With the upcoming trade deadline March 4, the New Jersey Devils find themselves in an interesting situation. Regardless of whether or not GM Lou Lamoriello adds anyone, the Devils appear set to add All-World goalie Martin Brodeur to the fold.
Brodeur will be returning from surgery to repair a detached bicep tendon. Not to take anything away from the achievements by Scott Clemmensen or Kevin Weekes, but to put it bluntly, they are no match to Brodeur, who arguably is the best goaltender of all-time.
The Devils already sport a roster with more depth, and are currently playing at a higher level than in recent years past, which begs the questions, "What area(s) should they look to improve, what assets do they have to dangle and Who is available to bring in?"
There are a few areas the Devils could consider upgrading for the stretch run. A top-flight defenseman and a second line center would probably stand out as the team's biggest need. Since top-flight defensemen don't tend to grow on trees (could Scott Niedermayer possibly be interested in a reunion?), I think the Devils might look to upgrade one specific area on the backline.
In years past, the Devils have had success pairing a puck-moving defenseman with a more stay-at-home type guy.
The last few years that hasn't necessarily been the case, but I think if they returned to that sort of mindset for their pairings, it would be a good thing—especially for the playoffs when the importance of defense (especially in and around the crease) and a quick transition game are magnified.
The Devils already have two solid stay-at-home guys in Bryce Salvador and Colin White. They also have guys like Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya who are better skaters and can add to the offense. Guys like Mike Mottau, Anssi Salmela, Jay Leach or Andy Greene can be good at times, but haven't shown the consistency necessary to be greatly counted on.
Let's throw away the big names like Chris Pronger, Jay Bouwmeester or Tomas Kaberle, as I don't see the Devils paying up to bring these elite guys in. I think a better target would be a guy like John-Michael Liles of Colorado or Derek Morris of Phoenix—either of which would give the Devils another puck-moving option.
Then you hope a guy like Mottau gives you enough defensively at the six spot. If you want to target a more stay-at-home type—perhaps a Jordan Leopold (Colorado), Shaun O'Donnell (L.A. Kings) or a Niclas Havelid (Atlanta)-type could be a potential target.
At center, guys like Doug Weight (N.Y. Islanders), Brendan Morrison (Anaheim) or Keith Tkachuk (St. Louis) could bring in a presence that could potentially fill the center spot currently held by Dainius Zubrus.
Another longshot candidate would be Jordan Staal of the Penguins, who in my opinion, would be a great fit. However, I don't see the Devils taking part in a significant trade with a team that plays within their own division.
Now that we've established a few potential targets for the Devils to look at, the question is, what can the Devils dangle as trade bait?
Draft picks are an obvious option, especially for grizzly veterans like Tkachuk or Havelid.
The Devils also have some youngsters to offer such as defensemen Anssi Salmela and Andy Greene, as well as prospects Tyler Eckford or Matthew Corrente.
Up front, they have guys like Dainius Zubrus, Brian Gionta and Jay Pandolfo, who could potentially be moved in a deal. However, I think the ideal moves would be to send a lower-end prospect and a draft pick (maybe multiple picks) to Anaheim for Morrison, and Andy Greene and a draft pick to Atlanta for Havelid.
Both players would add a good presence to the Devils' fold, and each would fill a need. The moves would work for the other teams as well.
Anaheim is very tight against the salary cap and the move would free a little space by moving Morrison, and more importantly, taking on zero salary in return. As for Atlanta, Greene would get an instant opportunity to play with the Thrashers, and also would give them another draft pick to use in the future.
Morrison could be put at the No. 2 center spot, playing with Patrik Eliasand and I would move Dainius Zubrus to the wing. I would also put Brian Rolston, John Madden and Brian Gionta on the third line, and the combination of Brendan Shanahan, Bobby Holik and David Clarkson on the fourth line. This would leave Jay Pandolfo and Mike Rupp to provide depth.
On defense, you could pair Havelid with Johnny Oduya to give a good balance to your second pairing. The first pairing could be Bryce Salvador and Paul Martin, and the third could be Mike Mottau and Colin White, who don't always look the prettiest, but usually are able to get the job done.
In my opinion, these are the types of deals we should expect from Lou Lamoriello—both rental-type deals (both Morrison and Havelid will be free agents in the offseason) that won't necessarily break the bank, but will provide help and depth for the playoff run.
More importantly, it wouldn't hamper their salary cap for next year.
Lamoriello has always tried to maintain a fiscal responsibility and usually has had success in doing so (Alexander Mogilny, Dan McGillis and Vladmir Malakhov aside). The Devils have offseason free agents to worry about re-signing, including potential large raises to Travis Zajac, Johnny Oduya, as well as veterans like Brian Gionta, John Madden and Bobby Holik.
Then again, trying to predict what Lamoriello will do is very hard as no one keeps tighter reins on what he is contemplating then Lou Lamoriello.
In fact, if a potential trade gets out there as a rumor, he's been known to squash a trade just on that premise alone, so in the end, I wish anyone good luck in trying to predict what Lou will do.