Would trading for Mike Sullivan be smart for New Jersey Devils?

The top priority for the New Jersey Devils this season is hiring a new head coach. However, they could trade for a head coach, and reports say Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan could be available for the right price.
Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators
Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils need a head coach. Travis Green was given a shot to take over a Devils roster that was desperate to gain ground in the playoff race as the NHL Trade Deadline approached. Green didn't do much to improve the Devils, as they fell further and further out of the playoff race, eventually getting eliminated. As we look at the final NHL Standings, the Devils sit 10 points out of the Washington Capitals, the final playoff team.

This Devils team finishing with 81 points is a massive disappointment, and it shows the Devils should focus on finding someone from outside the building. There have been dozens of rumors, including tying the Devils to Craig Berube, Bruce Boudreau, and Mitch Love. However, one name stands out above the rest: Mike Sullivan.

The Devils clearly have a desirable opening. Lindy Ruff, the Devils former coach, already accepted a new (old) job to coach the Buffalo Sabres. However, there are only a few head coaches who would truly get the Devils fanbase excited. Mike Sullivan is one of those coaches.

While it always felt unlikely that the Pittsburgh Penguins and relatively new GM Kyle Dubas would let Sullivan go, there is another option. The Devils could trade for Mike Sullivan. It's rare, but there are historic examples where a team trades for a head coach.

On June 18, 1987, the New York Rangers traded their 1988 first round pick to the Quebec Nordiques for their new head coach, Michel Bergeron. It was a first in NHL history, and there really isn't much of a record of it happening again. There was a short-lived rule that allowed teams to get compensatory draft picks when their former coaches are hired, but that's not the same.

So, it's one coach who was traded on draft day, and it cost a first-round pick. Sullivan is definitely successful, but would the Devil be willing to give up their 10th-overall pick? How about their 2025 first-round pick? It would be an impressive haul by Dubas if he were able to get a first-round pick for a head coach some thought might get fired.

The Devils have been directly tied to Sullivan this week for the first time. Nick Kypreos of the Toronto Star says Sullivan would have interest in coaching the Devils. This is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the Penguins winningest head coach in franchise history. The Penguins don't seem like they want to give up Sullivan easily. A first-round pick seems too rich for the Devils, but maybe a future second (they don't have one in 2024 due to the Timo Meier trade) or a current third.

Who knows if that's enough. The only precedence we have is decades ago. If Sullivan truly wants out, it would be in the Devils best interest to be there to add him to this amazing roster.