The New Jersey Devils were a favorite around the NHL to take a massive step forward in the 2022-23 season, as they boasted a massive amount of cap space to pair with prime rebound candidates and the continued development of their young core. Goaltending remained a mystery heading into the summer, but it was a foregone conclusion that Tom Fitzgerald would address the situation in some fashion.
After all of that, the Devils finished 2022-23 with the third-best record in the league while posting the greatest single-season turnaround in NHL history en-route to their first playoff appearance in half a decade. Now, let’s see how Fitzgerald did this offseason, grading each move one by one.
Devils trade Pavel Zacha for Erik Haula
Tom Fitzgerald was left with some rotten eggs when taking over the GM position from Ray Shero, and none was perhaps more rotten (especially to the Devils’ fanbase) than Pavel Zacha. The sixth-overall pick in 2015 showed flashes of brilliance during his time in New Jersey, paired with maddening inconsistency. A prime candidate to be moved during the 2022 Trade Deadline, the soon-to-be RFA stayed put until Boston came calling in mid-July.
In exchange for Zacha, the Devils received long-time bottom-sixer Erik Haula. The Finnish center made his career in the NHL as a defense-first matchup player and penalty killer.
After a very rough start in front of goal, Haula quietly finished his first season in New Jersey with 41 points and 14 goals, surpassing Zacha’s best point total in a Devils uniform.
While Zacha went on to have a career year in Boston, it’s clear that a change of scenery was best for him, and the Devils were able to add a veteran roster player and known commodity to a young team that needed it. If Haula were a few years younger, this would have been a slam dunk for New Jersey.