Breaking Down Tom Fitzgerald's Trade Deadline Deals for New Jersey Devils

The NHL Trade Deadline is complete, and the New Jersey Devils bought and sold to help improve the outlook of the team. It was a rather busy deadline day, with General Manager Tom Fitzgerald pulling the trigger on four deals.

San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils
San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils were busy on Friday, executing four trades that both bought on goaltenders but sold on expiring contracts. The first trade from Tom Fitzgerald sent Tyler Toffoli to the Winnipeg Jets, retaining 50% of his contract for the upcoming UFA sniper. The Devils received a 2025 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick. The Jets obviously got the Devils' best goal scorer with 26 goals this season, but to be fair, Toffoli is not a very fast winger. Still, he knows how to get open and come up clutch at the right moments.

The Jets could've paid more, and the Devils could've gotten more, but this move helps the Devils make other moves. If you took the game versus the St. Louis Blues, where Timo Meier netted a hat trick, this was where the team was moving at a much faster pace, with cleaner, crisp passes and better overall execution getting to the dirty ends of the offensive zone that really counted. In this trade package, the Devils get a B+ because it was the best available offer. Fitzgerald came up with two early draft picks for a UFA, and he knows he can draft or invest it in a trade to get immediate help to build a playoff team perennially.

Another trade with Winnipeg happened when right-handed defenseman Colin Miller was sent out to join his teammate Tyler Toffoli, both going back out to the Western Conference. Fitzgerald again took on half of Miller's contract and, in exchange, got a 2026 fourth-round pick. Miller himself was a really good physical defenseman who would have benefited from a coaching change if Lindy Ruff had been fired much earlier in the season. However, his physical play and his slap shot will be dearly missed, and he has been a great defenseman around since Simon Nemec got called up to take over Dougie Hamilton's minutes.

Winnipeg is gonna have a nice physical defender with experience in the playoffs, and the Devils can use that Winnipeg 4th rounder in a potential offseason move to bring in a veteran LHD with size, snarl, grit, discipline, and playoff experience. It hurts to give two of your best veterans away, but Fitzgerald could've held on and got nothing. You never know if Miller or Toffoli decide to return via free agency. For a veteran who is not scoring a ton but playing a Sasquatch style of hockey at his age, this is a remarkable return, so this grade for a UFA of his kind is an A-.

Then, the Devils started addressing the weak goaltender position. Pucks & Pitchforks did a comparison article between Kappo Kahkonen and Elvis Merzlikins. One of the reasons why Kahkonen stood out was his mechanics and analytics on a really mediocre San Jose Sharks defense that looked more like an outlier on a team in such defensive disarray. With Mike Grier having this strong connection to Tom Fitzgerald, this goalie fits a lot of the criteria for this Devils team to add. The Devils got a goalie who was a -1.8 GSAx in 31 games played while trading away Vitek Vanecek with the 2nd worst GSAx (-11.2) in the NHL, with over 30 plus games played.

With San Jose taking on Vanecek's contract, it's an upgrade, and statistically speaking, Vanecek had a far better wins-to-loss ratio, but his overall GSAx is atrocious. If you look at Kahkonen's record prior to being a San Jose Sharks, he was seeing nearly 40% fewer shot attempts and had a save percentage of .902. In his first season with the Sharks, he had a .916 SV%. It dropped to a .883 and eventually an .895 SV% this season, so it seemed more like a defensive problem when the Sharks traded away some of their better defensive players, and it seemed to have made matters worse.

If there is a grade in this trade, to be fair, it's a B- because it is an upgrade over Vitek Vanecek's problems in net. Vanecek seemed to have lost his flow. Kahkonen has shown the ability to steal games this season but has had little offense and defense to help him. Yes, Kahkonen has a bit of a few down seasons in San Jose, but he's got more upside as a 27-year-old Finnish netminder who could benefit from a change of scenery.

Jake Allen was traded to New Jersey for a conditional third-round pick in 2025 that could become a second-rounder. Allen is 39th overall of 53 goalies with enough starts to qualify per Money Puck and has a -2.8 GSAx in that ranking. His past 10 games have been off and not really expecting him to be stealing games, but he should be able to come in as a backup and help mentor Nico Daws and take some weight off his shoulders. If Jake Allen can improve as a capable backup and win a few games, maybe he will stay on with the Devils, but this is a trial period through next season under contract, so this is a C- for now, but with a season left to show his worth.

Overall this averages Tom Fitzgerald's overall trade grade to a B. There were a few moves that do have upside and a few that don't seem as appealing at this point in time, but only time will tell. Judging off past players performances and theoretical upsides, this is as honest and fair of an evaluation as Tom Fitzgerald could get. These grades could be amended over time depending the outcome of the four moves.