The NHL trade deadline is about 5 weeks away and rumors are starting to fly. Who can the Devils trade and what can they get back?
The Devils are in a unique position as this years NHL trade deadline approaches. The results on the ice and the current standings will tell you that the Devils should be hardcore sellers. Judging solely on what has gone on at the NHL level, the Devils should be looking to deal for high end prospects and future draft picks. However, that probably wouldn’t be the smartest strategy for the organization. Almost all of the Devils best players, like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, are under the age of 24. Furthermore, the Devils have a very talented prospect pool that is quickly nearing the NHL level. Alexander Holtz is dominating the AHL, Luke Hughes is tearing it up in the NCAA, and Shakir Mukhamadullin is turning heads in the KHL. We also can not forget young players like Dawson Mercer, Yegor Sharangovich, Jonas Siegenthaler, who are all under the age of 25 and playing consistently well at the NHL level, while also showing at times they have the capability to grow into bigger roles. So with a solid young core already in the NHL or knocking on the door, about to burst on to the NHL scene, what should the Devils do? Who should they trade and for what?
Elliot Friedman has reported that the Vancouver Canucks have interest in Pavel Zacha. Why would they have interest in Zacha? That is a mystery to me. The former 6th overall pick has never even come close to living up to his draft position, and becomes invisible on the ice for games and sometimes even weeks at a time. Zacha has 22 points in 45 games played this season. He averages over 17 minutes of ice time per game this season and starts over half of his shifts in the offensive zone. Despite this, he can’t even average 1 point for every two games he plays in. Zacha is just not a very effective player at the NHL level. Yet, the Canucks, according to Elliot Friedman, have interest in acquiring him. It has also been rumored in the media and on the internet that the Devils have interest in 25 year old right winger Connor Garland from Vancouver. Garland has earned 26 points in 44 games this year (11G, 15A) while playing about 16 minutes per game. Garland also scored 22 goals in the Covid shortened 2020 NHL season when he was a member of the Coyotes. The 25 year old Garland has the ability to put the puck in net, certainly more than Zacha, and could be very useful as a top six forward for the Devils. Now, I think it is clear that Garland is a better player than Zacha so I doubt Vancouver would take this trade one for one. The Devils have 6 picks in the first four rounds of this year’s draft and also own all four of their own picks in rounds 1-4 next year. This means the Devils could sweeten the deal a little for the Canucks with some draft picks. The Devils could also offer 22 year old Nate Schnarr, who is having a good year in Utica, (25 points in 32 games) as part of the deal. Garland could be a very useful player for the Devils who struggle to score goals consistently.
Dumping Zacha for Garland would be a huge steal for New Jersey. However, there is another possibility. Damon Severson has frustrated Devils fans for years with his defensive play, or lack thereof. Severson has scored own goals in overtime, has taken four penalties in a single night, has looked clueless defending 2 on 1’s, has been caught out of position in the defensive zone. All of these things stand out to and infuriate those who actually watch the games. However, there are also people in the hockey world who obsess over analytics or “advanced stats”. These people do all sorts of mental gymnastics to spit out meaningless numbers and attempt to make it appear as though Damon Severson is an above average defenseman. As a result, there is chatter than Severson, who is signed through next season, could be coveted by a few teams as the trade deadline approaches. Severson is a right handed defenseman, who averages over 21 minutes on ice per game over his 8 year NHL career. This season, Severson has played 47 games and scored 6 goals and 21 assists. The offensive production could be enough to tempt a playoff team to offer some nice assets as they gear up for a playoff run. However, his defensive weakness could lower his value or scare away other teams entirely. If the Devils can get a forward capable of scoring 15 or so goals per season for Severson, that would be good deal. The Devils lack secondary scoring. Hughes and Bratt can’t do it all themselves.
Andreas Johnsson has struggled in recent weeks but has also shown flashes of brilliance earlier this season. The 27 year old Johnsson is under contract for one more year with a salary of 3.4 million dollars and has earned 26 points in 46 games played this year. He could be attractive to a team like Anaheim. The Ducks are trying to make a playoff push but need some help offensively. The same could be said for the Kings. Perhaps the Devils could pit the two division rivals against each other and get a better deal? Defenseman Sean Durzi from the Kings or left Wing Brayden Tracey from the Ducks would be nice additions for the Devils in return for a package including Johnsson.
The deadline is still over month away and a lot can change but the Devils may be able to a pull off a deal, or a few deals, to help the team be more competitive as early as next year. One has to imagine that Tom Fitzgerald will be fairly aggressive in an attempt to turn the team around sooner rather than later. GM’s of losing teams usually don’t have the best job security so Tom Fitzgerald is probably feeling some heat from ownership. At least I hope he is…
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