New Jersey Devils: Is Kurtis Foster Trade with Anaheim the Answer to Their Woes?

Alison MyersCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2011

EDMONTON, CANADA - MARCH 17: Kurtis Foster #26 of the Edmonton Oilers during the game against the Phoenix Coyotes on March 17, 2011 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

On Monday, the New Jersey Devils acquired veteran defenseman Kurtis Foster and goaltender Timo Pielmeier from the Anaheim Ducks for center Rod Pelley and defenseman Mark Fraser.

The Devils got rid of some players who weren’t effective in the lineup, but weren’t exactly a major burden. Pelley only had a career high of 10 points, which he posted in both 2010 and 2011. He was scoreless and had seven penalty minutes in seven games this season.

Fraser, meanwhile, had never played a full year in New Jersey. This year, he was scoreless and had a minus-two rating. He only had two assists in 26 games last year and averaged 14 minutes of ice time.

Furthermore, both players had low salaries. Pelley was making $575,000 this year, while Fraser made $550,000. Pelley is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and Fraser will be a restricted free agent. This isn’t a major money-saving move by any means.

Foster comes to the Devils after playing just nine games with Anaheim this year. He got off to a slow start because of a thigh injury and was able to only post two points and a minus-five. He has never played a full NHL season, coming closest to an 82-game mark last year, when he played 74 games with the Edmonton Oilers.

While with the Oilers, Foster had 22 points and five power-play goals, but also posted a minus-12. He was second with 3:50 of ice time on the power play, and that, combined with his goals on the man advantage, could be a boost to the Devils’ 25th-ranked power play unit.

Foster can be effective when healthy, as he had 42 points over 71 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2009-10 season. He is also a solid hitter, as he was seventh on Edmonton last year with 89 hits, and he is not afraid to play tough. He showed that with 76 blocked shots while with the Oilers.

However, he is 30 years old and has yet to stay uninjured over the course of a season. The Devils already have one injury-prone defenseman in Anton Volchenkov, while Henrik Tallinder isn’t exactly a spring chicken. The defensive unit is either too inexperienced (Adam Larsson, Alexander Urbom) or too old.

There is no good middle ground, and Foster may not be able to provide that.

The other part of the trade is Pielmeier, who is in his third professional season. Pielmier, a third-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2007, played his first pro campaign in 2009-10 with the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL. In 57 games, he went 27-22-5, but had a 3.29 GAA and .883 save percentage.

Last season, he was mostly with the Syracuse Crunch, Anaheim’s AHL affiliate. He had a losing record of 16-17-1 over 37 games, but his save percentage (.906) and GAA (3.09) represented small improvements.

Prior to being traded, he was playing with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. He played in 10 games and had a record of 4-5 while putting up a .896 save percentage and a 3.45 GAA. In this trade, he will likely to go to the Kalamazoo Wings, the Devils’ ECHL team.

Pielmeier probably won’t get any looks in New Jersey should he be kept around for the long term, but the team desperately needs a strong goaltending prospect in their system besides Keith Kinkaid. Pielmeier doesn’t seem to be that goaltender; however, he is only 22 years old, so it is too early to write him off.

The Devils are 1-1 in their first games since Andy Greene was taken out of the lineup with a fractured toe. They lost to the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, but bounced back against the Lightning and won 5-4.

Foster will be in town by the time the Devils take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, but it is unknown whether he’ll play according to Tom Gulitti of The Record. Until Foster plays, we cannot truly measure whether the Devils won or lost the deal.

But right now, it doesn’t seem like Foster’s arrival will turn things around for the inconsistent Devils. It’s too bad New Jersey couldn’t trade for a more certain player with less question marks surrounding his health.


This article also appears at The Hockey Writers.