New Jersey Devils Mailbag: First Edition


Hey there, Pucks and Pitchforks community! With so much news revolving around the New Jersey Devils lately, I wanted to hear what questions you guys had about the team. I received several questions and chose the first few that I thought needed a longer answer. The series is called Devils Mailbag and it will come out on Wednesday’s. If you would like to have your question potentially answered by me, please tweet @PitchForkedPuck or @WAgathis or you can comment right below this in the comments section. Without further ado, here are this week’s featured questions:

Anytime somebody comes to me with a proposed trade offer, I like to look at three things: first, why team A would offer this package; then, why team B would offer up their side of the deal; and finally, why both teams would accept the trade. I’ll give you my short answer: no, I would not envision this trade happening as currently constructed.

Ty Rattie is a right wing who has been stuck in the St. Louis Blues’ organization. Since finishing his overage season in 2012-13, Rattie has toiled in the AHL, playing in 131 games for the Chicago Wolves. Even though he geared up for 13 NHL contests as a Blue, Rattie has had trouble finding his name on the score-sheet with only two points.

Onto the criteria: would St. Louis be willing to offer Ty Rattie? He is 22-years old and still has not broken into the Blues’ lineup yet. Along the Boards had an interesting take on Rattie which you can read here.  That said, two of the Blues’ top-six forwards, David Backes and Troy Brouwer, are entering contract years and could both look to cash in next summer. In that regard, it may not be worth moving Rattie unless the pieces the Blues acquire can help them in another large-scale run to the Cup in 2015-16. On the topic, Tyler Zupan also published a piece on potential trades between New Jersey and St. Louis.

The question for New Jersey is whether the Devils would be willing to give up on Steve Santini. Voted by the P&P community as the Devils’ second-best prospect, Santini has not yet had a shot to prove himself in the NHL or AHL but has garnered much praise for his leadership and defensive play. Still at least another year from cracking the NHL squad, would New Jersey be willing to give up on his development? Given the team’s strength in young defensive depth, I would say that GM Ray Shero would be willing to cut ties with Santini in the right deal for forward help.

Finally, would both sides want the pieces in question? St. Louis, in all likelihood, would not want another defenseman to add to their system given the team’s tendency to spend early draft picks on the blue line. Although Jay Bouwmeester is advancing in age, the Blues have several candidates to replace his production. New Jersey would surely want a winger with Rattie’s talent, but I do not see the value being equal for both sides. As I depicted in the trade graphics, it is easy to see that the most likely way to see this deal go through would be by adding a third party into the negotiations.

Long story short: no, I don’t see this deal happening as it stands at the momen.

For fans who haven’t been following the Devils’ preseason thus far, Lee Stempniak is a right winger who scored 28 points in 71 games between the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets in 2014-15. He went unsigned in free agency and is attending the Devils’ preseason on a Professional Try Out (PTO). He played in the Devils’ first preseason game, against Boston, where he set up numerous quality chances with little ice time to boot.

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Alexander Holtz must dominate New Jersey Devils training camp
Alexander Holtz must dominate New Jersey Devils training camp /

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  • I think the first thing we need to do is discern how many forward spots are available. In no particular order, we can assume that Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, Kyle Palmieri, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, and Stefan Matteau will all have a spot among the fourteen forwards the Devils usually carry.

    The next seven spots will be divided between the following players: Reid Boucher, Pavel Zacha, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Stephen Gionta, Jordin Tootoo, Tuomo Ruutu, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Jiri Tlusty, Sergei Kalinin, Paul Thompson, Mike Sislo, Joseph Blandisi and Ryan Kujawinski, among others. As it stands now, there is little reason to believe that Ruutu, Gionta, Tootoo, or Tlusty will be waived as they were either just signed (Tlusty) or were a mainstay on this team (Ruutu, Gionta, Tootoo).

    That essentially leaves three spots for the others to battle it out. Part of me is hoping for Sergei Kalinin to make the roster and I think he has the skillset to make it as a bottom-six forward. The team can use another forward, a spot that I would look to give to Blake Coleman or Jim O’Brien. That final spot will be fought over by several forwards, Stempniak included.

    I plan on coming out with a long-form article about the Devils’ opening-night lineup projections but for now I think that Stempniak will have an opportunity to make the team but will ultimately be bested by somebody. I don’t think there is much benefit in having a soon-to-be 33-year old take a spot in which younger players can flourish.

    Good question. If you want my pick for who will enjoy a bounce-back year, that award goes to Patrik Elias. As for the biggest break out candidate, I want to give this honor to Jacob Josefson. I will admit that, earlier in Yayo’s career, part of me was so sure he would succeed because of his first round label. To me, Josefson lacked the heart when he was getting significant playing time early in his career – that is, in 2010-11 when the Devils gave him ice-time with Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, from time to time. He was not producing enough either to justify a steady role in the lineup. Nonetheless, the Devils afforded him several chances early on to earn a role on the main roster. Josefson failed each and every time, either due to lack of success or injury.

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    Last season was the first time Josefson played more than half the season in New Jersey and, unsurprisingly, it was his best offensive season to date. People like to point out that his 11 points in 62 games only further prove the statistics that point to Josefson being one of the least efficient scorers in the entire NHL (as seen here, for example). However, this is a progressing forward on a team that continually stifles their players’ production year-in and year-out.

    Let’s look at Josefson for what he’s done so far: he shoots at about a one shot per game clip, he has 36 points in 180 career games while playing 12:12 a night on average. He is one of the best possession players on the team and was a huge reason why the team was not as bad as they should have been in regards to shot attempt differentials. He shot at 9.8% last year and his lines in general shot at 5.6%, meaning that Jordin Tootoo and Tuomo Ruutu were not helpful linemates. Josefson is an ace defensively and is likewise entrusted with plenty of penalty killing minutes. Finally, he is a wizard in the shootout.

    Josefson should be a second or third liner in 2015-16 based on Ray Shero’s words and will likewise be skating 15+ minutes a night in Scott Gomez’s former post. Applying those figures onto last season’s production (still with offensively inept linemates), Josefson would have had 15 points.

    This season, I expect Josefson to put up at least 115 shots (15 more than his 2014-15 pace and time on ice projections would dictate), 11 goals (which is 9.8% shooting), and 14 assists. Being a 25-point scorer on the second and third lines is not bad for Josefson and will hopefully be a sign of better things to come.

    So, what do you think? Is Rattie for Santini a realistic proposal for the Devils and Blues? Will Lee Stempniak have a spot on the opening night roster? Is Jacob Josefson poised for a big breakout? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.  If you have a question about the team for next week’s Mailbag, please tweet us @PitchForkedPuck or leave a comment below. You can also tweet at me, personally, @WAgathis. As always, thanks for reading!


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