4 defensemen trades New Jersey Devils can make to replace Kevin Bahl with an upgrade

The New Jersey Devils just made a massive trade to upgrade their goalie position, but it came at a steep cost. How can the Devils replace starting defenseman Kevin Bahl in a trade?
Vegas Golden Knights v New Jersey Devils
Vegas Golden Knights v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The New Jersey Devils made a huge splash on Wednesday morning, trading for former Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom. It was a move that was literally months in the making. The Devils have been tied to Markstrom since January, and the deal finally happened. 

To make the move, the Devils had to hit the Flames price. It was out there that the Flames wanted a first-round pick and a prospect or young player. That’s what they got. The Devils sent them Kevin Bahl and a top-10 protected 2025 first-round pick. If the Devils years-long battle with bad goaltending ends with Markstrom, it’s totally worth it. However, they need to replace Bahl on the backup with an upgrade. 

The most obvious route to that is free agency. After the move, the Devils still have $16 million in cap space with only Dawson Mercer looking for decent money. So, the Devils can spend, but should they? Players like Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev could cost a fortune. However, a trade could get the Devils a cost-controlled asset for 2024-25. Who might be available?

1. Shea Theodore
Vegas Golden Knights

This would be a massive win for the Devils if Shea Theodore starts the season on the roster. He’s a very good defenseman who just happened to be etched out of the Vegas Golden Knights top pairing. They made moves for Alex Pietrangelo and Noah Hanifin. So, that now makes Theodore expendable.

What is he worth right now? He’s in the last year of his deal, but his less than $6 million salary will be enticing to most teams. The Devils will likely have a lot of competition, but the juicy option on the free agent wire might make it fortuitous for the Devils to make this move before the draft. It likely wouldn’t cost the 10th overall pick, but the Devils would have to give the Knights something they can use in future trades.

This is obviously the peak scenario, as Theodore would immediately make this one of the deepest defenses in the league. Add in progression from Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, likely bounce backs from John Marino and Jonas Siegenthaler, and the return of Dougie Hamilton with about 10 months to recover, and this unit would be championship-level. That’s a lot to ask, including getting Theodore with limited assets, but Tom Fitzgerald needs to do everything he can to make it happen.