For the last few years of the rebuild, the New Jersey Devils have been selling their fans on the fact that they have a “young core that will compete for years to come”. Among that core is the obvious. Jack Hughes, rising sophomore Dawson Mercer, and captain Nico Hischier are all untouchables. A player that seemingly has come into that core is Jesper Bratt. Bratt set career highs in goals, assists, points, and pretty much everything else this past season. He is currently a restricted free agent that is in need of a new contract and deserving of a raise. The Devils have plenty of cap space to give him the right deal and have plenty of room to add around the existing core.
So why in God’s name would the Devils trade Jesper Bratt? For some reason, reports from Kevin Weekes and Frank Seravalli indicate that Bratt could be or is on the trading block. Both are respected journalists, with Weekes even being looked at by some people as a general manager candidate, so those reports normally do not come with a grain of salt. The reports indicate that teams have called Tom Fitzgerald about the Swedish forward’s availability and Fitzgerald has been listening to the offers. Normally when insiders like Weekes and Seravalli say there is smoke, there is definitely fire.
If Tom Fitzgerald trades Jesper Bratt for nothing short of a bonafide superstar in the same age bracket (ie: Pastrnak, Marner with salary retained), it should be a fireable offense. The rumors about a trade for Josh Anderson from the Montreal Canadiens, who is nowhere near the level of player that Jesper Bratt would be, is enough to drive any common Devils fan insane. Bratt is apart of the core with Hughes, Hischier, Hamilton, and the younger group. Bratt was the teams leading scorer this past season and took a big step to becoming a household name in this league,
The New Jersey Devils do not get better by trading Jesper Bratt.
Fitzgerald seems to have many irons in the fire and one of them is the status of Bratt. The only thing regarding Bratt should be how much money he will be making for the next six to eight years, not who he will be traded for. Alex Debrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks is an intriguing name to look at for the second overall pick. However, if Chicago wants Fitzgerald to include Bratt with any variation of anything else, it should be an automatic no.
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Bratt has played himself into being a fan favorite. Someone that the fans have suffered with over the last five years. Fans rejoiced in 1995 when winning the Stanley Cup, players like John Maclean, Ken Daneyko, and Bruce Driver found it extra special because they were there for the horrible years in the 1980s.
Bratt should be a part of the group that eventually succeeds in Newark. He should have a rotating ‘A’ on his jersey with the likes of Hughes, Hamilton, and company. He should be lighting the lamp with Hischier on the same line for years to come. One thing he shouldn’t be is cast out for someone like Anderson or Debrincat. There are seldom trades the Devils win with Jesper Bratt leaving town.
You cannot sell a fan base on the young core growing up together and succeeding together for years to come, only to trade one of the best ones you have. With all this being said, the new kid on the block Ryan Novovinsky has stated that contract talks are ongoing and the two sides have most definitely talked about an extension. That should be enough to put Devils fans’ minds at ease with all of these rumors being flung about. However with the pedigree that Weekes and Seravalli have, it’s a situation to definitely keep your eyes peeled on.
The situation ends one of two ways. The first is Bratt is extended, he succeeds, the team wins, and the past five years of torture of the on-ice product are a thing of the past. This would be the right outcome. The second is Tom Fitzgerald loses the confidence of the fanbase, makes an underwhelming deal with Bratt leaving town, and the rebuild is set back even further. Fitzgerald has done well enough in his short tenure so far in New Jersey. He would be wise to keep Bratt. If not, it will take a lot for him to regain the trust of a loyal fanbase.