In two weeks, it will be the NHL Trade Deadline for the 2014-15 season. After 3 PM EST, all team's rosters are set for the rest of the season. The New Jersey Devils aren't going to make the playoffs and so there are many fans anxious for the team to move some players that likely won't be back next season. Especially since another non-playoff-bound team, Toronto, made a deal and picked up a first round pick on Sunday. I can agree that the Devils should sell. However, as I've written earlier this season, a fire sale is not so simple. Last week, I pointed out how the Devils should try to get some actual value rather than move players for nothing. Today, I want to discuss the actual market for the upcoming trade deadline.
Believe it or not, I fully expect there to be plenty of buyers available over the next two weeks. While there are multiple teams in the Devils' position - no shot at the playoffs, will look to sell - there are more teams jockeying for position. The Eastern Conference may be mostly set for the postseason in terms of who's going, but the match-ups are very much in doubt. I can see a team like Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay looking to add one more player to help them get that home playoff series and add to their depth. Given Boston's recent struggles, a small window of opportunity appears to be present for Florida. And Philadelphia may be close enough for management to (funnily) think they can "go for it." The Western Conference is more wide open with three teams still in the mix for a wild card spot (Minnesota, Los Angeles, Dallas) in addition to playoff teams that are looking for that additional piece to go over the proverbial top. In total, I counted twenty teams that could be interested in adding players and so the Devils could have up to eighteen options. Let's be real, the Devils aren't likely to make a deal with the Rangers or Flyers.
Of course, we cannot consider these teams as the full market. Putting their own individual needs aside, there is the matter of the salary cap. Teams are still limited by cap space and the number of contracts. For the former, it's always messy what with players being called up or sent down, players going on and off injured reserve, and so forth. For the latter, the limit is fifty. Teams can exceed that provided those on entry level contracts under the age of twenty have their contracts slide. For the Devils, it could make the difference between getting picks or players from a team for their veterans. Speaking of picks, not every one of these teams has a first or a second rounder available. That's also worth noting.
For the benefit of the Devils' fan, I've made this helpful chart of all playoff and playoff-bubble teams as of the morning on February 15, 2015. Without the amazing resource called CapGeek, I took the cap space figures and manually counted contracts from NHL Numbers. If there are any errors, then please let me know and I'll make corrections. For the draft picks, I consulted Pro Sports Transactions, which has a running list of the state of all team's draft picks for 2015.
Lastly, and just as importantly, here's the Devils' cap and pick situation. The Devils have $3.033 million in cap space, 46 contracts on the books, and both their first and second round picks in 2015. Here's the chart of the same information for potential buyers for this year's trade deadline. All dollar figures are in millions.
|Team||Cap Space||# Contracts||2015 1st Rd?||2015 2nd Rd?|
|Tampa Bay||$3.071||49||Yes (2)||No|
|NY Rangers||$1.252||49||No||Yes (2)|
Teams in italics are not in the playoffs. Note: When I looked up Nashville in NHL Numbers, they didn't update it for yesterday morning's trade. They had Nashville at $10.702 million in cap space. Given the trade was two contracts and a pick for two contracts, I believe they're still at 48 contracts and should have approximately $8.402 million in cap space. If my math is wrong, I'm sorry.
In any case, this provides some clarity to some of the thoughts and hodge podge I've seen regarding the Devils and trades. For starters, it doesn't look like Pittsburgh would be a good trade partner in my eyes. They're at the reserve limit, they have the least amount of cap space among all playoff teams, and they don't have a first round pick. The Devils have the space to take some players back from Pittsburgh for, say, Jaromir Jagr. But would that really be worth it if they can get a first round pick from someone else? As much as the Devils could use depth in the system, I think picks would be more valuable. And the Pens don't have that beyond a likely low second rounder. Unless that's all the market would offer for Jagr (and it might be the case), well, sorry, #JagrWatch fans.
Second, the New York Islanders would be an even worse trade partner. Sure, they're without Kyle Okposo for quite some time. But I don't see them as a good team to trade with. Like the Penguins, they're at the contract limit. Unlike the Penguins, they don't have a first or a second round pick. While they have the space to add Jagr straight up, it would have to be for some prospective players. I don't think that's really worth it unless the Islanders are going to give up someone really talented in their system. I also don't think the Isles will do that for a 43-year old or any other Devil. Most importantly, the Isles have proven they're just fine without Mr. Okposo.
Third, about a week ago, supposed insider Joe Haggerty said the Bruins may be interested in Michael Ryder. I think that's something that could work. The Bruins can add his contract without much issue; maybe the Devils have to take someone back to make the salaries work - or eat some of it themselves. But the real draw there is that the Bruins have two second round picks. If Boston is willing to give up their second rounder for Ryder - I doubt they'll move Philly's second rounder, which they got from the Islanders for Johnny Boychuk, as it'll be a higher one - then the Devils should absolutely do it. I really don't think it'll be that good of a return unless they package Ryder with someone else, but it's a rumor where the team and the Devils doing business makes some more sense.
Outside of the rumors, the other team's cap situations provide some other considerations. Devils should definitely poke around whether Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, San Jose, Minnesota and Calgary could use a Devil or two. They all significant cap space to make a deal work. They all can add contracts. Tampa Bay and Winnipeg each has two first round picks, while Calgary and San Jose still have their picks to move. I'll admit I don't know enough about each to know whether they could or want to acquire a Devil, but again, it's something to consider. The same logic could apply to Nashville even after their big deal on Sunday as they still have lots of space and can add contracts, although they have no first rounder to move.
Considerations can and will open up if the Devils are willing to take a contract back or assume some of the salary of a moved player. They have the cap space and reserve list space to do so. Doing so would open up potential business with Anaheim as well as some other teams who don't quite have a lot of cap space but have picks and can add contracts. If the Devils want to take players back, they have to be careful not just to take more mid-level prospects. Yes, the Devils do need forwards in the system but they don't need anymore that project to be bottom-six players at best, who get by on "working hard" and not an actual skill. That will not help them and the whole point of making these trades is to help the Devils - even if it is for the future.
It's important to recognize the number of potential buyers and their own roster and cap situations. It's just as important to recognize the importance of patience. I know Toronto just made a trade that got them a first rounder. Combined with four straight losses, I understand the calls for wanting something to be done and to do it right now. That usually leads to less than ideal moves. It's no accident that most of the trades happen on the day of the trade deadline as teams are weighing multiple offers, using them as leverage to get better deals. The Devils are a bad hockey team that doesn't have a lot of very valuable assets. It is imperative that Lou maximizes what he could get for those assets, based on what other teams will offer for them. Lou knows how to do that and it's not done by doing things quickly, especially in response to another team's transaction. So unless one of these listed teams blow Lou away with an offer right now, it makes way more sense for the Devils to play the market instead of making a move just to say he made a move. With so many potential buyers with their own needs and desires to improve, patience is going to be the preferred route.
I hope from this post, you can appreciate that there are teams who could be interested in adding players by March 2, those teams have their own cap and draft pick situations, and the Devils should aim to get the most value for their assets by working with teams who actually can give them something that will help them actually rebuild. Hopefully, those deals will be made by 3 PM EST on March 2. What do you think of the trade market as it looks right now? Who do you want the Devils to business with by the trade deadline? What do you think the Devils can offer that team? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils' trade deadline situation in the comments. Thank you for reading.