I am of the optimistic persuasion but also a realist. The hope that the Devils will make the playoffs has long passed and unless there is a miraculous turnaround the Devils will be sellers at the trade deadline for the first time since 1989. Seriously. 1989. (Yes, the Devils didn't make the playoffs in 1996, but they made all efforts to do so.) That's why I can be disappointed, but not angry at the organization as for 20 years they have provided me with quality hockey and I would be a selfish jerk if stopped watching them or going to games after one bad season. I am already excited for the future and thinking towards next year and more immediately about the trade deadline and draft.
After coming to terms that the Devils will be sellers at the trade deadline, the questions become what players do they sell and what can they get for those players. After the jump I identify the players who might be traded, look at the past two trade deadlines to attempt to correlate some value and identify some potential trade partners. Only 57 days left to the trade deadline.
Who should/could the Devils trade?
There are four candidates that make sense for the Devils to move.
Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott, Johan Hedberg and Andy Greene. Before I move on, let me try to address the questions you may have.
1.Wait what about the No-Trade-Clauses (NTC) some of those players have?
I don't foresee a problem with getting Langenbrunner, Arnott, or Hedberg to waive their NTCs for 2 or 3 months. It's financially advantageous to them to display their skills in the playoffs to help boost their free agency values. Plus they get to go to the playoffs. Since it would be a 3.5 month commitment -at most- it also doesn't disrupt family life that much either.
2. Andy Greene? Why Andy Greene? He is our only defenseman who has offensive abilities!
Greene is someone I like but at 28 years old we might have seen or be seeing his best hockey. I am not talking about giving him away. As a defenseman who can move the puck he can offer a good option for playoff teams with limited cap space there will be a premium pick or even a player returned if he is moved. Further, there is also no reason why the Devils couldn't sign him once he is a UFA. Greene's position, talent, and I can't stress this enough -his salary-make him a valuable commodity.
I looked at the 'dump' trades that took place from 1/31 up until the trade deadline for the past two years. Therefore I excluded lateral deals (an example being the Dion Phaneuf deal the Flames-Maple Leafs made last year). What I have found for the past two years is a few things:
1. Rarely do players with any additional years on their contract get moved and if they do it's as RFA. 2. A 2nd Round Pick is the standard return for a player moved. 3. Goaltenders haven't really been moved, but those who have been usually fetch at least a 4th Round Pick. 4. Contract amounts haven't really been an issue. As long as they have the cap amount, teams in contention don't seem that concerned in taking on salary for a 1/4 of a year. I have even taken the likely percentage of salary that the team acquiring a player would be responsible for and listed it in the tables below. 5. Conditional picks typically end up being 3rd round picks. 6. In a deadline deal 1st Round picks/top prospects seem to be off limits.
Based on the players traded in the past, I suspect both Langenbrunner and Arnott are worth 2nd round picks unless they get injured. Andy Greene's salary also makes him an attractive option and if Andy Sutton can get moved for a 2nd round pick Greene is certainly worth that.
Hedberg, based on past deals and the quality of the goaltenders traded could return a 3rd or 4th round pick to a team who wants an experienced backup to a young goaltender. That said, an injury to a goalie on a playoff contender could make him infinitely more valuable.
The trades that have taken place so far-both including perpetual sellers the New York Islanders-with the future in mind have brought similar returns as to deals that took place in 2009 and 2010. Defenseman James Wisniewski went to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2nd round pick in 2011 and a compensatory 5th in 2012. The 2nd round pick is already determined (50th overall) since it was a result of Montreal not signing a past 1st round pick, which is why I believe the 5th rounder was added. The Islanders then traded goaltender Dwayne Roloson to the Tampa Bay Lightning for prospect Ty Wishart. Wishart is discussed here by the Lighthouse Hockey crew. From a brief review I would think he would be comparable to a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the upcoming draft.
Now it's easy to say, we should get this pick for that player but in practice it doesn't work like that. Some teams in contention may not have the right assets, might be a Devils rival or not need what the Devils have to offer. Plus things might change in two months so it is hard to define trading partners. What we do know right now is that the following teams have multiple picks in either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd rounds in the 2011 draft.
I have color coded the list. Yellow is for potential trade partners, red is for teams that for rivalry reasons I could never see Lou Lamoriello trading with and blue is for teams that will likely not be buyers come deadline time.
The teams that will likely be contenders and currently have multiple picks are Chicago, Boston and Nashville. Nashville's additional 2nd round pick is actually the Devils. Chicago has two additional 2nd round picks from trades with the Flames and Thrashers. The Flames pick should be fairly high in the 2nd round. Even the extra pick that Chicago has in the 3rd round should be fairly high as it is a pick that originally belonged to the Maple Leafs.
Boston is the most interesting of the three. With a top pick via Toronto from the Phil Kessel trade they are the only team with two 1st round picks and the Devils might look to target the Bruins pick which would be in the mid-late teens. The Bruins also have the Wild's 2nd round pick.
Any trade with a team up against the cap limit like Boston or Chicago might involve taking some salary back, which could make a deal problematic, but not impossible.
There is still a lot of hockey to be played, but the idea that the Devils might make the playoffs is slipping away rapidly. The Devils should be aggressive in the trade market to maximize the expiring contracts on their roster. Holding onto the belief that they can make the playoffs isn't helping the future of the franchise. The upcoming trade deadline won't fully rebuild the Devils for next year it is just a piece of what is needed to be done
So, now I turn it over to you:
Should the Devils hold out until deadline day or be aggressive and try to start moving pieces to 'buyers' now?
Any prospects on any contending teams that the Devils might want to target instead of picks?
Would you rather try to acquire a 2012 or 2013 draft pick as a backup to the pick that the Devils must forfeit?
Would you rather have (1) three 2nd round picks or (2) late 1st first round/mid 2nd round pick?
Keep the comments realistic, no unicorn deals. The Bruins aren't going to give us the Maple Leafs 1st round pick for Langenbrunner. Thanks for reading!