The New Jersey Devils traded Damon Severson to the Columbus Blue Jackets, setting a need on the blue line. Now, the Devils need to decide whether they want to fill the hole on the right side from within (with either Simon Nemec or Reilly Walsh) or from the outside. There are a few options that could replace Severson from the outside.
When it comes to the left side, things aren’t as easily defined. Ryan Graves’ rights are up for grabs like Severson’s, but he isn’t getting an eight-year deal like the former Devils top minutes man. He will have fewer callers, and it’s likely he’s going to leave in free agency anyway.
The Devils have three young left-handed defensemen in Jonas Siegenthaler, Luke Hughes, and Kevin Bahl. Siegenthaler signed a long-term deal last offseason, and Hughes is on a rookie deal. Bahl needs a new deal, but that will likely get worked out pretty easily.
On the outside, it looks like the Devils are set at defense. However, there is basically no depth. So, the Devils would be smart to add someone on the defense who is a little better than Brendan Smith. (No offense to him, he brought a lot to the Devils this season.)
One interesting option recently came on the market despite having a long-term deal signed. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this past week. He was brought in to revamp a defense that needed help opposite Quinn Hughes. He was decent in the first season North of the Border but was pretty bad last season. Now, he’s looking for a new home.
With the Devils, he’d have fewer responsibilities. The top pairings will likely be Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Siegenthaler, then Luke Hughes with John Marino. OEL could either be paired with Reilly Walsh, Simon Nemec, or a free-agent addition.
We just saw what Severson was able to make after spending his season on a really good third pairing. Ekman-Larsson is a little older than Severson, so no eight-year deals are coming his way. However, after signing a one-year deal with the Devils, a really good three or four-year deal could be coming for him (from another team).
Still, with everything to consider, it doesn’t make sense to sign OEL at this point. He’s an offensive defenseman, and the Devils need defenders more than anything. They have a hole on the penalty kill, and if they put Ekman-Larsson in the lineup, that hole grows. Lindy Ruff would have to put him in the lineup over someone like Kevin Bahl, so they’d lose one of the few defenders who main job is to defend.
This just isn’t a fit. Another team might be able to reclaim his value, but it just doesn’t make sense for the Devils. He can’t even play on the power play, because Hamilton and Hughes are better at it than him at this point in his career. The timing and roster construction is all wrong.