Before the NHL Draft Lottery, it was beginning to look clear that the New Jersey Devils were going to move their first-round pick. Then, they moved up to the second-overall pick. So, have things changed? The short answer is yes because the players available are better the higher you go, but this is a team that wants to start to win now and the way general manager Tom Fitzgerald talks on top of reports from various hockey insiders, this pick is available.
Just looking at the players drafted second overall in the past should up the value right away. It really depends on who you talk to, especially with Juraj Slafkovsky. Whoever trades for the pick will have some options though and whether it is a big scoring winger, a highly-skilled center, or perhaps a defender the pick should have a lot of pull.
Montreal Canadiens fans have been interesting as of late in picking Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky. We believe they will take Wright number one, but the fanbase and even some analysts are leaning toward Slafkovsky now. The team is definitely very high on him even if they do not pick him first, and with the draft being in Montreal making a big splash seems more likely, even if it is only a little bit.
The Habs are in cap hell and they are one of the worst teams if not the worst in the league. That’s how they got the number-one overall pick. They could be again next season regardless of moves despite spending so much. They will not be good for a few years. While they will be able to move out some contracts over the next few seasons this is not a one-season fix and some players are stuck where they are. No one is taking Carey Price at over $10 million. Jeff Petry has three years left at $6.25 million. Other than Suzuki, this team’s entire forward group is overpaid and locked up for multiple years. The aim should be to be competitive in 4 years though this will be hard to stomach for the franchise.
So why move one of the good young players?
If you want the second-overall pick, you are not putting together a package based on a bunch of overpaid middle-of-the-road forwards fixing all of your problems. Nick Suzuki is the franchise center next to Wright giving them a 1-2 punch kind of like the Devils. It is pretty clear that the Devils need scoring.
Cole Caufield had a great second half of his season. Most now forget about his awful start, but if things stay the way they are the Habs only have two ways this can go. Either he slips and they have another middle-of-the-road guy or he keeps it up and they need to pay him $7 million. For that to happen, the Canadiens would need to sell off some of the dead weight, and they might not be in a position to spend just to get some cap space. Slafkovsky would be ready to go when they are ready to compete. He could give them the scorer that Caufield is with a physicality that he could never match.
As for the Devils, it is a risky play obviously. They are ready to go now unlike the Habs and we all know the chemistry that Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield had in junior. They could have a legit top 6 and with Bratt next to Nico and Sharangovich next to Hughes giving the coach the addition of Caufield and Holtz next season for the open wings is a big jump and could be frightening in the future.