New Jersey Devils Trade Partners: Dealing with Columbus


After spending much time in Canada discussing both the Jets and Maple Leafs as potential trade partners for the New Jersey Devils, I am crossing the border back into America. My next destination on this tour is the city of Columbus, Ohio, home of the fellow Metropolitan Division Blue Jackets.

When Lou Lamoriello stepped down as the Devils general manager, the future was uncertain for longtime director of scouting David Conte. As was expected, Conte was relieved of his duties by Ray Shero for a fresh face in the Devils front office. That face ended up being longtime Columbus Blue Jackets’ front office executive Paul Castron.

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Paul Castron spent the last 16 seasons with Columbus, and the last nine as their director of amateur scouting. He also served as the director of player development and as an amateur scout. Ray Shero also hired Andy Schneider, an amateur scout for Columbus for the past three seasons to the same position.

During his time in Columbus, Castron helped build one of the most talented prospect pools in the NHL, with many of those players currently making a huge impact for both the Jackets and other teams around the league. Castron played a role in drafting players such as Jakub Voracek, Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, and many more.

Obviously Castron, and to a lesser extent Schneider, represent a connection with their former team, and it could possibly lead to a deal down the road between the Devils and Blue Jackets. As always, we have to explore whether a deal is even possible despite this big connection.

After making the Stanley Cup playoffs two seasons ago, the Blue Jackets were marred by injuries this year and ultimately fell short of going back to the postseason. However, they figure to contend for the playoffs again next year, especially after making a huge splash in the offseason with the shocking trade for rising star Brandon Saad.

Saad will only add to an already promising offense in Columbus with Johansen, Foligno, Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell, and Brandon Dubinsky. The Jackets will also continue to get strong goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been one of the league’s best since being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Other than staying healthy, the Jackets biggest concern will likely be their defense. While Fedor Tyutin and David Savard will be solid pieces on this team’s blue line, there is still some uncertainty. Former top pick Ryan Murray has struggled with injuries, and veteran Jack Johnson has struggled with inconsistencies. The rest of the defense will likely be rounded out by young guys with not much NHL experience.

Given the Jackets possible need for a defenseman, could the Devils come calling with an offer? There’s no question that New Jersey has some young defensemen, and Columbus has a large group of young, talented forwards, both at the amateur and professional levels. Forwards that Paul Castron played a big role in drafting.

During the NHL Entry Draft, before the Devils selected Pavel Zacha, they appeared to be in intense discussions with Columbus about trading down. Columbus wanted to jump ahead of the Flyers to draft Ivan Provorov, but a deal never materialized. Perhaps these two teams could reopen talks in the near future?

We can dream big and hope that Ryan Johansen is traded to New Jersey, but it will always be a dream. The Jackets will not trade their star forward unless they are blown away with an offer and the Devils do not have the fire power to make said offer. And no, David Clarkson will not be making his return to New Jersey either.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, Columbus has two talented forward prospects in Sonny Milano and Kerby Rychel, who could be blocked in the NHL by the talent already there. Both have good offensive upside, but Milano, a better skater and scorer than Rychel, seems to fit Devils head coach John Hynes’ offensive oriented scheme better.

At the NHL level, the Blue Jackets have some forwards who could be expendable for the right price. Boone Jenner and Alexander Wennberg are two young centers with tremendous upside and both could be blocked from bigger roles by Ryan Johansen and Brandon Dubinsky. However, the best fit from either pro or amateur level for the Devils is right winger Cam Atkinson.

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Out of all the players listed, Atkinson would be the best choice for New Jersey because of his style of play, experience at the NHL level, and the fact that he just re-signed with the Jackets for three more years this past March. And yes, he was drafted by Paul Castron back in 2008.

Cam Atkinson, 26, fits the type of player that Ray Shero needs for his rebuild. Though he is small (5’8″), he makes up for it with his excellent skating and offensive ability. These intangibles make him a perfect fit in John Hynes’ system. Despite his lack of a physically imposing stature, Atkinson also plays an effective defensive game.

Atkinson is a talented player, but it likely would not cost the Devils a lot to trade for him. So what would it take to get him? Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen ultimately has the call on this, but Eric Gelinas or Jon Merrill, plus a forward prospect and a draft pick could be enough to get a deal done for Atkinson.

Gelinas or Merrill would have to be the main piece in this deal over Steve Santini or Joshua Jacobs because Columbus will likely want a defenseman who is in the NHL. They could also ask for Damon Severson, but the Devils should be extremely hesitant to part with the him.

While he would be perfect in New Jersey, Cam Atkinson is not necessarily on the outs in Columbus, especially after the team just re-signed him. His offensive game will be a pivotal part of what is likely to be a big year for the Jackets. Of course, as I have said with Toronto and Winnipeg, anything is possible.

The Devils could explore possible deals with Columbus for the other young forwards listed before. Atkinson just makes the most sense for them. While a trade here makes more sense than the prior two stops on my tour, but it does not look like the Jackets will be dealing anytime soon.

With all of that being said, what do you think? Could the connection with Paul Castron lead to a possible deal between the Devils and Blue Jackets? Would Cam Atkinson be your best choice for New Jersey, or is there someone else? Feel free to give your thoughts in the comments section below.

Next: Prospect Rankings: John Quenneville Profile

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