The New Jersey Devils have a logjam on defense.
Most teams would welcome such a "problem," however the Devils are thin on the third line and hold a prospect system that needs to be overhauled at the forward ranks.
And another goalie prospect couldn't hurt.
With eight NHL defensemen, all of whom participated in multiple games during last year's Stanley Cup playoffs, someone is on their way out of New Jersey.
You can scratch young blueliner Adam Larsson off the list without a doubt. The former fourth overall draft pick figures to be a staple in the Devils' defense for the foreseeable future and is also the highest draft pick New Jersey has had since they selected Scott Niedermayer third overall in the 1991 draft.
The likelihood of moving one of New Jersey's two defensemen with no trade or no move clauses—Anton Volchenkov and Marek Zidlicky—is slim to none.
Volchenkov is a defensive stalwart and one of the best hitters and shot blockers the league has to offer. Although he has never won it all, his trips to the Stanley Cup Finals with Ottawa and New Jersey give him invaluable playoff experience.
Zidlicky—who was acquired from Minnesota last season—only has one year remaining on his contract and has proved to be the Devils' top puck-moving defenseman in the short time he's been in the red and black.
This offseason saw the re-signings of Bryce Salvador, Mark Fayne, and Peter Harrold who signed three, two, and one-year contracts respectively.
This brings us down to two prime suspects: longtime Buffalo Sabre Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene, a soon-to-be 30-year-old offensive defenseman who has spent his entire career with the Devils.
Tallinder, who was out most of last season with a blood clot injury, rejoined the team at the end of the Finals against Los Angeles and played well enough. The veteran Swede has two years left on his contract that pays him $3.375 million annually.
Whether it was the emergence of Marek Zidlicky or the play of rookie Adam Larsson, Greene has regressed as an offensive defenseman the past two seasons after scoring 37 points during the 2009-2010 season (a personal best). Greene has three years left that would earn him $3 million annually.
For all the reasons listed, the obvious choice comes down to Tallinder or Greene finding their way to a new team before the season begins—obviously barring injury to another played before the first puck is dropped.
Out of the six that I have assumed to be "safe", former LA King Peter Harrold is most likely to be included in the trade mix. That chance is a very slim possibility nobody should bank on. The defenseman is no spring chicken, but his services come cheap and he has proved he can play in the Devils' system very well.
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