Re-Assessing the Logjam on Defense

Andy Marlin

With the off season finally finishing (thanks lockout) and the Devils still having the problem of 7 NHL defensemen, it`s time to re-assess the problem.

The off season finally ended last Saturday, and the Devils still have the same problem- too many defensemen on the blueline. Of course, it could`ve been avoided with the incredibly pointless re-signing of Bryce Salvador (seriously, even Paul Holmgren and Jay Feaster passed up on him, and those two love signing [below] average d-men to awful contracts), however the cards fell that way and now there are 7 Defensemen on the Devils roster. While in theory, it does seem easy to move a defenseman simply because there are teams that are looking for a defenseman. However, in actually it's much tougher seeing as most of the defensemen are signed to long term contracts (Marek Zidlicky excluded). However, things have changed a bit now that the season has started.

Captain Bryce Salvador, the Unmovable object

With Bryce Salvador being named captain, he's pretty unmovable simply because he's captain AND he's got that awful contract that no one wants (again, Paul Holmgren and Jay Feaster passed up on him). If he plays awfully, then maybe he could get amnestied. But even then, I think management is trying their hardest to justify a contract that's very questionable. I mean, unless Bryce Salvador is hockey's answer to R.A. Dickey (which he's not), he's not going to score at a 0.6 ppg rate (around 40 points over an 82 game season) again (maybe in opposite world). While I don't want to discuss his contract (which is awful), he's not going anywhere.

Andy Greene, the guy who doesn't look unmovable but he is actually unmovable

He's the best defenseman on the Devils. Additionally, his contract is very reasonable. He's got a good amount of trade value, but trading Greene would be a step forward and two (or three) steps backwards. While Adam Larsson is good enough to replace Greene, he's not going to get the opportunity to take all of Greene's minutes.

Mark Fayne, More of the Same

See above- although considering his age, a 25 year old top pairing defenseman (with a very low cap hit) would likely have very high trade value. But like Greene, trading Fayne would be taking a step forward and two steps backwards.

Marek Zidlicky, why bother?

It seems a bit pointless to move Zidlicky. Yes, his defense is suspect, but right now he does play a very important role for the team- the lone offensive defenseman. If the Devils do move Zidlicky, they'll lose the one guy on their team who can quarterback their power play. Zidlicky did have a positive impact on the power play, as there were less SHGAs and more PPGs than with Devils Legend Kurtis Foster quarterbacking it. Additionally, his contract expires at the end of the season, which means that he's probably not going to be coming back (take that with a grain of salt, remember what we said about Salvador?). Which isn't the worst thing, as the Devils do have a pair of good offensive Defensemen waiting in the wings- Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill (assuming Merrill signs) and possibly Reece Scarlett if he impresses. So while moving him would seem like a good idea, there's really no point doing so.

Anton Volchenkov, money money money money, MONEY

In hindsight, the contract didn't look that bad at first- he's being paid lots of money to be a top 4 defenseman, which made sense seeing as Paul Martin left for Pittsburgh and the Devils needed a top 4 defenseman to replace Martin. However, keep this in mind- when the contract was signed, the Devils wanted to win a cup. If it wasn't for a coach that was in over his head and the inflated ego of an average NHL player, they might have been able to achieve their goal. And because of that, two things happened: Mark Fayne made the best out of his time with the Devils and managed to secure a roster spot for him self, which later became a spot on the Devils top pairing and the Devils winning the NHL draft lottery, leading to them picking Adam Larsson. Volchenkov ended up seeing less ice time because of those two, and now he's sort of obsolete simply because the Devils have more effective players.

With all that being said, Volchenkov is still the guy that's going to be talked about as the guy who should be moved. The contract is an issue of course- he does have a full NTC per capgeek, which means he'll have to agree to be traded somewhere. I'm spitballing here, but I'd have to assume Ottawa would be on the list of teams he would agree to waive his NTC for. Another problem is that there are teams with plenty of NHL defensemen signed. If Volchenkov's going to get moved, it won't be right away. However, I could see him being moved at the draft or the trade deadline.

Cam Charron wrote an excellent article about how overpaid players who can still be effective are problematic because GMs think they're not worth the money. While Redden and Gomez are extreme examples, Volchenkov doesn't really fall into the category of "overpaid". He's overpaid right now in the sense that he's a bottom pairing defenseman making $4.25 M for another four years- his underlying stats aren't awful. So hypothetically, he could still be effective in a top 4 role. The thing is, there needs to be a GM ballsy enough to gamble on Volchenkov.

Henrik Tallinder, the guy who gets moved

If anything, Henrik Tallinder's my guess for the defenseman who's the odd man out. He's got a reasonable contract, he can still be a top 4 defenseman and more importantly, he doesn't have an NTC. The Devils aren't going to get the most optimal return out of Tallinder, however.

Adam Larsson, trading him would be astronomically stupid

He does have a lot of trade value right now- he's a 19 year old defenseman with star potential. However, trading him would be pretty stupid (like as in Scott Howson would be going "what an idiot" stupid). Trading a potential stud defenseman so some old, overpaid injury prone defensemen can play isn't the best way to build a team, especially one who's time is coming to a close.

Peter Harrold, has an NHL contract

Just a reminder. But he can play forward, so it's not like moving him would do anything other than solidify a roster spot for a certain pair of goons.

Conclusions

While I'd like to see a defenseman get moved so that Larsson can get some ice time, the reality is that it's not going to happen very soon. Trades usually take time to get done, so if a team starts talking to the Devils about a defenseman, it would take maybe a week or two before the trade gets finalized. If a trade does happen, my guess is that it's going to be happening around the trade deadline rather than right now. Simply put, it's just too early to see any trades coming up.

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