If you want to talk about tonight's Olympic men's ice hockey games, go here. This post is all about the New Jersey Devils. Specifically, about Paul Martin still injured and not playing next week; and whether or not the Devils should go out and make a trade.
Tonight, the New Jersey Devils who are not Olympians are back at practice. In a less than a week, they'll be playing the San Jose Sharks in an effort to turn their fortunes around the playoff stretch run. However, some bad news have come up today. Tom Gulitti reported today that Paul Martin will not return to action next week. David Clarkson got the medical clearance to return to practice, but one of the Devils' top defenders remains out with his arm injury. The medical staff wants his arm to get stronger before returning to practice, much less play in games.
For lack of better phrasing, this sucks. Now the question must be asked: Do the Devils need to make a second significant deal for a defenseman? Or do they wait further for Martin to be healthy in the hopes that he'll be enough to boost the defense and the team overall this late in the season?In exactly one week from today, the NHL Trade Deadline will see plenty of movement as teams attempt to give themselves a boost for the playoffs or teams moving assets to clear space and acquire picks for the 2010 offseason.
The Devils have already made one big trade back earlier in February, bringing in Ilya Kovalchuk and Anssi Salmela from Atlanta in exchange for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, and Patrice Cormier. Going into the Olympic break, I hoped that everyone on the roster would finally be healthy and that alone would be enough to return to form and be contenders in the Eastern Conference. If there was going to be a trade, then perhaps it would be a minor deal. With Martin now looking to be out even longer, the question of whether the Devils make a move for another defenseman looms large.
I'll admit, I don't have any particular ideas as to who would be an ideal target for the blueline. In general, I understand the desire to go out and get a defenseman. The Devils blueline lacks offense; the unit as a whole has scored only 17 goals this season. They have the lowest amount of combined points in the entire league. The blueline sorely lacks a true point-man who can contribute to the offense in even strength and power play situations. At a minimum, it'll keep opposition defenses honest for long-range shots as well as add an extra dimension to the team's offensive shifts.
That being said, given how the last month has gone, maybe they just need any defenseman who can handle 20-22 minutes. If only so Mike Mottau and Andy Greene can take fewer minutes in the hopes of being more effective overall - someone to provide additional stability. It may be much easier, cheaper, and far more sensible to get that kind of defenseman in a trade than looking for an offensive defenseman at the trade deadline and potentially giving away a lot of assets in a deal.
For the wait-and-see option, consider that the defense will ultimately comprise of a crew of Paul Martin, Andy Greene, Colin White, Bryce Salvador, Mike Mottau, Mark Fraser, and Anssi Salmela. On paper, while Martin returning and playing like he did last season would help; I have to say it certainly doesn't inspire much confidence for a deep run in the playoffs. Granted, in general, they've mostly played above expectations. However, that doesn't last for month after month, as we all saw in games over the last month and a half. As it is, I'm sure some of you are already writing comments about how certain defensemen remaining on the roster alone (e.g. Mottau) means the Devils need to get help.
As of today, Cap Geek's salary cap tracker shows that the Devils still have $2,199,564 of cap space available - which projects out to a full season cap hit of $9,032,252. This means the Devils can add another big contract; however, to get a big asset requires to give up assets. Again, the worth of the trade depends on the type of defenseman. The more desirable players will require more desirable players going the other way. Picks may be out, as the Devils already moved their first round pick to Atlanta in the Kovalchuk trade. I doubt Atlanta's second round pick will mean much. Moreover, I'd hate to give up someone like David Clarkson or a solid prospect on the cusp of making the team to get a stop-gap solution that may or may not work.
It's a big decision and the Devils have exactly a week to think about it, and even less time to actually make a deal. So I'd like to get your opinion first. Please leave your extended thoughts in the comments. Maybe there is a defenseman you'd like to see in New Jersey, tell us why you would want the Devils to go after that defenseman and who you'd offer for said defenseman. Maybe you think no deal is needed, also tell us why you think that way.