New Jersey Devils Trade Deadline Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center on October 30, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning defeated the Devils 7-6 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center on October 30, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning defeated the Devils 7-6 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning went from massive disappointment back to Stanley Cup contender. We think they’ll be very active during the NHL Trade Deadline, which will include a call to the New Jersey Devils.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were looking close to being the biggest disappointment of the NHL season, and that’s saying something with how much hype the New Jersey Devils came into the season with. They were down in the dumps, and sitting well outside a playoff spot before the New Year. Now, thanks to two 9+ game winning streaks, they are one point behind the Boston Bruins at the time of this writing.

One of the mistakes the Lightning admitted to making last season was making no moves at the NHL Trade Deadline. You can’t really blame them. They were on a record-setting pace. Why would you want to disrupt the locker room when they were blowing everyone out?

Well, it’s hard to get players excited for a first-round matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets when you haven’t had anything to play for in three months. That’s why bringing in new blood is so important.

The Lightning will learn from their mistakes and bring in some help at the deadline this season. This is especially true since the Lightning have an extra 1st-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. It’s that extra pick that makes them a perfect partner for the New Jersey Devils.

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The injuries are starting to add up for the Lightning. However, things are getting better. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli all returned to practice on Valentine’s Day. Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta are both going to miss a few more weeks, which is where the Devils come into play.

The Devils defense is not good as a whole, but that’s mostly because they just put together a very strange unit. They don’t have the right partner for P.K. Subban, which is the number-one reason why this defense just doesn’t work. There’s also the drop off and inconsistency of Damon Severson, and the strange situations they play Will Butcher (he should not be carrying the bottom line).

However, the Devils defense has a lot of talent. As we mention Severson, noone can deny how much talent he has. He’s also only 25 years old. Subban shouldn’t get traded just yet, it just makes no sense because they’d have to eat a lot of that contract. Andy Greene is a player who has a lot of clout in the national landscape. We may not like how he’s played, but that’s mostly because he’s been put in a first-line role at 37 years old.

Greene might be a nice addition for the Lightning, and he could easily fill the void left by McDonagh immediately. It wouldn’t cost them as much as some other players. A mid-round draft pick would get Greene, who’s on an expiring contract and may retire upon season’s end. They’d be willing to give up a 3rd-round pick for Greene since they have two 1sts and two 4ths.

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Still, we think the move for them is Sami Vatanen. It would be a weird one, since the Lightning are responsible for giving Vatanen a concussion in the 2018 playoffs and derailing that season, and possible his next one, but the Devils traded Marcus Johansson to the Boston Bruins last season so anything is possible.

We wonder what the Devils would be willing to take in exchange for the rest of the season with Vatanen. Would they demand the Canucks 1st-round pick? Is the Lightning’s 1st-round pick enough to make it happen, or would they rather have multiple picks like a 2nd- and 4th-round pick?

The problem with Vatanen and Greene is they’re both expiring contracts. The Lightning have exactly two NHL defensemen signed next season. Victor Hedman is making more than $7 million (still one of the best contracts in hockey) and Braydon Coburn is signed for one more year. One would think the Lightning would hope to extend Vatanen if they wanted to trade a big piece for him.

The Lightning have some very intriguing prospects that could peak the Devils interests. Erik Cernak is a defenseman that’s on the final year of his contract and needs a new deal. However, with so many defensemen leaving the Lightning, we think they’re keeping their restricted free agents (Mikhail Sergachev is the other). Alexander Volkov is another intriguing name who can play both wings and has a scoring touch. He’s in the AHL right now, so the Devils would be able to give him a look right away.

At the end of it, we think this ends up being a cut-and-dry trade. The Devils trade Sami Vatanen to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their own 1st-round pick. There could be other pieces in there, but this is the crux of the deal, and could just be the deal in its entirety.