It's not exactly the NHL 2014 Trade Deadline, but the first big deal has been unloaded days ahead of March 5. Last night, the Buffalo Sabres moved two players that were ripe to be traded: goaltender Ryan Miller and forward, agitator, and team captain Steve Ott. The Sabres traded Miller and Ott to the St. Louis Blues for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect forward William Carrier, a first rounder in 2015, and a third rounder in 2016. All of this confirmed by TSN. Additionally, Bob McKenzie tweeted that Buffalo will pick up the salary difference between Miller and Halak.
Now, this is a Buffalo-St. Louis trade. How does this affect the New Jersey Devils? This move alone, not much. If the Devils are playing the Blues again in 2013-14, then our happiness should override our concern. The Devils will play Buffalo one more time this season, though it remains to be seen who's left on the Sabres. So why talk about it? Because I think the impact of this trade is what will affect the Devils. McKenzie tweeted out shortly after this move that Buffalo may be willing to flip Chris Stewart to Ottawa. The Senators are in the same boat as the Devils in terms of fighting for a playoff position. Adding another offensive weapon could help them try to snag a wildcard spot or perhaps make a late charge at Toronto or Tampa Bay in the Atlantic, which could cause further chaos in the overall playoff picture in the East. The Sens possibly getting better does not help New Jersey's cause.
Likewise, if the Sabres are willing to flip Stewart, then perhaps they'll do so with Halak. That doesn't spell good news for the notion of Martin Brodeur getting traded. Let's pretend Minnesota and Chicago are actually interested in him, for a moment. If you're an executive of Minnesota or Chicago, then wouldn't you rather see what would it take to get Halak, who has a 92.8% even strength save percentage this season, on an expiring deal ahead of the 90% ESSV% of Brodeur? I certainly would. McKenzie raised that prospect as well, so it could happen. So if you're concerned about Brodeur wearing some other jersey this season, then last night's deal may allay them a little bit.
On top of that, the Sabres may not be done just yet. Matt Moulson is also on an expiring contract and would be a very attractive candidate for any team that needs help at forward. Tyler Ennis is also becoming an UFA this summer, perhaps he's available as well? Christian Ehrhoff has a long cap hit but only $18 million left due in actual salary according to CapGeek. That's perfect for any team that wants to fill in cap space without paying all of it. Anyone who needs a veteran defenseman may want to kick the tires on Henrik Tallinder. Buffalo's sale could very well affect the Devils depending on who's buying in.
There's also the general notion that once the first move is made, others will eventually follow. And so let us consider some rumors. One rumor definitely affects the Devils. Prior to this trade, the big news involved Our Hated Rivals. First, a few days ago, Martin St. Louis supposedly made a trade request, where he only wants to go to the Rangers. The Rangers are a strong possession team with a strong goaltender and not much scoring. Adding Tampa Bay's top scorer makes them a serious contender. That fact alone hurts. It's a move that could help them secure a precious playoff spot in the Metropolitan, which hurts the Devils even more. As well as the Blue Jackets, Capitals, Flyers, and Hurricanes.
Needless to say, the Lightning fans aren't pleased with St. Louis about this news. I would be too. On general principle, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman needs to prevent this from happening. The Lightning are a good, playoff-bound team right now. Moving the team's leading scorer and arguably most talented player not named Steve Stamkos at this juncture would be madness. Don't give in to madness, Steve. Since the news broke, nothing has happened. Let's hope it stays that way.
Speaking of the Rangers, they signed defenseman Dan Girardi to a new deal on Friday. You may remember him as #5 in this video:
Anyway, the Rangers giving six years and $33 million to a man carried by better defensemen - Ryan McDonagh,
Eric Marc Staal - is good for the Devils in the long run. Let's hope Glen Sather opens up Jim Dolan's wallet for Ryan Callahan. (Say no, Steve, his "intangibles" aren't worth it.)
In terms of other big name players rumored to be available, there's Ryan Kesler on Vancouver. Per TSN on Thursday, he has denied requesting a trade. That's not quelling the possibility, though. Assuming he did make a trade request, I would think the Canucks would want to move him to the Eastern Conference. According to this SportsNet article by Luke Fox (warning: auto-playing video), there are several teams in the East making inquiries. Fox cites Nick Kypreos claiming interest by the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, and Red Wings. Or, to put it another way, three teams in the Devils' division and a wild-card team they're chasing. Kesler is an excellent player and provided the cost isn't outrageous, almost all teams would benefit from his addition. If he does end up on one of those teams, then, yeah, that's a problem.
Oh, by the way, you may be wondering, are the Devils talking to anyone?
Yes. Yes, they are. Before you start freaking out about the potential of Mike Cammalleri wearing a different shade of red, consider that Lou hates it when deals go public. For example, remember that Cory Schneider deal at last year's draft?
LeBrun "one of the reasons the Schneider to NJ deal never leaked was bc Lamouriello said he'd cancel the deal if anyone found out about it"— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) February 28, 2014
Trades involving Lou are notoriously out of nowhere for a reason. As in, "you'll know it when it happens." If something comes out, then you might as well take it with a grain of salt. Lou does not appreciate leaks whatsoever.
In any case, I hope to do something like this whenever there's a significant deal being made prior to the trade deadline. What do you make of the Sabres moving Miller and Ott? Who goes next from the Sabres? Do you think there's anything to St. Louis or Kesler being traded? Please leave your thoughts about the trades happening around the league and how you think they affect the Devils in the comments. Thank you for reading.