New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero went out and acquired a lot of talent for his team this summer. And whether it’s an issue of coaching, roster build, depth, goaltending problems, bad luck, or a combination of any of the above, the fact is things have not worked out to anyone’s satisfaction.
People were deluding themselves that adding Jack Hughes and two past-it former stars in PK Subban and Wayne Simmonds would magically make this Devils team playoff-ready. That is, unless either Cory Schneider or Mackenzie Blackwood were at least as legit as they seemed down the stretch last season, but, perhaps predictably, they were not.
So now the Devils sit 10 points out of a playoff spot at the start of December and are likely looking at a 55-game slog to the end of another unsuccessful regular season. And they are wisely looking at their options.
Word is Taylor Hall is now firmly on the trade block, and he would almost certainly command a huge haul. Now probably isn’t the time to trade him, though some teams should be interested in locking in a player of Hall’s talent level ASAP. It’s better to start raking in points for what is already shaping up to be a contentious divisional battle just about everywhere.
But the thing is, Shero is in an excellent position to offload a lot more than just Hall in the next three months. Consider: Only nine Devils are signed after 2020-21, and none besides Subban are on bank-breaking deals north of $6 million. Meanwhile, Hall, Simmonds, Andy Greene, Sami Vatanen, and Mirco Mueller are all on expiring deals and the Devils could probably not only find buyers for them, but carry plenty of cap flexibility to sweeten their returns.
No team wants to have to drop the curtain on a group people were legitimately excited about just three months ago. However, the Devils were wise to put themselves in a position where even Subban is theoretically movable with retained salary (though one imagines the market would be, shall we say limited).
Other guys who appear at least somewhat movable — thanks to deals that expire at the end of next season — are Travis Zajac (full no-trade, just like Greene), Kyle Palmieri (eight-team no-trade), Nikita Gusev, and Blake Coleman. There’s not really much wrong with any of those players, at a minimum, and they’re all at least 27.
Sure, it’s a lot of talent to potentially offload, but thanks to some poor finishes and solid talent development, the Devils would still be in a good position going forward even if all those guys got traded. A core of Hughes and Nico Hischier down the middle is a great start. Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood are also there for depth, as are Jespers Bratt and Boqvist, and John Hayden.
On the blue line you’d still have Damon Severson and Will Butcher to work with, and you’d hope Blackwood figures it out in net since he’s just 22.
It’s obviously unrealistic to assume all or even most of these guys will be traded because even the biggest sellers don’t trade everyone over 26 to the tune of offloading half their roster. But three or four of these guys could get them the picks, prospects, and even roster players to compete more meaningfully a year or three from now.
In today’s NHL, it’s tough to admit that even with all this parity, you’re pretty much cooked this early in the year. Credit Shero and the organization for accepting their position and putting themselves in a position to maximize value when things went sideways.
Anaheim Ducks: The idea that the Ducks could be buyers? I dunno man.
Arizona Coyotes: After all this, all that’s separating the Sharks from the Coyotes is three games that went to OT. That’s parity for ya.
Boston Bruins: This is great news for David Backes.
Buffalo Sabres: The idea that “the Sabres are a hard club to gauge right now” is very silly. They’re not good. They’re not gonna make the playoffs in the top-heaviest division in hockey, loaded with four elite-talent teams. They have two more points than Tampa because the Lightning have three fewer games played. Let’s not lose our minds here.
Calgary Flames: Understandably lost in all the Peters stuff is that the city council felt like it needed to revisit the horrible arena deal Calgary gave the club, but that got shut down pretty quick.
Carolina Hurricanes: I’m not gonna buy that this was all the way on purpose but this save is sick.
Chicago: They played the Avalanche twice in two days and got outscored 12-5. To me that’s bad.
Colorado Avalanche: Rantanen coming back is bad news for the Central.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Just when you thought Columbus couldn’t have it any worse, Zach Werenski takes an ugly bump and the team has no update on his condition.
Dallas Stars: What’s amazing is the Stars just lost their second game in a row for the first time since mid-October and they’re still only in a wild-card spot.
Detroit Red Wings: I’m sorry, Eric Comrie is what now?
Florida Panthers: This is frankly the only decision they could reasonably make at this point. Bobrovsky has been awful, full stop. Cost the Panthers probably four points in the standings, and somehow they’re still second in the division. What a world.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings won seven games at home in November but didn’t win any on the road, and that strikes me as bad.
Minnesota Wild: Underreported: The Wild ended November on an eight-game point streak (5-0-3). They got those xGAs down to where they were last year.
Montreal Canadiens: Sorry but “looking to the past” is the only thing the Canadiens do well.
Nashville Predators: This is just getting weird at this point.
New York Islanders: Not often you see a split shutout in the NHL but it’s always cool when it happens.
New York Rangers: Wow crazy that when you put talented young players with talented older players they are in a better position to succeed for you. Now about Lias Andersson...
Ottawa Senators: Four straight losses for the Senators? Why, wasn’t it just a week ago that we were being assured they had begun to prove the haters wrong and all that sort of thing?
Philadelphia Flyers: That’s nasty.
Pittsburgh Penguins: You don’t say.
San Jose Sharks: It’s almost like they have too much talent to be as bad as they were.
St. Louis Blues: Those two losses in a row to Nashville were a bit worrying but when you respond by beating Tampa, Dallas, and Pittsburgh all in a row, that’s good.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Speaking of which, the Lightning have lost three straight. Tough opponents and everything but this can’t happen.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Well, yes.
Vancouver Canucks: This is cool analysis.
Vegas Golden Knights: They’re up to 2-5-2 in games started by a backup, so now anything is possible.
Washington Capitals: Ovechkin’s now up to 20 goals in 28 games. It’s a 58-goal pace. He really is just gonna do this forever.
Winnipeg Jets: Honestly the Jets’ success makes absolutely no sense. Hellebuyck for MVP, why not.
Play of the Weekend
Hoo baby look at the wheels here.
Gold Star Award
Welcome back to Mikko “2-2-4 in less than 11 minutes after missing five weeks” Rantanen. Good lord.
Minus of the Weekend
It’s tough to be on the ice for three goals against in 13 minutes but Jared McCann did it and you have to respect that.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “Jpageman” has it figured out.
to Minesota [sic]: Price
to Montreal: Suter
Hey Dad, can we get this, please? Oh my gosh, sorry mister.
Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.
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