New Jersey Devils: Tom Fitzgerald Must Be Bold At Trade Deadline

General manager Tom Fitzgerald of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
General manager Tom Fitzgerald of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

As of the All-Star break, the New Jersey Devils find themselves in an unfamiliar position. That position is being able to consider themselves buyers at the deadline. Even towards the later years of then general manager Lou Lamoriello, fans found themselves dumbfounded as he continued to give up assets for players when they were not realistically competing for a championship. Tuomo Ruutu is the first name that comes to mind.

Lamoriello said, “He’s been consistent, and he’s scored. He’s had a 26-goal season, so it’s something that he’s capable of doing.”. Spoiler alert, the much-needed scoring never came with Ruutu. He became a fourth liner and scored only 10 goals in 129 games for the Devils. However, the story between the Lamoriello Devils of the mid-2010s is vastly different than the Tom Fitzgerald-led Devils right now.

The Devils then needed to keep assets instead of giving them out because they had so little. Now, the Devils have one of the higher-ranking prospect pools and more than one franchise cornerstone for years to come. Fitzgerald has himself and the team set up for the future, except he has one crucial need. The Devils need a top-six scorer that can contribute to the team’s bright future. Fitzgerald has said so himself in a recent interview with The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. However, to get the type of player he is talking about, he needs to give up a haul.

With that being said, he needs to pull the trigger. The Devils have a need, and there is certainly a market for what they need. With the likes of Timo Meier, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Patrick Kane available, the Devils have many options to work with.

Trivia question that will be answered at the end of the paragraph: how many 30-goal scorers have the Devils traded for during the season? Ruutu definitely was not one. Peter Stastny had 24 goals when the Devils acquired him in 1990. Alex Mogilny only had 21 when he arrived in 2000. One final one before the answer, Dave Andreychuk had 20 when he came over from Toronto in March of 1996. The answer is Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010.

Only once in the entire franchise’s history have they traded for a 30-goal scorer during the season. While it is rare to see a player like that moved, it seems to happen every other year. The Devils have a chance to do it for the second time this season. Timo Meier, as of this writing, has 28 goals, but it is not out of the realm of possibility for him to get two more before he is traded out of San Jose.

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For the Devils to even be linked to a player of Meier’s caliber has them in the territory to test Fitzgerald as GM. The Devils were even linked to Bo Horvat, who currently has 31 goals before he was dealt out of Vancouver. Ironically, he was traded to the Lou Lamoriello-led New York Islanders. The Devils have not had two 30-goal scorers on the roster since Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri did so in 2015-16. Currently, Jack Hughes has 33 goals.

Fitzgerald needs to pull the trigger on a deal. He cannot settle for a middle-six winger who may or may not take off. He must be bold and go after Meier, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Patrick Kane. He has yet to make the “big one” trade while in office. Lou had the Arnott and Kovalchuk deals. Ray Shero had the Hall for Larsson deal. It is time for Fitzgerald to make his mark in the history of the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils have been adding assets in prospects and picks over the rebuilding years. It is time to take advantage of that and send a few of them out for a big name like Meier. The only untouchables in the prospect pool should be Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec. Other than that, anyone should be fair game. That includes Alex Holtz and Shakir Mukhamadoulin.

Fitzgerald has made a lot of moves that have given off “meh” vibes. The John Marino trade turned out great, but it wasn’t a blockbuster. The Ryan Graves trade was virtually the same. His free-agent additions, besides Dougie Hamilton, have all been slightly above average on the “fan reaction” scale. It is time to blow all of that out of the water. His time to act is now. The window is starting to open. Getting someone that can get onto the team and join them at the beginning of said window is key.

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Timo Meier is the guy. Fitzgerald cannot let him go to a different Metro division rival. The Rangers are apparently involved in the talks as well. The Islanders got Horvat. The rest of the division is either buying, have Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin, or the Flyers and Blue Jackets. To push themselves ahead of the pack, the “big one” has to happen. The clock has already started to tick.