NHL Trading Deadline: Top 5 New Jersey Devils Likely To Be Dealt
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It's been a very interesting year thus far for the New Jersey Devils. After an outright abysmal first half of the season, the team has surged of late, and is currently the hottest team in the league, posting a 12-1-2 record in their last 15 games. However, the chances of the Devils making the playoffs remain a long shot at best. Even if you look at basic mathematics, the Devils will need to likely post 90 plus points, meaning they would need to have at least a 20-4-2 record in their last 26 games.
While I certainly wouldn't advocate "tanking" games, I think it may be prudent to try and sell off some pieces to help the Devils' salary cap situation, as well as trying to pick up some prospects and/or draft picks that could benefit the Devils next season, and beyond.
The question is, which players might Lou Lamoriello look to move, without hurting his credibility and loyalty, two things Lamoriello has a long track record of, and clearly holds in high regard. What type of return these guys could bring back to the Devils, a team that has no second round pick in next year's draft, is the biggest thing that will need to be considered, especially when you factor in the Devils will lose one of their next five first round picks due to the Ilya Kovalchuk salary cap "circumvention."
I've listed potential suitors for each player, but keep in mind, these are just speculation on my part, I do not have any actual rumors to back them up, it's just me speculating on teams that could be a potential fit for the player.
Lamoriello already shipped out Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas on January 7th. His departure coincided with the Devils' turn around, whether or not it truly had anything to do with Langenbrunner is something hard to know for sure, I'll leave that to people with locker room access to address. However, Langenbrunner's on-ice record of 13-29-3 for the season definitely gives a hint if nothing else, that there's been a drop off in his play.
5. Adam Mair, F
Adam Mair is a versatile forward who can do a lot of the little things that become magnified come playoff time.
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While the return for Adam Mair would be very minimal, he is a good type of depth guy for a team in the playoff hunt to look at picking up. In a pinch, he can fill just about any role, whether its a checking line or a scoring line. I'm not trying to say he's a 30-goal scorer, but he can fill the role of a Grant Marshall type guy, who scored and helped set up timely goals back in the 2003 playoffs for the Devils.
Mair can play center or wing, can add some toughness and grit to a team and is a good overall team guy, and his very close to the minimum salary of $515,000 should make him attractive potentially to a team that has very little salary cap space, and not as much depth as they might like.
His numbers certainly aren't pretty, but guys like Mair offer more than just the statistics have to offer, although I wouldn't expect the Devils to be able to get more than a very marginal prospect or a low draft pick in return.
Possible suitors: Pittsburgh, San Jose, Chicago, Boston, Montreal
4. Brian Rolston, LW
Brian Rolston has been on a tear of late, could he now be attractive to other teams?
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Brian Rolston is definitely a candidate to be moved. After all, he was unclaimed after being placed both on waivers and re-entry waivers back in December. But, in the last 15 games, he's scored six goals and added eight assists, all while playing at a plus-8 over that time, and scoring three game winning goals during that span.
When you compare that output to his previous 24 games, it literally is as different as night and day, as Rolston posted just two goals and three assists, while playing at a minus-13 during that time. It was no surprise at the time that he went unclaimed on re-entry waivers on December 30th because of how little Rolston was producing at the time, and his salary cap hit of $5.062 million.
Is it possible a team would now have interest because of his resurgence? I guess that remains to be seen. If he was in the final year of his contract, an injury ridden team like Pittsburgh might have more interest, but it is his salary for the remainder of this year, but more importantly, next season, that is the albatross that has kept Rolston a Devil the past six weeks.
It remains unlikely a team would be willing to take on his entire salary, but there may be a couple teams that would take a shot on him through re-entry waivers if he was placed there again, which would split his cap hit (and salary) for the remainder of his contract between the Devils and the claiming team. This would give the Devils about $2.5 million in savings for next year's salary cap, so it isn't something to quickly discount.
Then again, if Rolston has finally overcome the injuries and lack of ice time that has plagued him in the past two-plus seasons, is it worth giving up a potentially useful asset for nothing but some salary cap relief, while continuing to pay him 50% of his salary to play and potentially produce for another team?
Possible suitors: Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Carolina, Atlanta, Colorado
3. Johan Hedberg, G
After an early season hiccup, the "Moose" has played well when called upon, even outplaying Martin Brodeur at times.
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Johan Hedberg was brought in to help the Devils have a solid backup in net to Martin Brodeur, who has shown some signs of breaking down, both in health and ability (to an extent) from his legendary status. The "Moose" has been a fan favorite, and has played well when called upon in spurts, short of a few games at the early part of the season when he struggled (along with everyone else on the team).
For the season, Hedberg has a record of 9-10-2, with a 2.66 GAA and a .904 save percentage, all in 26 games played (19 starts). Not quite Vezina numbers, but pretty solid nonetheless, especially considering the fact he had a 4.64 GAA and .855 save percentage after his first five appearances.
Hedberg has played 10 seasons in the NHL, but only has 20 games experience in the postseason (18 of which came his rookie year in 2000-01 with Pittsburgh), so I don't think the draw would be to bring him in as a #1 goalie. But, his experience would make him a good backup option for a team with a young goaltender who may not have the experience Hedberg does.
He seems like a real good guy to be around, and would be a good pickup for any team in need of a veteran goaltender, but with health questions surrounding Martin Brodeur, it may not be wise for the Devils to move Hedberg, unless it is a desperate team offering a good return. He also has a no movement clause, which could potentially complicate things, unless he was being moved to a team he would be silly to refuse.
Possible suitors: Detroit, Washington
2. Andy Greene, D
Andy Greene has had an up and down season, but has really picked up his game of late for New Jersey, showing signs of the successful 2009-10 season he had under the tutelage of Jacques Lemaire.
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Andy Greene has been a very interesting guy to watch over the last season and a half. Almost forgotten and overlooked by many during the two seasons under Brent Sutter, Greene really emerged in the first half of the 2009-10 season for New Jersey, to the point where there was talk that USA Hockey may have made a mistake by not considering him for a spot on the Olympic team.
While he didn't necessarily maintain that level of play, Greene has been a very solid player, and is probably the Devils' best offensive defenseman, taking the torch from Paul Martin, who left as a free agent before this season. Greene, is currently a bargain, receiving a salary of just $750,000, and has a cap hit of just $737,500. However, after this season, he should command a pretty large salary increase (My guess is at least $2 million per), and the question is, will New Jersey have the salary cap space to make Greene a reasonable offer?
The other question is if Greene really wants to return to New Jersey, would he be willing to be traded to another team for the remainder of the season, to allow New Jersey to gain some asset(s), all while biding time until they re-sign Greene in the off-season? Would the Devils even be willing to take that chance?
Greene has posted 3 goals and 16 assists, while posting a minus-17 in 56 games played. In the last fifteen, he has six assists and is a plus-6 during that span, but his play has picked up to a level beyond that which is reflected in just the statistics.
I guess the offers that are made to GM Lou Lamoriello will dictate whether or not the gamble would be worthwhile for the Devils to make. Because of his low salary cap number, and pending free agency, his "rental value" should be pretty high for a team that has a need on the backline, but only Lou knows what offer it would take to acquire Greene.
Possible suitors: Detroit, San Jose, Montreal, Nashville, Phoenix, Anaheim, Buffalo, Tampa Bay
1. Jason Arnott, C
Jason Arnott has a Stanley Cup winning goal on his resume, and has scoring, size and leadership ability to offer any potential Stanley Cup contender.
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Jason Arnott was brought in this offseason via a trade with Nashville, that cost the Devils LW Matt Halischuk and a second round pick. As the season unfolded, it unfortunately does not seem to have worked out as well as was hoped in the off-season, only because of the lack of success the team has had. Arnott has been more or less what was expected, on pace for about a 20-goal season, and providing good help in terms of size, leadership and face-off ability.
He also is one of the few players who hasn't played his best hockey in the last fifteen games, as Arnott's best production came when the team was struggling most. On the brink of two nice milestones (he has 396 career goals and 897 points), Arnott's experience would give a boost to a team that needs help down the middle, and has room for his $4.5 million salary cap hit. His experience includes 106 playoff games, where he's scored 30 goals and added 36 assists during that time, but he will always be remembered for his Stanley Cup winning goal in Game 6 of the 2000 Finals.
He has done a great job working with the younger players like Mattias Tedenby and Vladmir Zharkov, and has taken some of the younger talent under his wing, kind of like Scott Stevens did for him early in his first stint with the Devils. He does have a no-movement clause in his contract, but I don't think Arnott would hold up a trade that would bring him to a team that is playoff bound.
Arnott is the biggest attraction to other teams that the Devils can offer right now because he will be an unrestricted free agent, but also because he adds a lot to any team, in terms of leadership, size, experience and production. I would think the hope would be to get at least a second round pick for Arnott, plus perhaps a middle of the road prospect. With guys like Mike Fisher and Kris Versteeg already being dealt, the Devils will be hoping a bidding war could start for Arnott, which obviously would increase the price.
Potential suitors: Pittsburgh, Boston, Atlanta, Buffalo
Other Long Shot Possibilities/Conculsion
Other players are potential trade targets, but unlikely at best to be moved, for a variety of different reasons.
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There are a few other candidates to be moved, but for a variety of different reasons, these guys probably won't end up being moved.
Henrik Tallinder - recently signed in the offseason, Tallinder is signed to a four-year deal and hasn't played up to the level of his contract, although he has definitely played significantly better of late. I guess its possible if the Devils were blown away with an offer, Tallinder could be moved, but at the same time, I don't expect that to happen.
David Clarkson - he may be signed to a deal that is too rich for most teams, with a cap hit of $2.667 million, but he seems to be one of Lou's favorites, making him unlikely to be moved.
Colin White - another guy Lou seems loyal to, it's unlikely that Lamoriello would ask White to waive his no-trade clause, keeping him and his $3 million cap hit around for the last year of his contract.
Dainius Zubrus - an unfair target of criticism most of the time by fans, Zubrus is a guy who fills a needed dimension and role with his size and some skill. I don't expect him to be moved.
In the end, I expect Arnott and Greene to be moved, depending on the return they would net.