It's February 9 and less than a month away from the NHL Trade Deadline. All thirty teams have until 3 PM EST on March 2 to make any trades for this season. As it's been clear that the New Jersey Devils will not be playing in the postseason, I'd say there are plenty of Devils fans who want the team trade veteran players. Especially those that are pending unrestricted free agents. Therefore, now is a good time as any to discuss what the Devils should do as the trade deadline gets closer.
That sounds easy. The Devils are thin in terms of offensive talent at forward, particularly wingers, at both the NHL and prospect levels. They could definitely benefit from an extra draft pick or two. However, trading players requires another team to be interested in that player for a perceived reasonable return. This is the problem for anyone who think that the Devils can and/or should dump as many people as possible. If the player hasn't been very good, then who's going to want them? Let's look back at 2011. The Devils traded all of two players after the MacLean Error ended. Jamie Langenbrunner was the first and that was more for the fact that he wasn't going to last under Jacques Lemaire. The second was Jason Arnott, who plenty of fans didn't want to see go by the trade deadline. That was the extent of the fire sale and a big part of that is that there wasn't that much interest that would warrant a deal. It's something to consider. It's another reason why it's not so simple for New Jersey to move the veterans to play the kids they may or may not have.
That being said, the sticking point is the notion of a perceived reasonable return. That is, if whatever a player (or players) would get in return appears to management to be worth it, then a deal will be made. Anyone can be traded for essentially nothing. But no one would like to see the Devils move, say, Jaromir Jagr for a seventh rounder two drafts from now. Almost everyone would move him if the Devils were to get a proverbial treasure chest of assets. So let's try to answer that question. What should the Devils seek if they trade away some of their players by March 2?
Why I Think Teams Would Want Him: Let's start with Jagr. He's on a one year deal, so it's not a guarantee whether he'll keep playing hockey much less for the Devils. He's also last season's leading scorer and currently this season's leading scorer on the Devils. Additionally, according to War on Ice, Jagr remains as one New Jersey's best possession players though he doesn't have the same dominant CF% he had last season. In short, Jagr is New Jersey's best forward. If he can contribute on NJ, then he can contribute for other teams that could use a veteran winger. Especially if they need someone to play hard on the perimeter but also know when to cut inside for a shot. Lastly, he's been through this process before and he's OK with being moved.
Why I Think Teams Would Not Want Him: He'll be 43 right after Valentine's Day. He's also not as good as he was last season, which could be an effect of his age. He can still play, sure, but it's hard to imagine teams lining up for a 43-year old to bolster their offense. Particularly one with eleven goals, eighteen assists, and 106 shots. Not awful numbers, but nothing exceptional either. Also: he's leading the Devils in minor penalties, which is never a positive.
What I Think Would Be an Acceptable Return: If someone offers a first round pick, then the Devils have to at least think about it - and likely say yes. I'm not sure if anyone would go that high. A second and a mid-level forward prospect would be sufficient too, though that may be too much. A pick alone is fine. A prospect (or an actual player) and a pick would be fantastic. But I wouldn't accept a third rounder or less than that. I'm not even sure if a potentially late second round pick on it's own would be acceptable given Jagr's importance to the Devils. I'm being partially selfish because I don't want to see this team without Jagr for twenty-something games. Still, if the Devils want to move their top forward, they should demand quite a bit.
Why I Think Teams Would Want Him: He's a veteran offensive defenseman and he could be quite useful in the right situation. He leads the Devils' defense in points with four goals, eighteen assists, and 84 shots on net. Zidlicky has never been one to shy away from jumping up on offense or pinching to keep an attack alive. He also can make some excellent passes going forward. Used appropriately (power play time, not top-four minutes unless he has an awesome partner, sheltered situations), Zidlicky can provide many rewards.
Why I Think Teams Would Not Want Him: Zidlicky, as well all know, comes with many risks. He's prone to taking penalties as he led the Devils in minor penalties last season and he's second to Jagr in minors this season. Zidlicky's never been all that good defensively and when he gets beaten or thinks he will, he'll foul the attacker. Furthermore, he can take too many risks when he pinches or jumps up on offense, providing little gain at best and an odd man rush the other way at worst. All that, he's 38 with a no-trade clause. The latter just means Zidlicky has a say in where he wants to go. The former plus all of the risks may mean few teams may be interested.
What I Think Would Be an Acceptable Return: I would think a second round pick would be enough to move Zidlicky. He's not likely be in so much demand to want anything more. At the same time, I think he can provide real value to a playoff team as a specialist. Playoff teams generally want to bolster their team without spending a lot. Zidlicky can definitely be that player and I don't think a second round pick is too much. A conditional second rounder may be acceptable too, but only if it's not outrageous (e.g. a third that becomes a second if the team goes to the Finals or if Zidlicky re-signs.)
Why I Think Teams Would Want Him: He's a right winger with a great shot and a history of being a scorer. If he gets linemates to set him up for shots, he can make a second or third line that much more of a pain to deal with. You want a shooter? Ryder is a shooter.
Why I Think Teams Would Not Want Him: Ryder has scored 24 goals in 124 games with the Devils. Yes, his shooting percentage in NJ was lower than prior seasons. As he'll be turning 35 in March, it's possible that his scoring history may be just that. In addition, as we know from the last two seasons, if Ryder's not shooting then he's not helping. Ryder doesn't play defense at even a decent level, he's not effective along the perimeter, and he's not good off the puck. He is a shooter and that is really it.
What Would Be an Acceptable Return: I will admit I've been dogging the guy. For weeks, I compared him to various SCTV characters. That said, I do think if a team comes along and offers even a third rounder, then I think the Devils should say yes. The hope was that he'd give the Devils an offensive element they didn't really have. That never bore out. Maybe he can fit in better on another team. I wouldn't hold my breath for someone making that offer or even a better one, but I would be fine for a low return at this point. If someone does offer a second rounder (or more), then I'd be rather glad.
There are a number of veterans I didn't name like Dainius Zubrus, Scott Gomez, Martin Havlat, Peter Harrold, Mark Fraser, and Steve Bernier. I'm not sure who would want them really. Zubrus is a shell of his former self and has another year left on his deal. Gomez has proven he can play in the NHL but I'm less sure another team wants a pass-first-second-and-maybe-third forward who isn't as good as he once was on defense. Havlat hasn't done anything that would warrant attraction. Harrold and Fraser haven't been in the NHL all season; if anyone makes an offer for them, it's be a surprise and likely an easy "yes." As much improved Bernier has been this season, I don't think "energy forward" is a real team need that warrants a legitimate deal. To an extent, it's those cases where I struggle to see other teams offering something of real value that adds to my feeling that the Devils can't really have a fire sale of all of their older players.
I also didn't mention Andy Greene. That's intentional on my part. He's too important to the team's blueline right now as the only solid first-pairing defender in the organization. If Damon Severson or Adam Larsson get to that level, then maybe Greene can be moved when his contract is closer to expiring. But not now unless a team is willing to offer a comparable player. I don't think there really is one, but I also don't think there are many who want to see Greene go. Typically, the "trade the veterans" part refers to either veterans who aren't good, veterans who are almost out of contract, or both.
That being said, please let me know what you think. Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe there are teams that will line up for Jagr, Zidlicky, and maybe even Ryder. Maybe there are other veteran players that will have other teams call up the Devils about a potential deal. Maybe you think the Devils can get more than what I would think is acceptable. Please let me know what you think the Devils should be seeking by the trade deadline, particularly for veteran players in the comments. Thank you for reading.