off-season, they have five defensemen up for new contracts next offseason. This means that they’ll have to create some wiggle room to keep the players they want and get a return on their investment. In order to do this, they’ll likely trade away either T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, or Michael Stone.
They’ll be free agents in 2020, meaning the Devils would not have to give up as much to get a player whose contract expires in a year. This brings me to other 2020 free agents, like Justin Schultz, a 30-year-old veteran on the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jared Spurgeon, an elite blueliner on the Minnesota Wild, and Roman Josi, a star defenseman on the Nashville Predators.
These would all be great targets on teams that need to relieve cap space. With that said, the Devils can’t always trade for the best players, which is why it’s better to focus on certain teams. The Coyotes are another one of those teams with little cap space and ample defensemen. As DAB staff writer Anthony Barberio mentioned previously, Kevin Connauton would be a great option for a trade as a 2020 free agent who hasn’t yet hit his prime. But if the Coyotes aren’t willing to part ways with Connauton, then maybe they are with Jordan Oesterle or Jason Demers.
All in all, it’s extremely hard to predict what offers Shero might receive or pursue this offseason, but we can all agree something has to be done. Especially considering our main Metropolitan competitors are in the same stage of a rebuild as the Devils and are already jumping the gun. Before the St. Louis Blues even had a chance to parade, the Philadelphia Flyers went out and traded for Kevin Hayes and Matt Niskanen. While Hayes may not sign with Philadelphia and Niskanen may be a downgrade from Radko Gudas, the point is that the Flyers are plotting. Therefore, as diehard Devils fans in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference, we must refuse to sit back while our rivals make moves. So I’ll ask you Devils Army, which defenseman do you think the Devils should try to trade for?