5 Questions New Jersey Devils Must Answer This Season

Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils
Kyle Palmieri #21 and Travis Zajac #19 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Where Will Zajac/Gusev/Palmieri Go?

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Devils is one not a lot of people are talking about. The Devils have eight players who are in the final year of their contract and heading into unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. That includes five defensemen. However, the ones that are the focus here are Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, and Nikita Gusev. That’s because the Devils would get the most back if they decided to trade them this season.

Zajac is the longest-tenured player on the Devils. He was drafted back in the 1st round of 2004, and he’s been a staple of this roster since 2006. This is someone who transcends eras. He’s played with Sergei Brylin, John Madden, and Brian Rafalski. Then, he played with Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Martin Brodeur. And now, he plays with Blackwood, Hischier, and Hughes. He’s the last player on the roster that took the 2012 run to the Stanley Cup Final. It will be hard for the Devils to part with Zajac, but it might be time.

Palmieri is probably the most valuable asset on the Devils they might actually move. Reports said the Devils were looking for something of the equivalent of two 1st-round picks last season. Nobody hit that price, so Palmieri is starting the season in his native New Jersey. He’s still on the trading block, but the Devils are also trying to re-sign him to an extension. If things work out, the Devils could win either way. The only way they lose is if they allow this to go to the offseason.

The same goes for Russian sniper Nikita Gusev. He’s spending his second season in New Jersey, and he’s on the final year of his $9 million deal. Figuring out what he might want in another contract must be an interesting negotiation. He hasn’t really lived up to his $4.5 million price tag, but nobody really flourished on the Devils last season. Still, his value is high on the trade market for a team that needs a player with his skill set.

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Will the Devils be sellers again? With this amount of expiring contracts, it sounds like that is at least a backup plan. What they do with Zajac, Gusev, and especially Palmieri will tell where the Devils go from here.