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Trading Cammalleri, or Exposing Him

Over the last two games, the one notable absence from the Devils’ roster has been Michael Cammalleri. His absence isn’t from an injury either, but rather because of his massive goal drought and slump. Should the Devils look to trade him before the deadline, or keep him and expose him in the upcoming expansion draft?

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

From what I have heard, there are two prevailing thoughts about what to do with the recently healthy scratched Michael Cammalleri. Yeah, the one that has one goal in his last 33 games, a 47% Corsi, and seemingly nowhere to go but down considering he is 34 years old. He does have a no trade clause on his contract, but the thought is that if he is moved to a potential contender, where his skills could be rejuvenated and he could potentially play for a Cup as early as this year, he would be happy to waive that clause and move. The other thought is that he could be kept and exposed, and considering the other options for exposure on the New Jersey Devils would most likely be Devante Smith-Pelly at forward, either Ben Lovejoy, John Moore or Jon Merrill for defense, and Scott Wedgewood at goalie, there is a decent chance that it would be Cammalleri selected by Vegas at the Expansion Draft.

Let’s take a somewhat deeper look at both sides, and then we can all debate about which would be the better option.

Trade Him!

The major bonus to trading him, assuming the Devils can find a team willing to take his $5 million salary and cap hit, is the guarantee that he is indeed moved. Leaving him up for exposure makes no guarantees that Vegas will actually take him. In a trade scenario, New Jersey actually has more of a direct hand in his departure.

Also, trading him of course brings the benefit of getting something in return. The value on him is difficult to really say. This is a player that just last season had 38 points in 42 games, nearly posting a point per game while healthy. And even though his scoring drought has reached epic proportions, he does have 20 assists on the season, so he has produced something this year that could merit a decent trade value. His history also suggests that in the right environment, he can be a reliable top 6 producer.

The main negatives that would drive down his trade value are things I have already listed: age and contract. He carries a $5 million cap hit through the 2018-19 season, which is no small number. The contract would also keep him employed until he is 36 years old, and if this season is a sign of a dip in production due to age (possible, but hard to say for sure), then there is the potential that whichever team trades for him could see diminishing returns over the next two seasons.

In the end, even if his trade value only ends up being something mediocre like a 4th rounder, it still holds some value. The Devils are stockpiling picks, and could end up trading a bunch for some quality players. Another pick would be helpful to reach that end. But in my opinion, the main benefit to the trade scenario is the guarantee that he is being moved, as opposed to having to simply hope that he gets taken by Vegas because of his exposure.

Expose Him!

I have already listed some of the negatives for exposing already. There is no guarantee that he gets taken, and the Devils get nothing in return in this scenario. However, there are indeed positives to keeping him and exposing him to Vegas. The biggest reason has to do with opportunity cost: exposing him means the ability to protect someone else. If you click into Cap Friendly’s expansion draft tool I linked above, you can see how the situation currently looks. Two forwards have to be exposed by the Devils, and the projected list of those who can be exposed has Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique, Michael Cammalleri, and Devante Smith-Pelly. If this ends up being accurate, in my opinion the obvious two to expose are Cammalleri and DSP.

If Cammalleri is traded, however, you then have to expose one of Hall, Zajac, Palmieri or Henrique. There is zero percent chance that Hall or Henrique get exposed in my opinion, and I don’t think they will expose Palmieri given his age and potential to be a cornerstone, so the person the team would most likely have to expose is Zajac. Some fans would argue that getting rid of him would not be the worst idea in the world given he is turning 32 in May, never panned out as an elite scorer, and is only halfway through an 8 year deal that carries a yearly $5.75 million cap hit. However, he has been playing fairly well this year, still is an elite two-way center and excellent faceoff man, and is a leader on this team. Between him and Cammalleri, I don’t think there is a real debate as to who would be better to get rid of through the expansion draft. Cammalleri is the guy to expose.

The question then becomes this: is the risk worth the potential reward? Is the risk of Cammalleri not being taken by Vegas, and also the loss of whatever you could’ve gotten for him in a trade, worth the reward of being able to protect Zajac? That is really what it boils down to. How much does the Devils organization want Zajac around for the next several seasons? If they are committed to having him remain a top 6 center for the Devils as the team looks to break out of its rebuild, then they may feel the risk is worth it. If they see other options in the system to fill that void up the middle, then perhaps getting something for Cammalleri in a trade and letting Vegas take Zajac is the better play.

In my opinion, I think a lot of it comes down to what the team can get for Cammy in a trade. If they can get a quality player in return, possibly a good defender or a decent draft pick, then pull the trigger. But if the only real trade offers are bringing back late round picks or fringe NHL players, then the value of keeping him in order to protect Zajac becomes more relevant.

What do you think? Do you think trading him is the better play, especially if trading him brings in decent value? Or do you think keeping him the rest of the season in order to expose him and protect Zajac is the better option? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.