The New Jersey Devils could use assets to get young defensemen before they make the NHL.
There is one clear-cut need on the New Jersey Devils. They absolutely need star defensemen. P.K. Subban was supposed to fill at least most of that role when he came to the team last season, but he clearly lost a step over the past couple of seasons since he was last nominated for the Norris Trophy. This quick-fix strategy probably was never going to work. The trade is still probably good overall, but the Devils need to find a top-flight defenseman in other means.
The best thing the Devils can do is turn one of their current roster players into a top-flight defensive prospect. It seems farfetched on paper that a team would trade a future star for a decent player right now, but it’s happened over and over again. Far more often, a team will regret trading away a draft pick that turns into something great, but every so often a massive prospect gets moved to make a trade happen.
The Devils made it clear they wanted a top-flight defensive prospect in the trade for former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall. They think they got that in Kevin Bahl. Whether that seems to be true or not isn’t up for debate right now. What is true is both these teams were arguing over the value of someone who wasn’t in the top 100 prospects because he was a defenseman.
Think about all the players the Devils have in their ranks. Every NHL player, every AHL player, every player they have the rights to in the KHL, the SHL, juniors, and NCAA. Of all those players, how many would they trade before they would consider moving Ty Smith? He’s someone who’s played exactly zero NHL regular-season minutes. Yet, that hope has the Devils taking him off the table.
This is why the Devils should make defensemen a priority in any trades for the top players. If a team really wants Kyle Palmieri, a massive defensive product has to be going the other way. Honestly, any player the Devils trade should come with conversations about defenders. Miles Wood trade talks should involve defensemen. There are levels of defensive prospects the Devils can talk into becoming available. These five would be great starts.