Tom Fitzgerald Laying Foundation For Stanley Cup Success

New Jersey Devils defenseman Luke Hughes (43): James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils defenseman Luke Hughes (43): James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

After Tom Fitzgerald got snubbed for the GM of the Year Award, he is making everyone pay. He started with a bold statement by trading Yegor Sharangovich and the 80th-overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft for veteran shooter Tyler Toffoli from the Calgary Flames. Tom Fitzgerald knew he needed to have the burden lifted off Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, Dawson Mercer, and Ondrej Palat as core wingers.

Toffoli and his 30-plus goals make the Devils’ power play and Travis Green‘s offensive system more effective when used correctly. Tom Fitzgerald has been investing in every corner of hockey business and asset management since joining the Devils under Ray Shero. After taking over as GM, he has used his cap space as an asset.

Tom Fitzgerald extended Jesper Bratt fairly recently for eight years on a team-friendly deal under 8 million per season. Timo Meier got his beautiful new contract just hours before the draft. His contract breakdown is $8.8 million per season for eight years. He has signing bonuses between $6 million and $3.3 million from years one to seven of his new contract. Meier’s cap hit will remain at $8.8 million throughout the contract, as is the Collective Bargaining Agreement rule. He also has a No Move Clause starting next season through the eighth year, and a modified no-trade clause begins in year six of the deal.

The core veteran forward group which now includes Toffoli and Meier brings that multi-pronged attack to the top nine. Teams thought the New Jersey Devils were scary last season offensively. Opponents will have to re-evaluate how they approach a blend of speed, finesse, and more grit where the Devils can contend for the Stanley Cup again and eventually win it.

A plethora of skill, talent, veteran leadership, experience, and another sprinkle of youth like Simon Nemec and possibly Nolan Foote will make this Devils team much harder to play against. The Devils’ defense continues to chip in on offense creating more shots on the net and creating rebounds for dirty goals that will make a difference between a good team trying to make a wildcard and a team pushing for a Stanley Cup Championship.

Guys like Kevin Bahl and Luke Hughes playing two completely different styles of hockey on defense will help stabilize the core, building nightmares for opponents. Bahl is a Sasquatch-type player on defense who suppresses skaters during zone entries. He is not afraid to pin and bully those getting close to the slot from the bumper. Bahl knocked down a few New York Rangers players in the playoffs and made his presence known.

Luke Hughes is a case that adds a different level of hockey IQ to the back end. He is offensively minded and skates fast. The youngest Hughes brother is a smart player who can read the ice like his older brothers Jack and Quinn Hughes. Luke Hughes does need to improve on the takeaway versus giveaway ratio. However, given his age and many months to develop more physically will be fine.

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Before Tom Fitzgerald makes other moves and picks players for the 2023 NHL Draft class, he laid a perfectly sound foundation. Like a good batch of coffee, Fitzgerald found the roast of different blends of players that are coming into form and eventually get ground into the extraction to make an excellent product on the ice.