So today I was in an interesting conversation with a friend about possible moves after the Holiday Roster Freeze ends December 27. Details aside, I'll summarize what I thought after talking with my Islander fan friend after a while: I have to put aside team biases when thinking about trades, because I (Like most sports fans) overvalue my team's players, the Devils ARE NOT a Stanley Cup contender right now (Although they are close, but right now they look like a team that will finish 7th in the East at best), and most importantly IN ORDER TO GET SOMETHING OF VALUE BACK, YOU NEED TO GIVE SOMETHING OF VALUE UP, a rule most people forget about when thinking of trading. As much as we don't want to think about it, we can't trade Tim Sestito, David Clarkson, and a 7th round pick for Alex Ovechkin and rationalize it as "Oh, well he HAS struggled recently and has such a big contract, so really we're doing Washington a favor." If we ever really did want to make a fair trade for Ovechkin, it would have to look something like Zach Parise, Jon Merrill, Adam Henrique, Matthias Tedenby, and a First round pick, and we would probably get a return that looks like Alex Ovechkin, Neuvirth, and Jeff Schultz. Most Devils fans would think "We'd never make that trade, it's not close to being fair," but don't realize that the Washington fans are thinking the exact same thing. Therefore, I decided to take a look at what the Devils trade options are going forward, what their current players' returns would be, and look at some possible targets for the Devils come Deadline day or possibly even earlier.
First, I'm going to start out with a brief summary of the Devils' needs and surplus':
Defensemen prospects within the season and in the NHL(Greatest Surplus)
Established Veteran NHL level defensemen
Established Veteran NHL level forwards
All-Star Forwards (Least Surplus)
Top-tier goaltender (Greatest Need)
First pairing defensemen
NHL forward depth
Goaltending depth within the system (Least Need)
Please allow me to explain my assessment of the surplus'. As far as defensemen prospects are concerned, we have Larsson, Merrill, Fayne, Urbom, Taormina, Sova, Gelinas, Burlon, etc...... As far as the veteran defensemen are concerned, we have a surplus with Volchenkov, Tallinder, Salvador, Greene, and Foster, which is 4 second line defensemen, and a 6/7 defenseman. For the veteran forwards, there is Zajac, Elias, Parise, Kovalchuk, Zubrus, Clarkson, Sykora, and I think we can safely say Adam Henrique can be added to that. And as far as all-star forwards, Elias, Parise, and Kovalchuk are all-stars, and you can make a strong case for Travis Zajac.
As far as the needs go, I'll explain those as well. The top-tier goalie is our big problem right now; however, if Brodeur can play as well come Spring as he has done over his career, that won't be a problem. He can still do it as well, just look at last year. However, it is my opinion that Brodeur has been very slow this year, even slower than he has been the past few years, and well as injury-prone and inconsistent. Even if he can play well towards the end of the year this year, that's just a short-term solution; we need an NHL goalie moving forward, and it's a high-risk gamble to assume Brodeur can continue to be that goalie. As far as Hedberg goes, he's a career back-up; granted, he may be a very good career back-up, he's not good enough to be the starter, and he's old as well. On the superstar defensemen, it's blatantly transparent that the Devils do not have a go-to guy on defense right now. Since we have so much prospect depth (Especially Larsson), that problem will fix itself in a few years, but if we plan on being competitive this season, we will need to address that. We have tried doing so with Volchenkov, who is certainly a very good shut-down defenseman, but the real problem is the need for a Jack-of-All-Trades defenseman, a player who can be to the Devils what a player like Nick Lidstrom is to the Red-Wings, or what Shea Weber is to Nashville. The NHL forward depth speaks for itself; no self-respecting NHL team should have Tim Sestito, Cam Janssen, Eric Boulton, and Ryan Carter on their team as regulars. At worst, we should have EITHER Janssen or Boulton, and Ryan Carter rotating in and out of the line-up on a regular basis, like Rod Pelley last year. I understand Vladimir Zharkov is a good option in the system due to his possession, but he's not getting a chance in the NHL this year similar to what Lemaire gave him last year. And as far as the goaltending depth, that won't be a problem unless our goalies fall victim to the injury bug. Hedberg is a capable back-up, and if we pull the trigger on a trade for a starting goalie, then having Brodeur play as starter 1B (Most likely scenario) and Hedberg as a not-so-far-behind starter 1C until clutch time will be a very good immediate solution. Unfortunately, we don't have strong goaltending within the system; goalies are unpredictable and there's no telling if Timo Pilemeier, Scott Wedgewood, or Keith Kinkaid will grow up to be the next Martin Brodeur, but as of right now fortune doesn't seem to be in their favor; it doesn't appear as if any of them have a solid shot at being an NHL regular except for Scott Wedgewood, who could go either way right now. The goalie depth isn't an immediate issue for the Devils though, and it's one which can be easily fixed through free agency or trade due to the abundance of borderline NHL goalies.
After assessing the wants and needs of the Devils, I have come to the conclusion that it would best suit the Devils to make a blockbuster trade for a defenseman with some extra parts, another blockbuster trade or maybe a semi-blockbuster trade for a goalie and some extra parts, and then maybe a couple of scattered trades throughout the rest of the season. It is necessary to keep in mind that the general idea is to rid the team of its weaknesses by balancing it with its strengths. So before offering some suggestions for players the Devils should look out for and giving a general idea of what it should take to obtain said player, I'll give a general idea of each player's tradability and trade value on the Devils first, along with a brief look as some Devils' prospects.
First off, these players have No-Trade Clauses (NTC's from now on) in their contracts. They will not be included in the player assessment:
Martin Brodeur (Until 12-13) - $5, 200, 000 Cap Hit
Johan Hedberg (Until 12-13) - $1, 250, 000 Cap Hit
Patrik Elias (Until 13-14) - $6, 000, 000 Cap Hit
Ilya Kovalchuk (Until 24-25) - $6, 666, 667 Cap Hit
Anton Volchenkov (Until 16-17) - $4, 250, 000 Cap Hit
I would like to point out which Devil's players are most likely considered untradable by management. These players are the Devil's core now and in the future, along with some Devils legends. These players will be included in the assessment, but keep in mind it will take A LOT to lose them, barring a contract dispute:
Martin Brodeur (Until 12-13) - $5, 200, 000 Cap Hit
Ilya Kovalchuk (Until 24-25) - $6, 666, 667 Cap Hit
Patrik Elias (Until 13-14) - $6, 000, 000 Cap Hit
Adam Larsson (Until 14-15) - $925, 000 Cap Hit
Zach Parise* (Until 12-13) - $6, 000, 000 Cap Hit
Tim "Rechargable Battery" Sestito (Until 12-13) - JK
Out of these 5 players, 3 have NTC's, understandably. Larsson will not be traded unless he asks for it, which won't happen for at least 6 or 7 years, if it happens at all. And Zach Parise has a asterisk next to his name; if he gets a new contract, he won't be traded. If he doesn't get one, he will definitely be involved in a blockbuster. I put him on the list because I have 100% faith he will resign with the Devils. And if you were wondering about Sestito's nickname, I figured since he occasionally provides the other team with energy after he gets hit he can't be considered a dead battery, at least not yet. Just kidding, and in all respect to him, he does have a ton of heart.
Since both our goalies can't be traded and the Devils don't have any notable goalie prospects, I will start my analysis with the defensemen. The list starts with the players I consider to have the lowest trade value, and as the list goes on the trade value goes up, eventually ending with notable prospects, who are also listed in ascending order:
Kurtis Foster - $1, 800, 000
Let's face it, his trade value was nonexistant. There's a reason we were able to get him along with a goalie
prospect for just two spare parts. First of all, he is old at 30. Teams with no hope of making the playoffs have
no interest in a player like him. A scouting report of him would look something like this: "Power Play Specialist
with Good Size: despite size remains a liability in the defensive zone. Good backhand pass, good shot, good
skating ability. Somewhat injury prone. Doesn't hit. 6/7 Defenseman." The only type of team that would be
interested in him would be a bubble team with a weak Power Play, because despite his defensive shortcomings,
he can only be counted on to put 30 points up when he's the quarterback of the Power Play and manages 82
games (Which he's never done before). He's really a poor-man's Marc-Andre Bergeron, except taller.
Bryce Salvador - $2, 900, 000
He's a solid shut-down defenseman with little offensive ability and a high cap hit. He's also a very old player at
35, so why is his value greater than Foster's? The answer is that he's a good player to throw into a blockbuster
trade. His salary helps displace whoever the return is, and he's a rental player since his contract is over next
year. He's also a defenseman a competitive team such as Minnesota would be looking for. He's very solid in
his own zone. Ignore the fact he was once traded for Cam Janssen: that trade is somewhat distorted because
St. Louis was looking to rebuild at that time, and Salvador had no value to them, while Janssen could help
protect the younger guys. Remember, it's a buyers market, and the value of a player fluctuates from team to
team. He won't be able to fetch a good return in a one-on-one trade, but he's a good player to add into a
blockbuster trade to help convince the other team to pull the trigger.
Mark Fayne - $542, 500
He's a player I really don't want to see traded. His trade value has peaked by now, as he's in his prime at 24,
and carries such a low hit for this year. He may not be the best in the world, but he has a unique offensive
instinct for a defensive defenseman; not many players can score 4 goals in 57 games as a rookie defenseman
with little Power Play time on the worst offensive team in the league that year. He skates well for someone who
is 6'3, and he plays a very safe consistent game that usually doesn't harm his team, and I'd like to point out
he was +10 last year. Also, I'd like to point out his point presence; he doesn't do anything flashy, but has a
very underrated shot. If he has to be traded, it will most likely be part of a package deal to a bubble team with
a thin blue line.
Henrik Tallinder - $3, 375, 000
Here's where we start seeing some real value; Henrik Tallinder is a legitimate 2nd line defenseman in the NHL.
The only real knock on his trade value is his salary and contract length, which ends in 2015. He provides a
consistent veteran presence to any team he goes to, and he brings a very balanced player. His real strength is
his versatility; he has size, offensive ability, skating ability, and doesn't usually get caught out of position. He
is a little soft on the physical side, but he's also very durable. He can be valuable to any team that acquires
him, since he can be valuable as a leader, support player, or can play big minutes. He's also a very
expendable player for the Devils, since they can easily replace him with Taormina without much of a negative
Andy Greene - $3, 000, 000
If a defenseman should be traded by the Devils, I personally think it should be Greene. He has the greatest
trade value out of the Devils veterans because of his offensive ability, and offensive ability is highly valued
by most top teams. Much like his surprisingly strong performance in 2009 made Johnny Oduya expendable for
the Kovalchuk trade, Matt Taormina's exceptional play this year and last should make him a suitable
replacement if Andy Greene moves on. If Matt Taormina can prove he can be a regular in the NHL, (Which will
not be difficult if he continues playing so well) it would be time to replace Greene, who's trade value isn't going
to get any higher as he gets older.
Matt Taormina - $550, 000
He's fast, he's talented, he's young, and he's cheap. At only 25 years old, the only knock on him is his size,
which is out of his control. For an offensive defenseman of his size, he's solid defensively. Unfortunately he
hasn't yet become a regular in the NHL, but it shouldn't take long for this undrafted Providence College
graduate. Most teams would be willing to give up something of value for him, and it's hard not to draw parallels
to Brian Rafalski: similar playing style, similar size, similar talent, and both came into the NHL as an undrafted
free agent discovered by the Devils.
Alex Urbom - $856, 667
He won't be as good as Jon Merrill in the future, but I still would rather have Urbom over Merrill. He is not ready
for the NHL: anyone who saw him on his call-up this season would agree. But his potential is limitless. He has
very good skating ability for someone of his size, and he has good offensive ability to go along with his good
defensive ability. My only knock on him is that he is often out of position, but he has shown great patience on
the breakout, and with a little fine-tuning, he could easily become a reliable second line defenseman on the
Devils. He is somewhat similar to Adam Larsson in terms of physicality and patience, which could make him a
good defensive partner for Larsson somewhere down the line once he fixes some of his problems.
Jon Merrill - No Contract
Just like many other Devils' fans, his problems at the University of Michigan worry me. That brings down his
trade value, but not by much. I'll try to focus on his potential instead, without any bias. He was a first-round
talent in 2010 who's stock fell, and he was picked up by the Devils in the second round. He has good size,
poise, and more importantly a great head for the game. His impressive skating ability will only improve, and
he's expected to eventually become a top-pairing defenseman, most likely playing with Adam Larsson because
of their differing handiness. His trade value can bring in a top-six forward or a future franchise goalie by itself,
but he can also be the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade if one were to happen.
Adam Larsson - $925, 000
I don't think I need to say much about him, since most people should already know. But his potential is
limitless. He's a little overrated by some, but it's likely that he will become a future Norris candidate, putting up
somewhere around 40 points while being one of the best breakout and defensive defensemen in the league.
Most people compare him to Nick Lidstrom, but I think it's more accurate to compare him to Rob Blake. And his
trade value is through the roof, although he will not be traded for a long time.
Now for the forwards (Note I will skip the players with no trade value like Janssen to save time):
Petr Sykora - $650, 000
He is very old, and in poor condition. I don't have much else to say, but he's a one-dimensional offensive
player with close to no trade value, and I don't think the Devils are interested in trading him anyway. If he is
traded, it will be to a offense-barren team.
David Clarkson - $2, 666, 667
We all know about David Clarkson. He's overpaid. He's controversial. He falls down. But despite these things,
he manages to be a 20 goal scorer. He is a tough player, which can make him an attractive player for teams
looking for toughness. My problem with him is he isn't talented; he can only thrive with good teammates
against weak competition. His shooting addicting lowers his trade value too, but for the right team, he can give
a very good return for the Devils. He will most likely go to a bubble team or a team slightly above the bubble in
the event of a trade, although if Duboer has any say in trades he won't ever be traded.
Dainus Zubrus - $3, 400, 000
Despite being overpaid and old, a lot of teams would be willing to take him, whether it be cheap or in a
package. He has good size, but he plays more like someone who is 5'6 than someone who is 6'5; his heart is
that big. He doesn't really do anything notable on paper, as he's usually a 30-40 point player. But on the ice,
he wins every puck battle and sacrifices his body every shift. He can play either center or wing, and for a team
looking for more defense from the offense, he is one of the best.
Jacob Josefson - $900, 000
Josefson has a very high trade value, and he's very expendable for the Devils short-term. Long-term, it would
probably hurt the Devils, because he can be a good replacement for Patrik Elias after he retires. He is a really
skilled player who is very unselfish with the puck, and mature beyond his years at both ends of the rink, but
he desperately needs to put on muscle. Since he's in an entry-level contract this year and next, most teams
would be willing to accept him in a trade.
Matthias Tedenby - $875, 000
I couldn't decide whether to put Tedenby at a higher trade value or lower trade value than Tedenby, but in all
honesty they are equal. He is a very exciting offensive player, with tremendous speed and a knack for puck
protection and possession in the offensive zone. He also has a decent offensive instinct, but as we all know, it
is very inconsistent (Most likely because of his teammates). His trade value has most likely fallen a little since
last year, since teams finally figured out he can be easily shut down by double teaming him, since he doesn't
pass the puck when he's protecting it. Nevertheless, his aggressiveness and heart are definitely pluses for his
trade value, especially for a veteran team who may be looking for more energy and prospects, but that doesn't
want to sign a Cam Janssen. It is also important to note how bad he is in the defensive zone, so he won't be
traded to a team that would actually need him, only a team at either extreme of the standings that is willing
to let him develop.
Adam Henrique - $854, 166
Although he's always been one of the Devil's top prospects, he's shown that he's even better in the NHL. Most
of his success is exaggerated because of the skill level of his teammates; however, he's still a developing 50-
60 point pivot who can play in all three zones equally well. It's looking increasing likely that a center will be
traded in the near future due to Josefson's return, and Henrique may be the most vulnerable to being traded.
Unlike Josefson, he has filled out more of his potential and therefore worth more in a trade. When Josefson
does return, if none of the centers are traded, then it is likely Elias will be moved back to Left Wing (Although
he is better at Center) or Josefson will be moved to Right Wing. While no Devil's fan wants to see him go,
trading him now while his value is high may be the best option. I'd also like to point out Josefson, Henrique,
Elias, and Zajac all have their contracts end after next year; there's a good chance if we wait until then to make
a move, then we will lose at least one of them anyway.
Travis Zajac - $3, 867, 500
Untradable just a few years ago due to the lack of center depth in the system, Henrique's recent success, Patrik
Elias' move to center, and Jacob Josefson's great potential has made Zajac expendable. It's important to note
that the Devil's have been able to be a playoff team so far this season without him: if he is traded for a piece
that will fix one of the Devil's problems, they can be a serious threat to win the cup. His value is high due to his
incredible two-way prowess and durability. Zajac's trade will likely be to another contender if he is to be traded,
and it can be a trade beneficial to both teams.
Zach Parise - $6, 000, 000
We all know about his contract situation, and while mainstream hockey "Experts" such as Burnside on ESPN may
think he will be traded, he will most likely resign with the Devils as soon as possible. We all know what Parise
brings to the table and what type of deal he would fetch if he is to be traded.
Well, there you have a brief summary of what every notable Devil brings to the table in my opinion, and where the interest in them would be highest. So with that settled, I will now propose the players the Devils should be most interested in, and why:
Mike Green - $5, 250, 000
The obvious one which everyone proposes. He fixes the Devil's problems on defense, specifically on the Power
Play, and Washington is most likely willing to trade him. The question is: How much?
My Proposal: Mike Green, Mike Knuble, Mike Neuvirth for Dainus Zubrus, Travis Zajac, Matthias Tedenby, Conditional
2nd Round Pick (Upon Green resigning with the Devils)
Cory Schnieder - $900, 000
The obvious goalie for the Devils; he's young, talented, and more important, expendable because of Luongo.
My Proposal: Cory Schnieder, Keith Ballard for Henrik Tallinder, Brian Burlon, and a First Round Pick
Kris Letang - $3, 500, 000
Another defenseman at the level of Mike Green: it will take a lot to get him, but I think it can happen since the
Penguins need to dump salary, and it can be a true blockbuster
My Proposal: Kris Letang, Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz for Adam Henrique, Jon Merrill, Mark Fayne, Petr Sykora, and
a First Round Pick
Mark Streit - $4, 200, 000
Another one of those defensemen, Isles might be willing to trade because let's face it, they're out of the
My Proposal: Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielson, Jay Pandolfo for Jacob Josefson, Scott Wedgewood, Matt
Taormina, Conditional 3rd Round Pick (If Devils make it past first round)
J.S. Giguere - $1, 250, 000
A goalie who's been spectacular for the Avs, and who has a history of clutch performances
My Proposal: J.S. Giguere, Paul Stastny, TJ Galliardi, Kyle Quincy and a 3rd Round Pick for Andy Greene, Adam Henrique,
Matthias Tedenby, David Clarkson
The trade proposals are meant to give a general idea of what I think the Devils will need if/when they make a trade, and what they would be losing. I don't think it takes much deliberation to come to the conclusion that if the Devils plan on making one last push for the cup before we drop off the map for a couple of years, we need to do it now. Our team is only getting older, and while our future is bright, our time is now, while Volchenkov, Kovalchuk, Parise, and Zajac are in their prime, and Patrik Elias and Brodeur and Zubrus are still playing