The New Jersey Devils announced they were trading defensive prospect Reilly Walsh to the Boston Bruins for center Shane Bowers. On paper, it looks like the Devils dumped a relatively young defenseman for almost nothing. Walsh looked quite good that past two seasons, scoring 43 and 41 points for the Utica Comets. Despite his prowess, he only got one game of NHL action. At 24 years old, the Devils decided to cut bait.
The return, admittedly, is not great. Shane Bowers is a former first-round pick who flamed out of two organizations. He spent a little over four injury-riddled seasons with the Colorado Eagles before he was traded to the Boston Bruins organization for Keith Kinkaid (who just blocked you for reading this).
Bowers has two minutes of NHL ice time. Two… is almost impossibly low. He was injured very early in his NHL debut (which took five seasons after he signed a professional contract), and he never sniffed the big leagues again. He had seven points last season in 20 games with the Providence Bruins.
So, yeah, this trade looks lopsided. Here’s what is actually going for the Devils in this trade. The obvious is the contract situation. Walsh was at the end of his deal and was an RFA going into this offseason. Walsh was already a player that some doubted would sign out of college, but the pandemic obviously changed his tune. He signed with the Devils on August 10, 2020. This was before vaccines were even available, and the Ivy League season was completely in doubt. It was eventually canceled, so Walsh made the right move going pro.
However, it was a surprise when the announcement came. Walsh spent three years in the AHL and was a great role model his entire time in upstate New York. However, the Devils just drafted Simon Nemec with the second-overall pick. Plus, the Devils have John Marino and Dougie Hamilton signed long term. Walsh is 24 years old, and if he’s going to make the NHL, he needs to do it now. He would have held out, and a trade was inevitable.
Maybe the Devils would have been better served to get a third or fourth-round pick, but they opted for a center who can help the AHL team now. This player might end up passing the puck to Alexander Holtz or Nolan Foote, two players who seem destined to make the NHL. Walsh wasn’t returning, so the Devils opted for the “something” route.
Does anyone really think Bowers will live up to the hype of a first-round pick? Obviously not, but he is only 23 years old. He’s about to enter his prime years, so the best is yet to come. Is it out of the question that he can play a Michael McLeod-type role?
He’s a north-south player who focuses on defense. When he was drafted, he was considered a really good faceoff man. Bowers hasn’t found his offensive peak and may never find it. However, if he ever becomes even a fourth-line center, it’s more than the Devils were getting from Walsh.