New Jersey Devils Should Bring Adam Henrique Back

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 13: Adam Henrique #14 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during the third period of a game \an]\ at Honda Center on January 13, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 13: Adam Henrique #14 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during the third period of a game \an]\ at Honda Center on January 13, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Since the New Jersey Devils traded Adam Henrique during the 2017-18 season, Devils fans have been chomping at the bit to see him return to the black and red. Although the trade led to the Devils getting into the playoffs for the first time in years, fans still miss the fan favorite. The tenure of Sami Vatanen was never going to be a good one, no matter what kind of stats the Finnish defenseman put up. Why? Because he was the guy the Devils sacrificed a fan favorite for. There is not a player in the world in the last decade, Patrik Elias excluded, Devils fans have loved more.

So why now? It is kind of perfect timing. The Devils need depth scoring and veteran leadership. The Devils currently only have four players above the age of 30; Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, Tomas Tatar, and Brendan Smith. All four players have seen playoff time in the last four years, exactly 120 playoff games to be exact. Palat played 71 of them by himself. The rest of the Devils’ roster hasn’t seen the playoffs in a few years or at all. Besides the 2017-18 season holdovers and a couple of defensemen, the Devils are relatively inexperienced in the postseason.

That said, Henrique has not been to the playoffs since 2018, but Devils fans know very well what kind of a playoff performer he can be. He can be the consistent third-line center the team needs as of late. On top of all that, he shouldn’t cost much.

Erik Haula and Michael McLeod keep flipping back and forth between the third and fourth line center position show the issues. Lindy Ruff seems to love Haula on the wing with Hughes, which calls for McLeod to play in the top nine, a spot he has not earned. He shows flashes of why he was a first-round pick in 2016. Then, he shows why they should not have taken him at all.

Having the center depth of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Henrique, and McLeod gives the Devils excellent depth down the middle. Or if you want to give McLeod a night off, Haula can go on the fourth line. With Ruff’s system of running four lines, having Haula on the bottom line does not mean he will be playing fourth-line minutes. It gives him more flexibility to shape the roster how he wants and can give more ice time to the bottom six. With Henrique and Haula in those center slots, the “bottom six” will become pretty formidable.

Henrique also fits with what the Devils want to do now. He competes, is a leader, and scores at the right time. This year on an Anaheim Ducks squad that is competing for nothing other than Connor Bedard, Henrique has 27 points in 45 games. That would tie him for sixth on the roster in points with Tatar. He also has 16 goals which would only put him behind Hughes, Hischier, and Bratt. The Devils had seen what depth scoring can give them when they went on a 13-game winning streak.

When the bottom six only score one goal against sub-.900 save percentage goalies like Carter Hart, Scott Wedgewood, and Sergei Bobrovsky, they need a player like Henrique to subliment that. Also, Henrique is great on faceoffs, winning 52.8% of his draws. His ability to win draws gives Ruff an option to keep a player out there in key situations instead of his current method of having McLeod take a face-off and run as fast as he can off the ice. He also is dependable on the penalty kill. We have all seen it before.

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There are two issues with Henrique. salary and a no-trade Clause. The salary portion of the deal should be easy to work out. The Ducks have plenty of cap space with $13 million to play with. The Devils do not. The Devils would need to attach Andreas Johnsson to the deal and have the Ducks retain half of Henrique’s salary. Also, adding a roster player like Fabian Zetterlund should make the deal mathematically work. A draft pick added should get a deal done. Nothing crazy like a first, but a third or conditional second should get it done.

The last hurdle is that Henrique has a modified no-trade clause. This means he has a list of teams to which he can request not to be traded. However, it should not be an issue for Henrique to wave that clause to return to New Jersey. By all accounts, he loved his time in Newark and would welcome a chance to return. The fans would welcome him back with open arms, and it should not be an issue to see him make his way back to the East Coast. He is getting up there in age, and the Devils offer him a better chance of getting back to where he was in 2012 than the current Anaheim team.

There seems to be a certain magic with this 2022-23 squad. With the late third-period comebacks, the 13-game winning streak, or even just seeing the players have fun, it has been a while since Devils fans have been genuinely happy about something. Tom Fitzgerald could give Devils fans something else to be happy about. It would be an all-out guarantee that the next home game would be a sellout if Henrique returned to New Jersey.

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It is time for Fitzgerald to bring Henrique back home.