The Devils have won four their last five games and are in striking distance of first place as rumors fly and the trade deadline approaches.
The Devils are firmly in second place in the Metropolitan division with an eight point lead on the Rangers and are only three points behind the Hurricanes for first place. The Devils are yet to make any trades this season despite the Rangers acquiring Vladamir Taresenko from the Blues and heavily pursuing Patrick Kane from the Blackhawks, while the Maple Leafs acquired Ryan O’Reily. The Devils are rumored to be the favorite to acquire super star power forward Timo Meier from the Sharks but as I’m writing this, no deal has been made yet. But even without Meier on the team, the Devils are rolling and look like one of the best teams in the NHL.
Dawson Mercer is absolutely on fire after some rumors surfaced that that the Sharks want him included in a deal for Timo Meier. The 21 year old Mercer is making himself indispensable to the Devils right now with 19 goals and 20 assists in 59 games. Mercer is proving to be a top six forward in the NHL at just 21 years old with one more year on his entry level contract. Not only that, but Mercer can also play center and fit in with any line in any situation. That is incredibly valuable and if Mercer were to be included in a deal for Meier, the trade would have to be close to one for one. Timo Meier is also insanely valuable. He is a 26 year old who has already scored 30 goals in three seasons, this one included. He is a 220 pound power forward that is capable of both playing physical, somehting the Devils lack, and scoring at an elite level. IF the Devils need to send Mercer to San Jose to get Meier, there should be no other roster player included, no first round pick, and none of the Devils top 5 prospects. I think Meier is a better player than Mercer right now and if the Devils decide to go all in to win this year, I would be ok if Mercer went to San Jose in a one to one exchange for Meier but that’s it. I think a one for one trade is unlikely as San Jose is trying to rebuild so they probably want multiple assets. I could see a package of Holtz, Zetterlund, a 1st round pick and Shakir Mukhamadullin being enough to get Meier from San Jose. Maybe a second or third round pick next year in there as well.
The Devils goaltending was comically bad last season. They had to use seven goalies and none played particularly well, including Akira Schmid in a small six game sample size. This season, Schmid has been the call up each time Mackenzie Blackwood has been hurt and has played outstanding in his 10 opportunities in net. In those 10 games, Schmid has a jaw dropping save percentage of 9.27 and a fantastic goals against average of just 1.98. Schmid is only 22 years old and in just his second professional season so to be playing this well is extremely encouraging and gives me reason to believe that this will be Mackenzie Blackwood’s last season in New Jersey. Blackwood has struggled to stay healthy again, being on the injured list twice now. In his 17 games so far this season, Blackwood has ha dsome strong games, though he is still inconsistent. His .900 save percentage and 3.04 goals against average are acceptable numbers for a backup goalie, but he’s being outplayed by the younger Schmid by a wide margin this season. Blackwood is an RFA at the end of the year so it would come as no surprise if the Devils decided to part ways with him this summer and go with Schmid as the full time backup to Vanecek next year.
Just about every game that Jack Hughes touches the ice, he does something unbelievable and last night was no exception. Jack Hughes scored on a breakaway in the second period and had this beauty of an assist to Jesper Bratt in the third period to cap off yet another multi point performance. Hughes is a superstar and his $8 million cap hit looks better and better with each game. Hughes is now up to 36 goals and 38 assists for 74 points in 55 games. He’s been on fire all season and I can’t wait to watch him rip apart the competition during the Devils playoff run this year, next year, and every year for the foreseeable future.
Even with no Meier acquisition, at least not yet, the Devils are flying high and should be considered one of the top three favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals along with Boston and Carolina. They are fast, the defense has been solid, and the goaltending is finally above average. All is well in New Jersey right now, and hopefully will get even better when Timo Meier hopefully joins the roster. You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth