New Jersey Devils: Mike Sullivan Smoke Is Getting Undeniable

The New Jersey Devils are looking for a new head coach if they don't end up hiring current interim head coach Travis Green. Despite the denials, the smoke around current Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is hard to deny.
Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens
Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils aren't in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they've heard their names in the headlines nonetheless. That's because they are hot and heavy looking for a new head coach. Current interim head coach Travis Green is still reportedly in the running despite interviewing with the Ottawa Senators. The Devils reportedly did this because they are rightfully considering other options.

We've talked about Mike Sullivan as an "option" for coaches who already have jobs, and we mentioned that a trade for the coach is also possible. However, Penguins GM and President Kyle Dubas came out this week to say Sullivan doesn't have permission to talk to other teams. More specifically, he doesn't have permission to speak to the Devils.

Sullivan is under contract for the next three seasons, a contract that hasn't even kicked in yet. The Athletic reports the contract pays him $5.5 million. Lindy Ruff's contract was never publicly released, but with reports the Devils scoffed at Peter Laviolette's $5 million+ yearly ask, it's not crazy to think the Devils might not want to take on such a salary.

One has to admit that there is a ton of smoke around Mike Sullivan and the Devils. There are at least three reports and more scuttlebutt around the league about what the Devils will do next. Just about everyone is talking about Sullivan and the Devils, even sometimes when reporters don't say anything at all and everyone just fills in the blanks.

It seemed like a longshot for so long. Mike Sullivan is a two-time Stanley Cup winner who is currently coaching Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He is working with absolute legends who are trusting the end of their careers to him. Pittsburgh is a wonderful city to call home with a low cost of living relative to a lot of places (especially New Jersey).

However, the Devils have something the Penguins don't; a future. Every year in Pittsburgh is so imperative because you are losing daylight on the best of Crosby. You've already seen the best of Malkin, Kris Letang, and newly acquired Erik Karlsson. Meanwhile, the Devils have Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Jack Hughes who haven't entered their primes yet. Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec are literally still on their rookie contracts. Timo Meier is another star who proved this season he can carry the team when healthy.

Sullivan can make the most out of this Devils team and become a legend. Only three head coaches have won multiple Cups with different franchises, and only Scotty Bowman has done it outside of the Original Six era. Sullivan can join literally Scotty Bowman, largely known as the greatest coach of all time, in a stat that matters.

Of course, this is getting way ahead of ourselves. Even if by some miracle the Devils hire Mike Sullivan, he doesn't fix all of their problems. There's still a major hole in net and on defense. The latter of that is even harder to fix because the Devils already have six long-term defensemen in house with players like Santeri Hatakla, Seamus Casey, and others waiting in the wings.

The Devils need to fill holes, but adding Sullivan puts them on the map. It's hard to ignore the noise that's tying the Devils to the Penguins head coach. With Sheldon Keefe still alive with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it may take some time for this to all work out.