The 2020 NHL Trade Deadline fast approaching. It is a fun time to be a fan of the National Hockey League. Teams in playoff contention are looking to add a piece or two to get over the hump in hopes of winning the Stanley Cup. Then there are the teams that are near the bottom of the standings, looking to sell off players for prospects and draft picks. This is where the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils find themselves.
However, the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils find themselves in a very unique situation. They are the only team in the NHL that does not have a permanent general manager at the trade deadline. With the Devils firing Ray Shero last month and Tom Fitzgerald taking over on an interim basis, along with Martin Brodeur being an advisor, it will be interesting to see what kind of moves the Devils make. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet in his 31 thoughts, the Devils are looking to make hockey trades.
You have to wonder if ownership has made up their minds on who the next general manager will be. With Taylor Hall already being shipped out back in November, who else do the Devils trade to teams in playoff contention?
New Jersey Devils Trade Deadline Strategy
Option 1: Trade Expiring Contracts
The 2019-20 New Jersey Devils have several players on their roster that are pending unrestricted free agents this summer. With players like Sami Vatanen, Wayne Simmonds, Kevin Rooney, Louis Domingue, and Andy Greene, the Devils have a couple of pieces teams would be interested in taking. Let us start with the two most obvious players that most likely will be traded at the deadline in Vatanen and Simmonds. Players like Vatanen, Simmonds, and Greene are ideal for teams in playoff contention. And while Rooney and Domingue could fetch the Devils a return, the team is better off letting them walk at free agency.
First off with Vatanen a UFA this summer, the Devils are wise to move an asset that will bring them value. With so many contending teams dealing with injuries, defencemen are at a premium. Vatanen could net the Devils a nice package in a trade. He currently sits at number four on TSN Frank Seravalli’s Trade Bait Board, and teams have been calling the Devils about him. While Vatanen plays the right side, he has the ability to play the left-side which makes him valuable.
As far as Simmonds goes, if all the Devils are going to get is a late-round pick, they may be better off just letting him walk in the off-season. while Simmonds has stated he did not like being traded last season and wants to stay with the team, the Devils have players in their system to fill a void. Considering the deal was only one-year, they have the option of bringing him back next season. He has not played poorly for the Devils. He could bring a physical presence to any team acquiring him.
Greene is a different animal altogether. While he is a UFA this off-season, Greene controls where he wants to go as he has a no-trade clause in his contract. But he has spoken with Fitzgerald about his future. The Devils are wise to ask Greene to waive his clause as he is still good enough to be a third-pairing defenceman on a contending team. The one thing he does well is blocking shots. On the Devils, he eats a ton of minutes and looks like a player that can’t play in the league anymore. In the right situation, he can help boost a defence corps that is weak and at least got another shot at a Stanley Cup.
Option 2: Trade Players With Term
In addition to the UFA’s on the roster, the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils also have players under contract that have term left on their contracts. Two players, in particular, come to mind in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Both players have a year left on their deals. While the UFAs get the attention this time of year, players with term bring even more value. You can even throw guys in like Miles Wood and Blake Coleman.
Palmieri has a year remaining on his contract, but he has an eight-team no-trade clause. Even though Palmieri has found a home playing on the top-line in New Jersey, his ideal role is on the second line. With the Boston Bruins looking for scoring help especially for their second line, Palmieri would fit great alongside David Krejci. Through 51 games this season, he has 38 points (21 goals and 17 assists). He has a knack for getting points on the power-play and could boost a team’s power play as well.
Zajac is in a similar situation as Greene. He has a no-trade clause in his contract. However, he still has a year-left remaining on his contract. And while he has spoken to Fitzgerald about his future with the team, Zajac would like to remain with the Devils. Teams have called about the possibility of trying to acquire Zajac. As a matter of fact, New York Islanders general Lou Lamoriello has ties to Zajac. Lamoriello signed Zajac to his current deal with the Devils. He is a solid third-line centre that would bring even more veteran leadership to that group. And while his offensive numbers will never be that high, that is not his role. His job is to go out there and take faceoffs. It will be interesting to see if he waives his no-trade clause to go to a contender. Or, is he a Devil for life?
Elliotte Friedman made it known in his 31 Thoughts back in December, the Devils were open to shopping Wood. Wood has the ability to be a monster offensively but still needs to mature as a player. His speed is something NHL teams will desire to have, but he takes penalties at inopportune times. Another thing teams will like about Wood is his contract. He has two years left on his deal with a salary cap hit of $2.5 million. This is really reasonable for a player who will be on a team’s third or fourth line.
If the Devils decide to blow this whole thing up, another player the Devils will get value for is Coleman. Coleman is on pace to break his career highs in goals, assists, and points. This has been aided by playing with Zajac and Nikita Gusev on the Devils second line. His trade value has never been higher and brings added depth to any team contending for a Stanley Cup. He will not see top-six minutes with a new team. Coleman can play in all situations but is great on the penalty kill. He is the type of player teams win with come playoff time. Ideally, the Devils would like to keep him around. That is if the price is right, he could have a new home after the trade deadline.
Option 3: Do Nothing And Re-Sign Players
Again the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils trade strategy all comes down to what ownership wants to do. When Shero was fired, ownership stated they wanted to go in a different direction. However, they have not stated what that direction is. If they want to avoid the rebuilding process, then the best course of action is not to trade anyone and sign Vatanen, Coleman, and Palmieri to deals. Let Greene and Zajac retire as Devils and let Simmonds walk in free agency.
This way the Devils have a veteran presence on a young team. As we have seen with the Edmonton Oilers, you can’t just have all young players on a team. You need some veterans to guide them through what it is like being an NHL player. With Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier only getting better, they are the ideal pieces to build around as the team goes forward. Next season, the Devils will be adding young defencemen to the fold, so it would be wise to have veterans on the team.
Considering the Devils do not know who the general manager is, the best course of action is to wait until someone is in place and make moves at the draft. Why make moves for the sake of making moves when there is no clear direction on what the team wants to do?