Today was a day of complaints, laments, and cries of boredom. The NHL trade deadlines of years past were loaded with trades, with more than plenty happening right at the actual 3:00 PM EST deadline. This year, plenty devoted to the all-day coverage had plenty of time to fill. There were many deals that happened at the deadline itself, with several announced after 3:00 PM once it cleared NHL Central Registry. Yet, the big deals that happened in the days prior the actual 2016 NHL Trade Deadline Day meant for a more low-key deal. Some of the rumored names didn't get moved at all, such as Tampa Bay's Jonathan Drouin, Boston's Loui Eriksson, and everyone available on Vancouver. I suppose the lesson for the bloggers, the journalists, and the other media people who regret such a slow NHL Trade Deadline Day is not to put all your eggs in one basket, hoping the final day of trades would be filled with them.
That all said, the New Jersey Devils were not on the sidelines today. Ray Shero made five roster moves, including three trades. The first roster move was bringing Stefan Matteau back from his conditioning assignment from Albany. The second roster move was picking up defenseman David Warsofsky. While he was just in the Penguins organization, the small, left-shooting defender spent most his career in the Boston system. Mostly in the minors putting up some inconsistent production (two great years, two not at all great years) per Elite Prospects. As he's turning 26 in May, he's definitely just depth. At the time, he was the eighth defenseman in New Jersey. It wouldn't be long before he became the seventh by default.
Devils Trade #1: Eric Gelinas to Colorado for a 2017 3rd Round Pick
Somebody give Gerard a can of Coke. He thought Eric Gelinas could be dealt last Thursday, and he was right. As Chris got the post up here, the deal was Gelinas for a 2017 third round pick. Not exactly the greatest of returns. However, Gelinas has been sitting for the last few weeks. And I suspect most in the league know all about Gelinas. His main asset is his shot. He's got The Truth, a very powerful slapshot; and his wrist shot is pretty good too. His flaws seem to be mostly everything else. He's not a fast skater. He's not all that good of a passer. After over 160 games in three seasons, he still makes basic defensive errors. He's prone to pinching when he shouldn't, allowing opposition players to beat him easily. His postioning is not usually where it needs to be. Even though defense isn't about throwing hits, good luck expecting this big man to throw a decent one. With all of this put together, a third round pick in 2017 isn't a bad return at all. So I think this deal is OK.
Personally, I'm glad the Devils did trade Gelinas. I think many people, myself included, had high hopes for Gelinas during his rookie season. However, the lack of progression in the last two years made it clear that those hopes weren't going to be achieved. The most telling point of his three seasons in New Jersey is that he ended up as a healthy scratch or stuck with very limited minutes under three different head coaches and two general managers. He's played his way out of favor. And even when he was playing under John Hynes, that he didn't get much power play time - the one area where Gelinas could be valuable, assuming the power play game plan is to let him bomb away indiscriminately - told me that he didn't think much of him. This is a good opportunity for Gelinas to get his career back on track in a new organization. Hopefully Colorado isn't a terrible possession team that thinks he can handle anything but sheltered minutes.
Trade #2: Lee Stempniak to Boston for a 2017 2nd Round Pick and 2016 4th Round Pick
Ray Shero's shrewdest move in 2015-16 was signing Lee Stempniak off a professional tryout contract. He leaves New Jersey as the team's leading scorer in points. He brings back to New Jersey two picks from Boston: a potentially valuable second rounder in 2017 and a long-shot fourth rounder in this year. That's not bad business for someone who was signed to a one-year deal for $850,000. It's pretty good business from where I sit. We've written plenty of praise about Stempniak this season - Alex had the most recent one - and that's simply because he's earned it. He will be missed in New Jersey, as evidenced by some of the comments to Chris' post.
Of the Devils' three trades, this one is clearly the one that says, "Yeah, we're probably not going for it this season." Granted, their recent play and a season full of one step forward followed by one step backward (or vice versa) would indicate that by itself. But moving a player who was an excellent fit in the top six, played in all situations, played well on most nights, and, oh yeah, led the team in points further hammers that point home. I can understand some disappointment over this as Stempniak recently indicated that he wanted to stay per this post by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice. The good news is that this summer, Stempniak will be an unrestricted free agent. If he still feels that way, I wouldn't mind it if Shero made an effort to bring him back. That there were some preliminary discussions about a new contract makes me think it's a real possibility. In the meantime, I hope he does well with Boston. They're getting a solid forward who can do a lot of things well on the ice.
Trade #3: Stefan Matteau to Montreal for Devante Smith-Pelly
The final trade of the evening was a player-for-player trade, as posted here by Steve. It's more like a problem-for-problem deal. Stefan Matteau was even more on the outside than Gelinas was under Hynes. Matteau was stuck behind many forwards and when he did play, he didn't make much of a case to the coaches that he should play more. He was arguably a victim of some bizarre management by Lou and the previous coaching regimes. Burning his ELC right after his draft year was a mistake. He should've stayed in juniors - as contentious as his junior team was - and went through the minors first. He's been stuck in New Jersey due to waiver eligibility coming fast for the 22 year old, where he wasn't playing and developing. What could have been a potential bottom-six pest now looks more like "just a guy" in a league that demands players to be more than "just a guy." Seeing him traded at least gives him a badly needed fresh start. Perhaps Montreal can pick up the pieces.
Devante Smith-Pelly came to some prominance as an effective fourth liner for Anaheim. He was traded to Montreal and proceeded, to, well not be an effective fourth liner. According to this analysis of the deal at Habs Eyes on the Prize by Aruny Siv and Justin Blades, here's a summation of Smith-Pelly in his time with Montreal:
Smith-Pelly didn't do himself any favours to turn the fans to his side, often appearing uninterested in playing the hard-nosed, forechecking style he was expected to display. His spot in the lineup was a source of frustration for those who wanted to see one of the prospects on the verge of their NHL career get their chance to shine.
In 66 games with the Canadiens, Smith-Pelly contributed 15 points, accruing 34 penalty minutes.
Based on the HERO chart in that post, it's not like the Devils are getting somebody great for Matteau. Again, the real appeal here is that while he was upset about leaving Montreal (Note: Link goes to a Tweet with a video), this is an opportunity for a fresh start for Smith-Pelly. I could see him inserted into the Devils' fourth line. Provided he can be hardworking forechecker like he showed in Anaheim, I can see him becoming a regular and getting re-signed by Shero this summer as he's a restricted free agent. I wouldn't expect him to be much more than that but it could be more than what Matteau has done. In that sense, I think this is a good deal for both sides.
What Others Have Said
For an opposition reaction of these trades, please see the following posts:
Ryan Murphy has this short post about the Gelinas deal at Mile High Hockey. It includes a HERO chart that makes it look like Gelinas is really good. Oh, they're going to learn in Colorado. But seriously, the HERO chart's weakness is the lack of context involved with it's Corsi readings and Gelinas is a great example.
Sarah Connors has this short post about the Lee Stempniak trade at Stanley Cup of Chowder. Apparently, Stempniak was on a PTO with Boston. Guess it's a little better now knowing that they didn't sign him and now gave New Jersey two picks to get him.
At Habs Eyes on the Prize, Jared Book had this short post about the Matteau-Smith-Pelly deal and Siv and Blades had this short analysis of the deal. Both use the same HERO chart. Interesting!
At the end of the day, Shero turned two players that weren't in his or Hynes' plans and Lee Stempniak into three picks and a possible, actual NHL regular forward in exchange for a NHL non-regular forward. While I would have been thrilled if some of these picks were a little higher, the Devils have a real opportunity in the next two drafts to build up their prospect system. With an extra second in 2017, an extra third this year and next year, and an extra fourth this year, the Devils can add quantity to the system. Quality may arguably be more ideal, but the Devils need more players to develop instead of relying on so few to make it. The hope is that the scouting staff will uncover a diamond in the rough, which would make these deals even more with it. But with these additional picks, they can and they should take chances on some skilled players late in the draft - preferably forwards - to fill the system and see what comes of it. As it stands right now, I think the picks they got were fine. Overall, I think Shero did some good business. I think he did well today. Now we'll see over the next six weeks whether the Devils start falling apart in the standings or try to stay where they are at.
First, I want to thank Chris and Steve for being available today - and usually most other days - to post up Devils news as it happens. They did a good job.
Now that you know what I think of how the Ray Shero and the Devils did at today's 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, I want to know what you think. Do you think Shero did well? Could have he done more? What else did you want him to do, and why? Are you fine with the three picks he picked up today? What do you expect out of Smith-Pelly? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about today's transactions in the comments. Thanks to everyone who commented in our open post, on the news posts, and you for reading this post.