The New Jersey Devils traded the rights to their first round pick (#9 overall) to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender Cory Schneider, and in the process neglected to address the organizational need for depth at forward.
I have mixed feelings on the trade because while it solves the short term transition from Martin Brodeur to the next goaltender in the line of succession, the Devils left Valeri Nichushkin on the draft board. Nichushkin, a skilled Russian forward, was considered by some scouts to be a top 5 prospect in this draft.
The fact that the Devils do not have a first round pick next year as part of the league ordered punishment for the Ilya Kovalchuk contract, it further complicates the Devils player inventory at the forward position. I understand that none of the guys in the draft were going to be able to step in and start right away at the NHL level, but a prospect like Nichushkin or Bo Horvat (who Vancouver took with the 9th pick that the Devils traded to them for Schneider) could be close to being NHL ready soon.
In the end, I look at this draft from the perspective of the Devils and I feel like they mortgaged the future to address the goaltending situation. I also did not like that they took a defenseman (Steve Santini) and did not address the long term need for placing younger players into the development pipeline at forward.
A Top Six Forward
The Devils at this point will have to address the situation at forward by acquiring a “top six” caliber forward either through a trade or via free agency. They need to address the gap in goal scoring, which myself and others have written about extensively in the past few months, and also may need to offset the loss of David Clarkson.
Bob McKenzie of TSN has reported that Clarkson is most likely leaving via UFA (unrestricted free agency) unless he gets a substantial offer from the Devils in the next few days. Mr. McKenzie also reported that Clarkson has received no contract offers from the Devils at this point. In my view, that is not a good sign. However, maybe the Devils want to go in a new direction and get a player that is a proven goal scorer for next season.
The free agency options are as follows:
- Nathan Horton
- Danny Briere
- Brenden Morrow
- Stephen Weiss
- Tyler Bozak
- Derek Roy
Risk & Return
I think each player on this list has some risk and also some great return on the potential investment. I have mentioned Nathan Horton previously, and I know he will cost probably around $6 million per year, I think he is a great fit for the Devils and would provide the scoring punch that they need.
My buddy from college, who was at the Draft yesterday, mentioned Briere to me over social media, I think it is an interesting choice. I know he is getting into the later stages of his career, but with the money he received from the Philadelphia Flyers as part of his compliance buyout, he might be able to be obtained for a relative bargain. He is a proven offensive player and a seasoned playoff performing player as well, which are not just readily available in today’s NHL.
Brenden Morrow is a left winger and the Devils really have a need at the other two forward positions from an organizational standpoint, plus he me may want too much money or too many years on his next contract. It may not be a good fit for New Jersey at this point.
Derek Roy is a very talented player but his age (30) and past injury history make this move a definite risk. You could get a player with huge upside, or you can end up with a guy who is too often injured and then pushing into the latter stages of his career. Lou Lamoriello tends to avoid players with this level of risk, but his offensive upside could be huge. His last contract paid him $4 million per year (www.si.com) and it is likely from other reports that he is looking for a raise in his next contract.
Stephen Weiss and Tyler Bozak are both lower risk moves which I could see the Devils potentially making during the free agency period. I think Weiss in particular would be a good fit with the Devils, coming from the Florida Panthers he knows the Eastern Conference. Weiss also is familiar with the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals, who were divisional rivals when he was in Florida, and now in the newly realigned NHL, the Devils will have those 2 teams in their division next season.
In the end, the Devils have to make a move to bolster the offense, especially because it was not addressed in the Draft yesterday. I look forward to the next few weeks to see how the front office will address this pressing need as they move closer to next season.