The NHL trade deadline is just over one month away. Who should the Devils be looking to add and who should they be willing to part with as the playoffs approach?
For the first time since 2018 and the second time since 2012, the Devils are in the thick of the playoff race as the trade deadline approaches. In 2018, the Devils went out and acquired Michael Grabner and Pat Maroon at the trade deadline to try and improve for a playoff run. That didn’t work out, as even with the new additions, the Devils were eliminated in five games. The Devils are better now than they were in 2018 and there are some very valuable players that could be available to help the Devils make a serious run for the cup this year.
The most talked about target is Timo Meier and for good reason. Meier is a 26 year old pending RFA with a 10 million dollar qualifying offer due at the end of this year. Meier has already scored 30 goals in two NHL seasons and is going to hit 30 goals again this year as he already has 28 goals in 51 games. Meier is a big man at 6’1″, 220 pounds and plays right wing. Adding another 30-40 goal scorer to the Devils top six would make an already good offensive team into a great offensive team. Adding Timo Meier to a line with Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier would be one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL. So acquiring Meier is a great idea but what would it cost? I think the package would have to start with this years first round draft pick and Alexander Holtz. The Sharks are not ready to compete for the playoffs right now so adding a first round pick and a high end prospect like Holtz could be attractive to them. Holtz has shown a lot of promise in the AHL but has yet to break out at the NHL level. At just 21 years old there is still time for him to develop, so Holtz would probably be attractive to the Sharks who need young talent. The package for Meier would likely need to include more players, such as Yegor Sharangovich, Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, or Graeme Clarke, as well as a middle round pick or two in one of the next two drafts. It would be a steep price to pay but an elite player, that is still an RFA, is worth it. The issue with this deal would come in the summer with trying to find salary cap room to keep both Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier on the team long term. It would be difficult but not impossible.
Another much talked about target is Bo Horvat. The Canucks organization is basically imploding right now as they expected to be in a playoff race but are currently below .500 and far outside of the playoff picture. Their captain, Bo Horvat, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and having the best year of his career so it makes sense for them to try and get something of value for him at the deadline instead of losing him for nothing over the summer. Horvat is a solid two center that would be perfect on New Jersey’s third line behind Hughes and Hischier. He could also be put on the ice with Hughes to help in the faceoff circle. Horvat would be a huge improvement on Jack’s line over Erik Haula. The price for Horvat would likely be less than the price for Meier. Horvat is going to be unrestricted as opposed to restricted this summer, making him a true rental player and meaning the Canucks basically have to deal him before they lose their captain for nothing in free agency. The Devils could offer a package of a first round pick, Yegor Sharangovich, and a mid tier prospect like Seamus Casey or Shakir Mukhamadullin.
Other players the Devils could be interested in but would be difficult to acquire because of the salary cap include Johnathan Toews, Vladamir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly. All three of those players could help the Devils bottom six forwards but all three make at least 7 million dollars and Toews makes over $10 million. The Devils would need those teams to retain salary as well as take on one of the Devils bigger contracts like Tomas Tatar, Ryan Graves, or Damon Severson. All three of those players are unrestricted free agents and unlikely to be attractive to teams out of playoff contention such as the Blackhawks, Blues, Sharks, and Canucks. So getting the other team to retain salary and take on a pending UFA as well would drive up the price in terms of draft picks and young players or prospects, making the trade less worthwhile for the Devils.
As far as Devils prospects go the only untouchable prospects should be Luke Hughes and Akira Schmid. I have seen some articles and interviews mention Dawson Mercer as a potential trade piece as well but I don’t think the Devils should be trading him for a rental player like any of the ones mentioned above. Not only is Mercer already an important part of this team, but he is still on his entry level contract and five years away from being a UFA. The Devils can’t give away a player this good with this much team control left.
So what would be considered a successful trade deadline for the Devils? Adding either Horvat or Meier while keeping Mercer, Luke Hughes, and Akira Schmid would be an A+ from me. If the Devils were able to add someone less impressive like Max Domi or Gustav Nyqvist that would be fine as long as they didn’t give up a pick in the first two rounds or a high end prospect. I’m just excited to be writing about and cheering for a team that isn’t looking to sell at the deadline. You can follow me on Twitter at PatBooooth.