The New Jersey Devils Devils won their eighth straight game Tuesday night, with a 1-0 victory over the Dallas Stars. With the win, the Devils have now climbed to within nine points of a playoff spot and the eighth seeded Carolina Hurricanes, and the Devils also have a game in hand. Even the seventh seeded New York Rangers remain on the radar, with the Devils 12 points back (with two games in hand).
With an amazing record of 16-1-2 in their last 19 games, the Devils have started to feel pretty good about themselves as a team, and rightfully so. However, with the trade deadline looming just days away, the Devils are forced to ask themselves if they should be either buyers or sellers at the deadline. It is a very interesting and difficult decision to make, because emotion can easily get in the way and one can get caught up in the streak the Devils are on and assume it will continue.
But, is that the most sound thing to do? The Devils, while gaining an impressive 18 points in the standings on the eighth spot since Jan 6, still have quite a mountain to climb. At 13th place in the Eastern Conference with 56 points in 60 games, the Devils still have to climb past the following teams over the last 22 games:
12. Panthers 57 23
11. Maple Leafs 59 22
10. Thrashers 60 22
9. Sabres 60 24
8. Hurricanes 65 21
As impressive as the run has been, there still remains quite a bit of work left to do, and the odds still remain against the Devils for the most part. As much as the fan in me wants to assume they will get it done, it still remains mathematically unlikely the Devils will have enough time to pull it off.
Many of the teams the Devils are chasing will play head to head, meaning a team will get two points in these matchups, such as when the Thrashers and Sabres play tonight (and that's assuming a third point isn't awarded for a regulation tie).
GM Lou Lamoriello is put in a situation to not only decide if he thinks this current team has the chance to complete the once thought impossible ascent to the playoffs, but what potential acquisition (and at what cost) could put his team in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup? With just two games remaining for the Devils before the trade deadline, it is without doubt a tough call.
How the Devils do in their remaining games (Friday at Tampa Bay and Sunday at Florida) could sway the decision one way or the other. Two losses would make this an easier decision, probably leaning the Devils towards being a seller.
One dynamic we have no knowledge on is what types of offers are being presented to Lamoriello and the Devils, for the obvious potential trade targets like Jason Arnott and Andy Greene, amongst others. The potential return brought back no doubt influences whether or not a move will be made.
If the Devils win both remaining games, raising their win streak to 10 games, it then becomes an even more difficult decision to make on how to proceed. No matter how unlikely websites like SportsClubStats.com say the odds are for the Devils, the selling off of an asset like Jason Arnott would signify to the players in the locker room that management doesn't feel like the team can pull it off, and would likely "burst the playoff bubble" for the Devils.
One thing to remember that impacts Jason Arnott being dealt is the fact that Arnott holds a no-movement clause. It seems Lamoriello has basically left it in the hands of Arnott as to whether or not he will request to be moved to a playoff contender. My hunch is Lou expects Arnott to stay on board as long as it looks like the Devils still have a chance, but that is all speculation on my part.
In the end, with little salary cap space available, I don't see the Devils making a major acquisition of any kind. If Zach Parise has a good doctor visit on March 2, and is allowed to begin skating, perhaps he can be the Devils "acquisition" for the stretch run, even if isn't projected to be until very late March at the very earliest, and that's being optimistic.
I also don't see Lamoriello waving the white surrender flag either, so I think the status quo will be the plan of action for the Devils this week, unless there is an offer too good to pass up that presents itself.
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