4 Deadline Deals That Should Have the NJ Devils Worried
The official trade deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m. and the New Jersey Devils could use an addition. Losers of four straight, they sit precariously in the seventh place in the Eastern Conference, with the New York Islanders tied with them in eighth place and the Rangers just two points back with a game at hand.
It's going to be an exciting home stretch for hockey fans in the New York City metro area. Because the Toronto Maple Leafs may be out of reach in sixth place, it looks like there are just two spots for the area's three teams.
The Devils have already re-traded for Alexei Ponikarovsky and acquired forward Andrei Loktionov, both moves coming earlier in the season. Loktionov has proven himself well worth the flyer with 11 points in 19 games with the team.
But there is no doubt this team lacks scoring punch and features a less-than-dynamic top six forward group. They have an overabundance of capable defenseman that could provide value in a trade scenario. However, General Manager Lou Lamoriello could see the recent return of Dainius Zubrus and eventually Ilya Kovalchuk as the roster boosts the Devils are looking for, and elect to remain quiet.
Regardless of what New Jersey decides to do, there have been recent moves across the Eastern Conference landscape that have implications in the Devils' universe. Frankly, they are causes for concern for a team that is a disturbing 6-10-6 in the past six weeks.
Because the salary cap is set to lower next season teams are weary of trading for players whose contracts extend beyond 2013.
Here are four moves that should have Devils and their fans tossing and turning in their sleep.
The Penguins Are Absolutely Stacked
The hype has certainly been tempered by Sidney Crosby's broken jaw. Terrible luck for a guy who seemed to have put any health uncertainty to rest with an MVP caliber season. And frankly, it's just bad for the league. Say what you want about the whiny Crosby but the kid is clearly one of the best players in the world.
Anyway...what was I saying... oh yeah, has it occurred to anybody that the Penguins have traded for the captains of two other teams in the past nine days?
First Brenden Morrow, a guy who thought he would play his entire career as a Dallas Star. But was he really going to block a trade that posed the opportunity to play with the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, to a team on the precipice of setting the NHL record for consecutive wins? Of course not.
Then a veteran everybody expected to be moved by the deadline, Jarome Iginla. A guy who has quietly amassed an incredible career in Calgary. If he played in a big U.S. market and not a region more known for its oil production to Americans then his legend would be significantly larger. And at 35, how many more shots at a Stanley Cup does he have left? If he stayed in Calgary, probably none.
Now he joins Malkin, Letang, Kunitz and the guy he linked up with for the Gold-Medal winning goal.
Are Iginla and Morrow over the hill? Yes, their best seasons, production-wise, are behind them. But the intangibles they bring as leaders are invaluable. And if you don't think these two are going to be galvanized by the environment they are playing in, you are crazy.
I'm not done. A few days before the Pens went out and got Morrow and Iginla they acquired rugged defenseman Douglas Murray from San Jose. Defense was the weakness of this team (if they have any weaknesses) and the 6' 3", 240 pound Murray is a guy opposing forwards have to be aware of.
Pittsburgh looks like they are going to win the East. Remember, the eighth place Rangers have a game in hand. Despite the way it sounds, Crosby's jaw is supposedly not that serious, according to ESPN. If The Devils finish with the last playoff spot then it could be game one in Pittsburgh and an early playoff exit.
The Rangers Add Toughness
And now, ladies and gentleman, the reason why I had to wait until the last minute to write this article.
Beginning yesterday there were rumblings that the Sharks were going to move Ryane Clowe. The Rangers were immediately mentioned as a team with interest. It was one of those negotiations where you could feel the trade coming closer and closer, and sure enough the Rangers got their man as of 8:18 PM.
You might look at his stats and think this was a silly trade by Rangers GM Glen Sather. Clowe has zero goals and 11 assists so far this season.
But this may be exactly what the Rangers need. Clowe will play the role that Brandon Prust played for New York last season, a player with grit who can fight but also has a touch of offensive ability. Prust's presence is sorely missed on this Rangers team and may have something to do with a resurgent Montreal Canadiens club.
Clowe does have 101 goals in his eight year career, and a change of scenery may be what he needs to rediscover the back of the net.
The bottom line is the Rangers got better today as they fight to overtake New Jersey in the standings.
Another Possible First Round Matchup Improves
The Boston Bruins already have the Devils number. In recent years this has been the one team the Devils can't seem to figure out.
They sit just three points behind Montreal with a game at hand for second place in the Eastern Conference. Their major area of deficiency is the power play, which ranks 24th in the league. Today they specifically addressed that area by acquiring Jaromir Jagr from Dallas, as reported by ESPN Boston.
Probably the greatest Czech player ever, Jagr is having an incredible season for a 41 year old. He brings his 14 goals and 12 assists to a team in Boston who will have better players around him and a city and fanbase with better hockey culture than Dallas, Texas (sorry, y'all). This was a great pick up for the Bruins. Jagr should have a direct improvement on their power play unit with his size, strength and hands. If Boston win their Division and the Devils stay where they are, I can't envision a worse first round scenario for New Jersey.
Carolina Improves Defensive Corps
The Devils and Islanders are tied with 39 points. The Rangers are essentially very close with 37 points. Next in line are the Carolina Hurricanes.
They sit five points back of New Jersey but have played two less games. Tuesday they acquired Marc-Andre Bergeron from the Tampa Bay Lighting in a move that is sure to bolster their defense.
So two of the best teams in the Devils' conference have added major pieces. Two others who sit just below New Jersey have improved as well. Yet as of Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before the trade deadline, Lou Lamoriello, the GM of a team 25th in the league in scoring, remains quiet. What's wrong with this picture? Is there something wrong with this picture?
Last year as the deadline neared the Devils were a considerably better team than they are this year and yet they still went out and added Marek Zidlicky, who is now a big piece of their core. It clearly helped as New Jersey went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
This year you can feel it slipping away from them. That team from the first month of the season is gone. They just can't score goals. Loktionov has been a nice piece but it isn't enough. Ilya Kovalchuk's return is not imminent, and with the Islanders playing well New Jersey may be out of the top eight by the time he does come back.
The elephant in the room here: what if it is Martin Brodeur's last season? Sure, he is signed for next year, but that is no guarantee for a guy who battled a back issue this year and turns 41 in May. Not only does Lamoriello owe Brodeur a trade for a forward and another shot at a Cup. Without Marty, the window may be closed.
Sure, Lamoriello is one of the best GM's in not just hockey but all of sports. But has he really had any success without Martin Brodeur? The front office counts, but the players on the ice win the games. The classic argument surrounding New Jersey over the years has been that no one player, not Scott Neidermayer, not Brian Rafalski, not Scott Gomez, not Bobby Holik, not Paul Martin, not Zach Parise, is bigger than the team wide concept. Well you know who might be the one player who breaks that maxim? Martin Brodeur.
This could be it. Not just the last hurrah for Martin Brodeur, but a franchise whose run of success has defied critics for two decades. Pick up the phone Lou. Get a goal scorer.