This offseason, the New Jersey Devils have two primary objectives (potential returning players notwithstanding): sign a second-line center and a top-four defenseman.
But the Devils' second-line center may already be with the team. I'm speaking, of course, about two players in particular who are not actually centers, but have played the position before: Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston.
I envision these two players sharing a line next season. Rolston has already lamented not getting to play on a top line last year, and to shove him onto the third line again would be a waste of his large contract. Brian Gionta's free agency provides the Devils an opening on the second line for Rolston to play right wing, and I believe that's exactly what will happen.
However, I had assumed that his wingmate would be Elias, but the Dany Heatley drama in Ottawa is heating up, and I think the Devils should listen.
After Heatley requested a trade, the Senators have now said they'd be willing to acquiesce with the left winger's wishes. The Devils should see if they can pursue a deal for Heatley, even if that means shifting Elias into the center position.
Do I think a trade for Heatley is likely? No and I'd like to make that clear from the start. The Devils may or may not have the pieces needed to acquire the elite scorer, and I don't even know what Ottawa is looking for in return. We likely won't know until a trade rumor surfaces. But the Devils should inquire as to what it would take to get him.
Would the Senators be interested in a defensive forward like Jay Pandolfo? Would they want the rights to upcoming free agents, such as Gionta or Scott Clemmensen, who remain property of the Devils until July 1?
The Sens could then have the best shot at negotiating with the players before they hit the market, and at the very least, if they do test free agency, the team would be shedding Heatley's enormous salary.
The Devils, by the way, would be taking a tremendous hit payroll-wise, but it would be worth it. They'd likely have to let Gionta and John Madden walk, but they'd be getting a two-time 50-goal scorer in return.
Like I said, I don't see this happening, but you never know. Even if New Jersey doesn't walk away with Heatley, I feel they should still make an effort to acquire him.
You never know what it might take.