Too little scoring potential. Too many defensemen. Old goaltending. The Devils have many problems they need to fix and did nothing during the off-season to fix them. Despite these problems New Jersey finds itself, going into the last game of February, only two points out of a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division. Despite their early success, the Devils have a minus-1 goal differential and have only managed to score 48 times. In order to be considered a legitimate contender, the Devils will have to bring in some scoring help.
After losing Zach Parise to free agency, there have been no additions to the offense. The Devils have eight defensemen on their roster, including Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, Mark Fayne, Adam Larsson, and Peter Harrold. The Devils also have young defenseman developing in Albany with their AHL affiliate, particularly 21-year-olds Alexander Urbom and Eric Gelinas. What is even more disturbing is that Adam Larsson, the Devils top prospect who played about two-thirds of the 2011-2012 season and had an important goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, started the season as a healthy scratch. Recently, Harrold and either Mark Fayne or Henrik Tallinder have been the healthy scratches. Lastly, the goaltending tandem of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg has a combined age of 79 years old. The Devils have struggled as of late, and could use immediate help to turn it around.
Below are my thoughts on potential trade partners for the New Jersey Devils, along with explanations. It should be noted that while I tend to identify Tallinder, Fayne and Tedenby as trade bait, but that is wishful thinking. The more recent rumors have involved the slightly more valuable Andy Greene, who is having one of the best seasons of his career; Greene would be a good fit for any of these deals.
Los Angeles Kings – Devils fans most likely still have a bad taste in their mouths from last season, regarding the Kings, but there are many reasons why the Kings make sense for New Jersey. Los Angeles has recovered from a rough start, and sits at second place in the Pacific Division. However, they lost Matt Greene for the season to a back injury and Alec Martinez is still out with an upper body injury. The Kings have been a defense-first team for the past few years and their thin blue-line is making things difficult on Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Quick. I think Dustin Brown and Jonathan Bernier are ideal fits for New Jersey. It may seem outrageous to think the Kings would trade their captain, particularly after winning the Stanley Cup last season, but Brown was linked to the Devils last season, at the trade deadline. Brown is a 20-goal scorer with at least 50 points in his last five seasons. Brown only has one year left on his deal, after this season, before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Los Angeles may be willing to sacrifice Brown for the right package, which I would think would include a veteran defenseman and an NHL ready forward. I wouldn’t mind the Devils parting with Tallinder and Tedenby, the latter of which might fit well in the faster paced style of play in the Western Conference. Jonathan Bernier would also be an interesting acquisition for New Jersey, although less likely. Although Brodeur and Hedberg are 40 and 39 years old, respectively, they are both locked up for another two years. Scott Wedgewood, Keith Kincaid, and Maxime Clermont are waiting for the opportunity to succeed “Marty”, so the Devils may not feel much pressure to deal for a goaltender depending on how their young goaltenders are developing.
Ottawa Senators – The Senators are the biggest victim of injury this season, losing their two best players for the entire season. After a very good start to their season, the Ottawa seems far from contention after the loss of Erik Karlsson to a cut Achilles and Jason Spezza to a herniated disc. While Ottawa may not be in a rush to add to the list of veterans they have on their blue-line, someone like Mark Fayne may be a valuable piece for them. Fayne is only 25 years-old, has proven to be solid at both ends of the ice and only carries a salary cap hit of $1.3 million. New Jersey has invested a lot of money in their veteran defensemen signings of Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, so they may be harder players to trade. As for who New Jersey would want from Ottawa, there are many young players that Ottawa has between their NHL and AHL affiliates. The Senators have seven players who normally play center, on their NHL roster alone, that are 24 years old or younger. With an average age of just over 26 years old, the Senators have a lot of youth that they could trade, not to mention the 39 year-old Daniel Alfredsson who may be traded as a rental due to Ottawa’s slim chances at a Stanley Cup this season. I would imagine Tedenby would be interesting for Ottawa who has few natural wingers on their current roster.
Florida Panthers – The unbelievable overachievers of last season have started out with a 6-9-4 record, sitting one point above the lowly Washington Capitals for last place in the Southeast Division. It is clear that this team was never built for a serious run at the Cup, so it may be time to begin rebuilding around Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gubranson, and Jacob Markstrom. My favorite example of a player the Devils should target is Stephen Weiss. Although he isn’t very big, the 29 year-old center has scored at least 20 goals in his last three seasons, and has done so surrounded by minimal talent in Florida. Despite this past success, Weiss has only managed one goal this year, and is sitting at minus-11 in the fourteen games he has played this season. While the Devils seem to be pretty deep at center as of now, they may need to get a little more serious about their line formations come playoff time. In the playoffs, DeBoer did not skate a fighter, using the Bernier-Gionta-Carter line as the fourth line. I would love to see them play as a fourth line again, and to see a third line centered by either Stephen Weiss or Adam Henrique. Mark Fayne and Tedenby would be great additions to a rebuilding Panthers team, as would Tallinder if they are looking for a less expensive presence on the blue-line than defensemen Brian Campbell ($7.140 million cap hit), Ed Jovanovski ($4.125 million cap hit), or Filip Kuba ($4 million cap hit).
Buffalo Sabres – There seems to be an interesting situation developing in Buffalo that hasn’t received much media attention so far. Lindy Ruff was recently relieved of his head coach position, after being with the Sabres for 16 years, due to 7-12-1 start. Buffalo has only 15 points, which has them tied with Washington for last place in the Eastern Conference and only one win better than Columbus, the worst team in the league. When Terrence Pegula became the owner of the Buffalo Sabres, he promised to invest a good amount of his oil fortune into putting a good team on the ice to compliment Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. He did so by overpaying several mediocre players, such as Ville Leino, Christian Erhoff, and others. The Sabres missed the playoffs last year and look as though they will miss them again this year. I think trading captain Jason Pominville would be a good move for the Sabres, as he carries a $5.5 million cap hit and only has one year left on his contract. The 30 year-old, right-winger, has scored at least 20 goals in his last six seasons, and managed to score 30 goals in two of them. A package of Tallinder and Tedenby may interest Buffalo as they lack defenseman that are as steady and responsible in their own zone as Tallinder. They also have $7 million in cap space coming from their blue-line at the end of the season as the contracts of Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold will be ending. Tedenby would bring speed with a scoring touch to a team that has been built largely around physicality. It seems clear that the team Buffalo has now isn’t getting it done, so trading aging stars like Pominville, while they can still get good value, is in the best interest of the team.
Honorable mention – The Winnipeg Jets, who have been on a hot streak lately, have defensemen Tobias Enstrom to an upper body injury and Zach Redmond to a serious skate cut incident. They could be looking for a way to bolster their blue-line and they have $11.648 million of available cap room. Also, the Edmonton Oilers, who have a solid young group of offensive players but have lacked the defense to be a contender.
That being said, there are other teams that may fit the bill. Who would you like to see traded to New Jersey?