Yesterday, I noted how the New Jersey Devils would need to make a move of some sort to create cap space to complete their other signings this summer. Today, the Devils made that move. The Devils traded defenseman Henrik Tallinder to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for winger Riley Boychuk. Tom Gulitti has the story up at Fire & Ice.
The real benefit of this trade is that the Devils moved $3,375,000 from their books in exchange for someone who's not likely going to play a NHL game anytime soon. In effect, this was a salary dump. Here's his profile at NHL.com and Eliteprospects. Riley Boychuk is a 22-year old left winger who only put up significant figures in one stat in juniors: penalty minutes. The 6'4", 212 pound forward split time between the ECHL and AHL in his first season out of the WHL in 2011-12 and then spent all of last season at a level lower than the ECHL: the Central Hockey League. As a minor pro, he's been fairly well behaved unless he did something terrible I'm not aware of; but the fact he went down a level of competition after his first season as a professional player suggests to me he doesn't have much of a future. Boychuk is entering the last season of his entry level contract according to CapGeek.He might suit up for Albany or an ECHL affiliate team next season, and then we'll see what happens after that. My point is that the Devils didn't acquire a decent prospect or an extra pick, their main benefit of this trade is the additional cap space. Plus a side benefit of not having to pay Tallinder his $3.5 million salary for 2013-14.
I will say I do feel bad for Tallinder. He turned out to be a good defenseman for the Devils up until he suffered from blood clots in his leg. In all of last season, he struggled to stay in the lineup even though he did quite well in his limited minutes. That overshadows the fact that he was a top-four defender in the two seasons before that. Tallinder led the defensemen in average ice time per game in 2010-11 and finished behind Marek Zidlicky in 2011-12; each with an average of 21 minutes or more. He notably helped Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson get acclimated to the league when they broke through while being a steady presence on the back end. Alas, his deal was expiring and he was seen as a surplus defender. It didn't help that the team was remarkably good at shot prevention with or without him. Even though I don't think I would get much argument that he's better than Anton Volchenkov or Bryce Salvador, his contract was the easiest to move. As a result, he will return to the only other team he's played for: the Sabres.
With this move, I would expect to hear about some more signings soon. Tallinder getting dumped to Buffalo means that the Devils now have roughly $7.1875 million in cap space. I'm sure fans are very interested to hear about what kind of contracts Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson will be getting. Both were qualified restricted free agents and both will get significant raises. With only $3.8 million, it was going to be tight; now the Devils have breathing room to keep both of them while leaving some space open.
I'm sure there will be some excitement over the fact that the Devils finally moved one of their eight defenseman. Gulitti's post did state the move was to make some room for a young defender. However, I suggest that you refrain from penciling in your favorite defenseman prospect to play on the NHL Devils for the moment. The Devils have expressed interest for weeks about bringing back Marek Zidlicky. This move could have been made to make that possible, which would bring the Devils back to seven defensemen on the NHL roster. Zidlicky's defensive gaffes aside, he was the only defender to really bring some offense to the table - or at least trying to bring some offense. He would address that need. I don't know if they'll carry eight, but I don't think they should. I would prefer a prospect to play regularly rather than sit in the press box and that's still the situation even without Tallinder.
I think it's definitely possible to sign Henrique, Josefson, and Zidlicky without using up all $7 million and change left on the cap. How much cap space they will all take remains to be seen. I don't think it'll be long before we find out; just like this trade coming out on a Sunday afternoon in July. I would have liked this deal to have included an extra pick, even a low one, coming back to New Jersey. But I understand that's not really an option in a salary dump trade. The purpose was to move a significant contract and the Devils did just that. If they use it wisely, then the deal was worth making.
Was it the right decision to move Henrik Tallinder? Will you miss Tallinder? Do you think he'll do well in Buffalo next season? How would you like to see the Devils use this additional cap space? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this trade, Tallinder, and the Devils defense in the comments. Thank you for reading.