The New Jersey Devils, spearheaded by GM Tom Fitzgerald, set out once again this offseason to add size and skill, but that hasn’t quite happened yet. The additions of John Marino and Ondrej Palat were solid, but aren’t the type to put the team over the top or into the playoff conversation. The New Jersey Devils swung and missed on Johnny Gaudreau, and then Matthew Tkachuk. What’s next?
New Jersey Devils fans came into the 2022 offseason with sky-high expectations for the young team, which showed signs of real promise during various points of the 2021-2022 season. The team entered the offseason with the #2 overall pick in the 2022 draft to pair with nearly $27m in cap space to use in free agency. After watching the Minnesota Wild trade Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings, Alex DeBrincat gets dealt to the Ottawa Senators, and then the Devils pass on Shane Wright with the number-two overall pick, Devils fans got really impatient and frustrated really fast.
All hope wasn’t lost, until former Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau called a last-minute audible and turned tail to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The New Jersey Devils also missed out on other top free agents, such as the Strome brothers, Nino Niederreiter and Andre Burakovsky, and then later lost out on Matthew Tkachuk after Calgary accepted a mind-boggling offer from the Florida Panthers.
The New Jersey Devils generally haven’t swung big on trades, but some of the more recent ones that reach that blockbuster status include the moves for Ilya Kovalchuk and Taylor Hall. Neither player donned the red, black, and white for very long, but each provided their own unique memories in the seasons each player made the playoffs with the team in what was an otherwise very forgettable decade of Devils hockey. Are there still other talented wingers like them that might be available to bring the team back to the playoffs?
The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyed a rockstar season in 2021-22, only for their Stanley Cup hopes to be derailed in the first round (again) by Cup finals runners-up Tampa Bay Lightning, who fell short of their 3-Peat, ultimately losing to the Colorado Avalanche. Having lost starting goalie Jack Campbell in free agency and replaced him with two enigmas in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, the team is under a cap crunch and has more questions than answers when it comes to rounding out the roster.
The Leafs have no problem converting chances and creating offense, but their defensive game has generally left more to be desired. On the other hand, star right wing William Nylander is coming off of a career year, but plays backseat to Mitchell Marner and is slated to make a hair under $7m for the next two seasons. It doesn’t seem likely that the Maple Leafs can afford to give him a raise in 2024 when he’s scheduled to hit the open market, bolstering his status as a trade candidate. He could easily be shopped for defensive reinforcements, a prospect, and picks if the Leafs’ cap nightmare becomes a reality. Oh, and he’s pretty close with the Hughes family.