Eric Gelinas burst onto the scene in New Jersey last week, and the fanbase is justifiably abuzz about his arrival. He is an exciting player who fills a role on the Devils that no one else is really capable of filling right now. Of course with roster limits in the NHL and all that fun stuff, a player will eventually have to be moved if Gelinas keeps performing in a similar fashion. Right now, the Devils have some time with Bryce Salvador's injury. This will not be the case in about a week. So, at that time, I'm sure Lou could kick the can down the road again, so to speak. He has shown great creativity in finding ways to make short term space when necessary.
The ultimate endgame here, however, is that the defense will have to subtract a member if Gelinas keeps his game up. This should almost definitely come via a trade. Sometimes, it can take a little while to find a suitable trading partner without tipping your hand or seeming desperate, in order to get close to fair value for your asset. Now, I am of the belief that every single member of the Devils defense has a tangible value as an asset of some sort, either to the Devils, or to another team in the league (or both). What I mean by this, is there is no reason for the Devils to place any one of their defenders on waivers just to clear a spot. For starters, I do not want to lose another asset for no return like Alex Urbom, who is actually not faring fantastically well down in Washington.
While there are members of the Devils defense core who would clear waivers (Volchenkov, Salvador), that doesn't mean they should be placed on waivers. Even as overpriced assets, each one has more value to the Devils in NJ right now then they would stagnating in Albany. They are both key members of the Devils penalty kill. They also have more value to the Devils then they do to any other NHL club. Yes, each one has a bad contract, but that is a bit irrelevant for our purposes here, except for the fact that it would make either one very difficult to move without eating a lot of the salary and getting very little back in return. Since the Devils, unfortunately, are the ones who dished out the albatross contracts, in the short term the team is just better off getting whatever value they can out of the players on the ice, rather than selling the assets for ten cents on the dollar, when they are maybe worth fifty. I would have no problem with either one sitting out as a healthy scratch when necessary. Realistically, you don't healthy scratch your Captain, so that probably applies more to Volchenkov than Salvador. If it came down to a choice between the two overpriced veterans, I would rather have Salvador (healthy) on the ice instead of Volchenkov anyway, the way each has played so far this season. Either way, these two defenders will not be going anywhere at this time.
Two other defenders who are going nowhere are Adam Larsson and Andy Greene. Larsson, because he is the future, and Greene because he is the present. Sure there would be teams interested in either. As a general rule, however, you just don't trade your top prospect. Also, unless you are in a major rebuild, you don't trade your best player at any position, and Andy Greene is the Devils best defender.
Marek Zidlicky is also not going to be traded or waived. For starters, I'm pretty sure he would be claimed on waivers by any team searching for the elusive 'offensive defenseman'. More importantly, why would the Devils want to part ways with someone of his skill set, even via a trade? For all of his defensive shortcomings (and he really hasn't been terrible so far this year), he is easily the Devils best offensive defenseman. The emergence of Gelinas in no way eliminates the need for Zidlicky this season.
Really, it comes down to one of two defenders that will be moved. It's either going to be Mark Fayne or Peter Harrold. As I've expressed before, I would not be a fan of trading Mark Fayne. Still, I could see the Devils trading Fayne, unfortunately, for the reasons I expressed in the linked article. What would be a much wiser move, is to trade Peter Harrold.
Trade Peter Harrold? Is this some sort of fantasy? I don't think so, for several reasons. First, let me clarify that I am much, much, much, much more a fan of Peter Harrold, 7th defenseman than I am Peter Harrold, everyday defenseman. For a couple reasons, he is really the consummate 7th. He has a salary close to the league minimum, he can sit out for weeks at a time and step in and perform in a serviceable manner, and - this last one is actually the key to him being such an ideal 7th defenseman -- he is actually not awful at hockey. No, he shouldn't be getting top-4 minutes. No, he shouldn't be playing every day, ideally, if you want your team to be good. No, he shouldn't be a major part of anyone's plans. But, for his cost, the Devils are getting a pretty good return, especially when you consider this list of cap hit comparables.
Still, just look which direction the puck generally travels when Harrold is on the ice. He has been equally good so far in close score situations. I'm not trying to sign him up for any awards or anything. I'm not saying he's great. What I am saying, if he was terrible (or playing terribly), he would be exposed in a manner that would show up somewhere in these numbers through the first 9 games. It's just not there. Yeah, he misses the net a lot with his shot, but if he was getting crushed, he wouldn't even be in position to take those shots in the first place. I'm also saying, like him or not, he is far from the reason for any of the Devils early season troubles. Beyond that, I am additionally saying that, like him or not, a player who can hold his own to this extent would get claimed by a team with a weak back line that needs either an upgrade or a cheap patch / extra. Obviously, I can't be sure about this, but my gut feeling is that several teams would consider adding him off the wire - I'm thinking perhaps the Islanders, Flyers, Flames, Canadiens would all consider laying a claim.
Well, good, you may say, we need to get rid of him anyway. Well, yes, I would still prefer that he be the person subtracted from this current group. But I also believe that Harrold could return either a low round draft pick or an AHL forward. To show why I feel this way, I'm going to bring up some recent trades of lower tier NHL defensemen, and what sort of returns each brought. What I did, was look through the list of recent NHL trades on nhl.com, which goes back as far as June 15, 2012. I sought out comparables in terms of a defenseman certainly being part of the trade, and I tried to avoid any situations that involved prospects with measurable upside or anything like that.
This was a trade deadline move last season, and it returned a 2013 5th rd pick, which the LA Kings then used to select goaltender Patrik Bartosak in the June draft. Drewiskie performed well for Montreal down the stretch last season. He does not have any sort of more remarkable history that would make him much more valuable than Peter Harrold. They are roughly the same age (I think Harrold is two years older). Both are lower tier NHL types who seem to perform respectably in spurts, but have never really been everyday defenders for the long term.
This was basically a swap of minor league players. Byers is a defenseman, Stafford a forwward. My point for including this trade was that here you have a career AHL defenseman who returned an AHL forward in a trade. No reason to think that Harrold couldn't fetch at least the same in return. But, when one sees this, I think the impetus is to shoot higher.
This trade took place in February 2013, and it netted Pittsburgh a 5th round draft pick in the 2014 draft.. Now, Lovejoy is a little bit younger than Harrold, but it doesn't look like he had done anything remarkably spectacular in parts of 3 NHL seasons leading up to his trade. He does seem to have caught on in a full-time role with Anaheim, and is faring quite well so far in this early season. He also fared well last season after the trade to Anaheim. In general, Lovejoy seems to be a guy who drives the play forward to a certain extent. He has fared well against softer competition it the past, but seems to be seeing more tough minutes this year. At least at the point in time when Lovejoy was traded, I don't think his value was that much higher than Peter Harrold. I think we have, however, established a high end for Peter Harrold's value by looking at this and the Davis Drewiskie trade. He is not going to net a higher return than either one of these players.
The Wild received a conditional 2014 7th Rd pick, and the conditions seem to pertain to how many NHL games Genoway plays this season. My guess is zero, and that the pick will be returned. Regardless, I think this establishes a bottom rung for Peter Harrold's value- it is greater than a conditional 7th round pick.
There are a few other cases I could add to the mix, but there is nothing I saw that would drastically change the boundaries of where I see Harrold's value.
Based on the trades I've seen and reviewed over the past ~1.5 years (and I looked at others on the list besides the four referenced here - feel free to bring up any others you find appropriate), I would place Peter Harrold's value as an asset somewhere between a 5th round pick on the high end to a 7th round pick on the low end. I think he could also return an AHL forward, but I would say that values below a draft pick. Given enough time and the right trading partner, I think it's very reasonable to expect to return a 6th round pick for Peter Harrold. While this isn't, obviously, a king's ransom, accumulating draft picks (even late round) in exchange for assets is a much more sound business philosophy than sticking something out by the curb with a 'FREE' sign attached.