Earlier this hour, the New Jersey Devils announced a trade with the Florida Panthers. The Devils acquired Marc Savard and a second round pick in 2018 for Graham Black and Paul Thompson. This was announced on their official website.
Admittedly, I’m surprised that this deal was done. I suspect it’s a sign that the Devils aren’t going to be big spenders in this offseason. Marc Savard was a very skilled forward, putting up 706 points in 807 NHL games from 1997 through 2011. Savard has not played a single NHL game since January 2011. Savard was infamously concussed by a vicious blindside hit by Matt Cooke on March 7, 2010. The hit was so bad that it helped pave the way for the current rules regarding headshots and similar hits. Savard suffered another concussion on January 23, 2011 which led to being shut down for that season. Since then, he has not returned to play at all. His contract has been moved around from Boston to Florida. With one year remaining with a cap hit of $4,027,143 and a salary of $575,000, according to General Fanager, he's now on the Devils’ books. In effect, the Devils picked up Savard’s contract - not the player.
The large cap number will help them get over the salary cap floor. It also means that any expectations of the Devils going out into the open market and spending a lot of money should be dampened. Adding a large cap/small salary contract is not something a team does with the intention of offering a number of significant contracts to unrestricted free agents. This isn't to say the Devils will do nothing in July; they still have a little over $27 million in cap space right now. Their pending restricted free agents will take up a good chunk of that and they’ll do a little spending to fill in gaps in the roster. I’m just suggesting that this move means that a Devils fan should lower their hopes for a big signing. The move sure helps Florida’s books, which makes sense as they’ll have some work to do to strengthen their roster. Now that they had a taste of playoff success, the next step is to become contenders. We’ll see if they use their new-found $4 million in cap space wisely.
The real "get" here is Florida’s second round pick in 2018. This means the Devils have nine picks in that draft, with five in the first three rounds. Should the Devils remain in a rebuilding mode then - and they very well might be - this is a plus. Just as well, the Devils sending back Black and Thompson is a relatively cheap cost. Black just finished his second season in professional hockey. Given he’s put up fourteen goals and nine assists in 96 games with Albany and has stayed relatively low on the depth chart, it appears to be a long shot as to whether the fifth-rounder from 2012 will make it to the NHL level. Thompson has been an AHL lifer until making his NHL debut last season with the New Jersey Devils in three appearances. Thompson was one of Albany’s better players in the two seasons he's been in the organization; he’ll likely contribute to Florida’s farm team.
Do I like this deal? I do. As mentioned, I think the additional cap space - again, getting Savard is getting an expiring contract worth about $4 million in cap space - a sign that the Devils won't be in the running for any of the big names that could hit the market this summer. Likewise, they won’t sign a whole lot of players outside of any gaps in the roster they need to address. Even then, they will likely be relatively low-cost, short-term deals. The Devils got a second rounder and an expiring contract for two minor leaguers. In that perspective, that’s a pretty good move to make for a team that doesn’t expect to go anywhere in 2016-17. The rebuild continues and we’ll cross our fingers that the second rounder in two years becomes somebody good in the further future.
The deal has been made. What do you think of it? Do you agree that getting Marc Savard’s contract is a sign that the Devils won’t do a whole lot in free agency this summer? Do you like the return for New Jersey given that they didn’t give up much? Do you like this reminder that the Devils are still a rebuilding team? Please leave your thoughts about this trade in the comments. Thank you for reading.