New Jersey Devils Should Figure Out How To Afford Evgeny Kuznetsov

In a shocking move, the Washington Capitals placed mainstay Evgeny Kuznetsov on waivers after clearing the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. With his return to hockey, the New Jersey Devils would be wise to give him a shot, regardless of his cap hit.

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals
New York Rangers v Washington Capitals / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils have the opportunity to add a perennial top-six forward for free as the Washington Capitals placed center Evgeny Kuznetsov on waivers. Kusnetsov, the ten year NHL veteran, has not had a full season without hitting the 50 point mark since his rookie season. He is a offensively capable game changer that can help any team trying to compete. He also has another year left on his contract.

Claiming Kuznetsov will give the Devils a solid third center in their lineup, something they have been missing since Michael McLeod was placed on leave. With Dawson Mercer, Erik Haula, and Curtis Lazar being versatile in their positions, adding a bonafide center like Kuznetsov would allow those three to go back to their best positions.

If the Devils claim Kuznetzov, they would have three centers capable of hitting 70 points in a full season. With how the other forwards line up, the wingers would perform naturally. Seeing a pure shooter like Alexander Holtz on Kuznetsov's wing could be offensive dynamite. With that said, it could also be a defenseive disaster, but the offense they could create would outnumber the defenseive breakdowns.

With all the positives that Kuznetsov, a Stanley Cup Champion, could bring a younger forward core, it is incredibly unlikely that the Devils claim him. It is highly unlikely anyone will claim him because of his cap hit. But right now, the Devils can afford it. They currently have enough LTIR cap space with Dougie Hamilton out that they can still fit Kuznetsov's $7.8 million cap hit for this season.

With their current position in the standings, the Devils are in no shape to be clear buyers. That means a player like Tyler Toffoli should definitely be on the move. Assuming the Devils eat 50% of Toffoli's deal in a potential trade, they would still theoretically have enough to buy a goalie at the deadline. Who that goalie is becomes a different discussion. They should not go after a goalie like Jacob Markstrom this deadline while knowing their playoff chances are slim.

Dealing Toffoli should bring major assets back like a first-round pick. If the Devils keep their own pick, which should be a lottery pick, the Devils would then have two first-round picks to offer for a goalie at a reduced cost like a Juuse Saros. The cost of Kuznetsov is high, but with clever management, the Devils should not have that issue going into next season.

Even if the Devils do not claim Kuznetsov, the Devils could trade for him, utilizing their current cap space to get assets from the Capitals. After placing him on waivers, the Capitals said they are trying to get him a change of scenery. The Devils used their cap space before to get assets. This is one that can make an impact right away.

While the Devils can make the claim and make it work, there is just too much that would have to happen for it to work. Ownership would have to be okay with adding a player who is still owed his full salary plus a $2 million bonus on top. So while on the roster Kuznetsov would be a good addition, practically it does not make enough sense to make the claim financially.

There is currently less than a week before the trade deadline and what Tom Fitzgerald does is yet to be determined. They made a small trade on Friday, but there's more to be done. Will they sell Toffoli? Will they add a long term solution in net now? The one thing we do know is that Kuznetsov is not going to be a Devil by 2 pm Sunday. After that? Who knows.