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NJ Devils Trade Anssi Salmela to Atlanta for Niclas Havelid

Just as I was writing about game atmosphere and Cameron, something big happened! The New Jersey Devils just made a trade! Thank Tibbs for putting it up right away!

Per TSN, it's a straight-up trade with Atlanta: the Thrashers get Anssi Salmela and the Devils get Nicklas Havelid. By the numbers, here are the stat-lines:

2008 - Anssi Salmela 17 0 3 3 1 6 0 0 0 0 33 0.0

2008 - Niclas Havelid 63 2 13 15 4 42 0 1 0 0 41 4.9

It was only a few days ago, where I first heard the rumors for Havelid among three names Gulitti mentioned. I offered my thoughts and felt that Havelid was the best of a not-so-impressive bunch. Based on what the Falconer had, I still stand by this:

OK, he's better offensively than Witt (but then, so is Mike Mottau) and he's managing a plus rating on Atlanta, a team that gives up over three goals a game on average. Falconer at Bird Watchers Anonymous lists Havelid as a defenseman most likely to be traded. He does a great job explaining his game and how valuable he could be to a contending team.

On one hand, you can never have too many defensive defensemen who don't take dumb calls. On the other, it doesn't fill a need for New Jersey. Still, it's not a totally unreasonable or unattractive deal. (P.S. No to Oystrick; the Devils could just call up Anssi Salmela as a rookie offensive defensman).

Lo and behold, Lou throws everyone for a loop and a rumor involving him comes true! I would have liked an offensive defenseman, to be honest. Havelid's 14 points in Atlanta is more than every other defenseman on New Jersey except for Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya! Still, he's a defender who is sound in his own end.

The Cost

As far as the cost to the Devils, to be fair, I liked Anssi Salmela. That he started the year in New Jersey was an encouraging sign and I felt he had some real potential. He is a young offensive defenseman who likes to put up the shot. Even when he was called up for a few games when Paul Martin was out, Salmela got some power play time - both a compliment to his abilities and a statement about the lack of pointmen on New Jersey.

Honestly, Atlanta is looking to re-build and Salmela isn't a bad defenseman. I think as he gets experience, he will become a pretty good defenseman in the NHL. Maybe a #4 defenseman at best, it really depends how much better he can get at positioning and his awareness in his own zone. That what was keeping him from sticking with New Jersey, and why Jay Leach is still at least with the team as a scratch. If he can develop some accuracy for that shot, he could stand to make a pretty long career on the point. Will losing Salmela come back to haunt the Devils? Given the fates of Brad Bombardir, Willie Mitchell, &c., I doubt all that much.

Overall Thoughts

Despite Havelid not being an offensive defenseman, I think that this trade overall is a pretty good one for New Jersey. The Devils get a capable player without costing the Devils all that much; just their 8th defenseman on the depth chart. Everyone on the active roster remains a Devil, as it is Salmela heading south. Chemistry has not been immediately disrupted from the trade, which is important. With the Devils being as successful as they are, there isn't a need to tamper with the overall feeling in the locker room.

I think it also means that Jay Leach will be heading down to Lowell. Havelid is a regular NHL defensive defenseman and I don't see the Devils carrying 8 defenders. In the near future, Havelid will likely be rotated into the line up. He can spell Greene or Mottau if they aren't doing so well, and he can be put in for games where the Devils could some extra defending in their own end. He's a smart player and he can provide additional stability in his own end, which is always valuable - especially for the playoffs. Lastly, the worst case scenario would that he remains a scratch and the Devils roll the 6 defensemen they have been using for much of the season.

For the Atlanta view of this trade, check out Bird Watchers Anonymous where he's got a good idea of Salmela's potential. For additional NHL Trade Deadline Coverage, check out the SBN Trade Deadline Hub.