Examining Two Possible New Jersey Devils-St. Louis Blues Trades

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 07: Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues in action against the New Jersey Devils on November 7, 2017 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Blues defeated the Devils 3-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 07: Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues in action against the New Jersey Devils on November 7, 2017 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Blues defeated the Devils 3-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

A recent tweet from @CompleteHockeyNews set twitter ablaze with trade speculation regarding the St. Louis Blues.  Jeremy Rutherford of the Athletic replied to the tweet with a correction but it still points to plenty of availability with some top end players in St. Louis.

Although its rumored Vladimir Tarasenko may be available, I doubt Ray Shero will be willing to deplete an already thin prospect pool to acquire the star winger.  He’d certainly provide a massive boost for the Devils and would immediately be the best finisher on the team having scored 116 goals over the past four seasons.

Ryan O’Reilly would be also be a huge addition and is arguably a top five center in the league, but I highly doubt St. Louis is going to immediately flip the center after acquiring him this offseason.

There are some potential options for the Devils though that would cost less, address needs, and look to be right up Ray Shero’s alley as he clearly prefers acquiring players at least two years left on their deals.

Jaden Schwartz

Schwartz may be one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL.  The 26-year-old left wing has three years left on his contract with a $5.35 million cap hit.  Extremely affordable when you factor in the massive impact the winger has.  Schwartz’s best year of his career was 2014-15 when he played 75 games and posted 28 goals and 56 points.

He’s certainly had some injury issues and some may argue he’s propped up by Vladimir Tarasenko. That certainly helps, but his numbers don’t take a major hit away from Tarasenko which is key.  Using data from Natural Stat Trick we can go back to his first full season in the NHL which was 2013-14 and look at his numbers with and without Tarasenko.

In 1321:18 at 5v5 Schwartz and Tarasenko posted a CF% of 54.60 and HDCF% of 53.37.  In 1227:21 TOI without Tarasenko Schwartz posted a CF% of 53.91 and a HDCF% of 55.69.  Without Tarasenko his CF% takes a minor hit but his HDCF% actually has some decent improvement.

Now let’s take a look at two of my favorite tools from Hockey Viz.

You can clearly see here that Schwartz plays 1st line minutes, provides 1st line scoring at even strength, and 2nd PP unit scoring.  The Blues are also much better with him on the ice than they are without him.  Again, some of that may be attributed to the quality of his teammates but thankfully Hockey Viz has a tool that isolates an individuals impact.

Visualization from HockeyViz.com
Visualization from HockeyViz.com /

Schwartz’s offense is 9% better than league average, his defense is 7% better than league average, and he’s extremely effective on both the PP and PK.  That’s the kind of all around player this top six needs.

It doesn’t stop there with Schwartz though.  Using Corey Sznajder’s data visualized by CJ Turtoro we can compare Schwartz’s game in transition as well as his shot contributions to an MVP we all know and love, Taylor Hall.  Hall’s numbers are clearly next level as he’s arguably one of the best in the league but Schwartz isn’t far behind.

What would it likely cost to acquire Schwartz?  I’d imagine a team with serious goaltending issues would inquire about Keith Kinkaid first and foremost, and that obviously wouldn’t be it.  The Devils will have to decide shortly if Kinkaid is a part of their future or not as the 29 year old is a pending UFA and could be a valuable trade chip.

Kinkaid could be the stopgap the Blues are looking for and having spent a year with the St. Louis Bandits of the NAHL it’s likely he’d be willing to extend there.

Realistically, if the Devils are going to acquire Schwartz the next piece will need to be a top end prospect or a 1st round pick.  Considering they lost their 2019 1st round pick in the Ryan O’Reilly trade they may prefer recouping a pick.

So far we’re looking at a package of a 1st round pick and Keith Kinkaid at least.  That’s the foundation of a deal right there.  They may ask for a young LW like Miles Wood or possibly Michael McLeod.  However, if I’m the Devils I see about working Marcus Johansson into the deal to try and bring down the price of the pick.  They may not bite, but with Mojo a pending UFA it’s worth considering.

Alternatively, the Blues may be looking to dump Jake Allen and his $4.35 million AAV for the next three years.  While having over $10m tied up in two below average goalies isn’t ideal, it’s something the Devils can consider if it lowers the price to acquire Schwartz.

Brayden Schenn

Option number two addresses a clearer need for the Devils.  Pavel Zacha unfortunately did not break out like I’ve wrongly predicted for the past two years so it’s probably time for the Devils to figure out a way to fill the massive hole in this top six.

Schenn is 27 and signed for two more years at an AAV of $5.125 million.

His impact is again made clear with the help of Hockey Viz.  His even strength scoring is right on the fringe of being 1st line, but he’d be a top end second center which is exactly what the Devils need.  His PP scoring rate could also be a nice boost for the struggling Devils.

Visualization from HockeyViz.com
Visualization from HockeyViz.com /

Schenn’s isolated impacted is solid as well.  He offensive impact is 8% above league average while his defensive impact is slightly below league average.  He isn’t a penalty killer, but his impact on the power play is notable.

Let’s also take a look at Schenn’s impact in transition compared to another Devil that’s elite in that category, Nico Hischier.

Schenn’s overall shot contribution numbers are similar to Hischier’s and although he’s not as good in transition stepping into the 2nd-line role with Johansson and Jesper Bratt as his wingers, it’s far less crucial.

Finally, lets take a look at one more Viz, this time from Bill Comeau that highlights the overall numbers of both Schenn and Schwartz.

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Schwartz’s numbers are clearly elite and Schenn’s are much better than what any other Devils 2C has provided.

So what would it cost to acquire Schenn?  With one less year on his deal it’s likely cheaper than what the Devils would have to pay for Schwartz and he fills a clearer need.  The Devils definitely don’t offer Johansson in this deal, but more likely a younger center, possibly Pavel Zacha or Michael McLeod and a 1st round pick.  Again St. Louis may inquire about Keith Kinkaid and again I think its something the Devils should strongly consider.

Do either of these moves turn the current Devils season around? Probably not.  The Devils still need to acquire a top 4 left defenseman and address their issues in net, but building a team is a process and either of these moves would be a step in the right direction.  If the Devils move forward with a 1-2 punch of Hischier-Schenn at center they’re headed in the right direction.

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Your possible top sixes if either play is acquired could look something like this:






Thanks to Natural Stat Trick for advanced statistics.

Hockey Reference for overall stats.

Cap Friendly for contract data.

Corey Szjnader for his data and CJ Turtoro for this vizualizations.

And of course Bill Comeau for his always useful Skatr Tool.