Ray Shero has made a lot of moves since becoming the Devils general manager in 2015. Each summer has featured big trades and lots of other maneuvering has been spread in between. With a few exceptions, the moves Shero has made have been really good. The trade for Kyle Palmieri was a coup, the Taylor Hall-Adam Larsson trade is one of the lager heists in recent memory, and Marcus Johansson was gotten for a song this past offseason. A lot of the focus has been on the big moves, and rightfully so, those are obviously the most impactful. Shero has made a lot of smaller moves though, too, some of them duds like at last year’s trade deadline, but others, like the acquisition of Stefan Noesen last season, have been successes.
Given his status as a bottom-six forward, it’s easy to forget about Noesen when you’re talking about Shero’s work as a GM. But Noesen has been a solid contributor since arriving in New Jersey and the price he was gotten for (nothing) was as good as it gets. Every so often, a decent player can hit waivers, and Shero did a good job identifying someone who could help the team.
Noesen was a first-round pick for Ottawa back in 2011, but never made it to the NHL with the Senators. He got shipped to Anaheim as a piece in the blockbuster Bobby Ryan trade in 2013 before he had made it out of juniors. Once in Anaheim, Noesen didn’t much more NHL ice than he did in Ottawa only getting into two games in his first two seasons with the organization and 12 in the first half of 2016-17. Despite notching his first two NHL goals in that 12-game stint, the Ducks felt they had no room for him, so he ended up waived, likely with the hope that he’d pass through and head to the AHL. That was not to be, though, as the Devils took a low-risk chance on the former first-rounder by plucking him off the waiver wire.
After arriving in New Jersey, he was immediately treated to more playing time on a roster badly short on forward options. He didn’t set the world on fire, but he had positive relative possession stats to go along with 6 goals in 32 games of third/fourth-line minutes for the Devils. The kind of contributions that don’t make much difference on a bad team, but can be exactly the nudge a better team needs to help them in a playoff race.
The Devils ended up retaining Noesen in the offseason on a near-league-minimum contract, and thus far, it has been a good move. Noesen started slow, at least on the score sheet, but he has come alive in December and has been a big part of the Devils’ recent surge. He now has 9 points in the month of December while still averaging around 13 minutes a game. He got some deserved shine when he put up 2 goals including the game winner against his former team on the night where the focus was supposed to be on Adam Henrique and Sami Vatanen in the aftermath of Shero’s latest blockbuster.
Scoring depth has been a struggle for the Devils since what feels like ever, but having a bottom six that can be dynamic and can help pick up some slack when there are injuries or slumps elsewhere in the lineup can be big. And Noesen, who, again the Devils picked up for free off of waivers, is showing that he is capable of being a key part of that type of bottom six. His CF% this season is actually fourth among Devils forwards while getting pretty tough zone starts and with his recent hot streak, he’s now up to 11 points in 29 GP. That projects out to about a 31-point season over 82 games, which is a real nice contribution to get out of someone taken off the scrap heap just a year ago.
With all of the moves Ray Shero has made the past couple years, it’s easy to see why a guy like Noesen has flown a bit under the radar as one of his good moves, but with him and some other surprise contributors making the bottom six a pesky one to deal with for other teams, it’s worth it to hand out some kudos. Noesen, despite being relatively young and having that first-round pedigree, probably won’t be a real top-six type player at any point for New Jersey, but he’s shown the ability to be a solid role player and a great value, which are both important for a team looking to compete in today’s NHL.