Should New Jersey Devils Throw Luke Hughes Right Into NHL Lineup?

Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes (Syndication: Detroit Free Press)
Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes (Syndication: Detroit Free Press) /
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The New Jersey Devils are trying to solidify their lineup heading into the playoffs. They want this team to be as talented as possible. Lindy Ruff has been experimenting with the defensive pairs. He’s even gone with an 11/7 lineup, making sure Brendan Smith and Kevin Bahl into the lineup at the same time. Ryan Graves has had issues. Jonas Siegenthaler hasn’t been as consistent as he was earlier in the season.

The left side of the defense seems to be where the issues stem. John Marino also has had his issues, but that stems from his partner. Damon Severson has been playing well, and Dougie Hamilton is doing exactly what we expect from him. It seems to be the left side that could use work.

The Devils happen to have a supreme left-sided defenseman in the prospect pool who is about to start his professional career. Luke Hughes is creeping up on the end of his NCAA career. His Michigan Wolverines just beat the Penn State Nittany Lions in overtime to advance to the Frozen Four.

This weekend, UM takes on Quinnipiac, with the winner playing for a championship. Both teams will travel to Tampa, Florida, with everything on the line. Then, when it’s all over, a few of those players will join their NHL team with an entry-level contract. Hughes is definitely one of those players.

The question is, will Hughes jump right into the NHL, and will he make the playoff roster? It’s a tall ask, but with how the Devils defense has been playing, it’s worth the question. Could Luke Hughes steal a playoff spot?

If the Devils sign Hughes to an ELC right away, then they lose this year on the contract, and he will become a restricted free agent in 2025. If Hughes jumps off the page, it will make things very complicated for the Devils sooner rather than later.

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It’s a hard decision, but Tom Fitzgerald has to make a decision. Is Luke Hughes playoff ready? If he is, then the Devils have to bite the bullet. They are playing the Rangers in the first round. They need to go in with all hands on deck. If that means Luke Hughes, then so be it. Eat the last year on the contract and hope Luke is like his brother Jack Hughes and he takes a discount for future contributions.