New Jersey Devils fans should forget Alexander Holtz when evaluating Paul Cotter

The New Jersey Devils made a controversial trade, sending young NHL contributors Alexander Holtz and Akira Schmid to the Vegas Golden Knights for fourth-liner Paul Cotter and a third-round pick. While the return may not be what many Devils fans coveted, it shouldn't impact how Cotter is evaluated.
Vegas Golden Knights v New Jersey Devils
Vegas Golden Knights v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils made a LOT of moves over the last week. Starting on Day 2 of the NHL Draft, the Devils now have six new players expected to make their NHL roster on opening night, and that doesn't include goaltender Jacob Markstrom. To make room, they lost John Marino, Tomas Nosek, Akira Schmid, Chris Tierney, Kevin Bahl (for Markstrom a few weeks ago), and Alexander Holtz. It's that last player that really hurt, as the Devils have been hoping the seventh-overall pick just "gets it," but the development admittedly has not been great.

In return for Holtz (and Schmid), the Devils got a wing-hybrid who will bring some oomph to the lineup. Paul Cotter is an interesting player. Coming out of the 2018 draft, Cotter was considered a talented center who could play both plays, modeling his game after the likes of Ryan Kesler and Patrice Bergeron.

Of course, that sounds a little nutty now, but it's good for the player to have high hopes. Cotter is now 24 years old and has been in the NHL at least part-time for the last two seasons. Last season, he played 76 games.

He is considered a bottom-six forward, but last season, he had quite a lot of time with superstar wingers. According to Natural Stat Trick, Cotter played roughly 300 minutes with William Karlsson (in the regular season), 150 minutes with Mark Stone, and just under 200 minutes with Nicholas Roy. We automatically expect him to play on the fourth line, but why? This is a player who's been on top-six lines on one of the best teams in the league.

While he did not directly contribute offensively like one would hope with those level of teammates, he did help them stay on their end of the ice. His 2.39 goals against per 60 was 19th on Vegas, it would have been tied for seventh on the Devils.

Remember when the Devils traded Pavel Zacha for Erik Haula straight up? It looked like an absolutely awful trade on paper. Tom Fitzgerald sold a former sixth-overall pick who was clearly talented but couldn't find his groove in New Jersey. He found him a place where he'd excel, and he got a piece that was needed on the roster. No matter how well Zacha does in Boston, it really doesn't matter as long as Haula remains useful.

Keep that same energy for this trade. There's a pretty good chance that Holtz plays well in Vegas. He showed a ton of talent even when he wasn't put in the right situation. Vegas might be willing to keep Holtz in the top six, and that could lead to a 30-goal season.

However, as long as Cotter contributes an important role to a playoff team, then it doesn't matter what Holtz does. The Devils took something that wasn't working and found something that could. If Cotter struggles, then that's a different story, but it seems pretty obvious he will be a key member of this roster, and he could even get closer to his ceiling on the Devils.