The 2017 offseason has brought about great change already for our New Jersey Devils; the team lost defender Jon Merrill to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft but gained a possible impact forward by selecting Nico Hischier first overall in the Entry Draft. Just before free agency opened, the team announced that it would buy out both Michael Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly; while the only significant signing the team made wasn’t necessarily one we fans wanted, the Brian Boyle deal should be a good deal that brings leadership, penalty killing, and someone (besides Travis Zajac) who can win more draws than they lose.
Ray Shero shocked the hockey world (or at least me) on Monday by acquiring Marcus Johansson from the Washington Capitals in exchange for
Lou Lamoriello and taking on Marc Savard’s contract a second and third round draft pick. it was another smart, suave Shero move a la the Kyle Palmieri trade, and from reading many hockey fans reactions, the Devils have seemingly already won the trade without MoJo even playing a game yet for New Jersey. Not lost in the excitement of the trade was that Shero stated he expected Johansson to slot in at left wing or center, which begs the question: who plays right wing for the Devils this year?
With Smith-Pelly bought out and Beau Bennett not being qualified and leaving through unrestricted free agency, the Devils are left with Kyle Palmieri and RFA Stefan Noesen on the right side. There’s a top 6 and bottom 6 role open for the taking on the right side, but the team seemingly lacks the personnel to fill at least one of those gaps; there were quite a few players who were called up from and subsequently sent back down to the AHL at some point last season who could slot into the bottom 6 with Noesen, such as Nick Lappin, though there will certainly be other options.
One of those other options is the youth movement coming into New Jersey; Nico Hischier certainly isn’t the only talented forward prospect they have, and 2016 first round choice Michael McLeod is a right shooting option that New Jersey could turn to fill one of the gaps on the right side. His teammate in juniors Nathan Bastian was taken later in the same draft and also shoots right; he could be another option that gets an extended look before the season begins. They could also bring a player such as Lappin back, but I’m not sure how much interest there is in that option, as he (among others) was not particularly effective last season; Nick specifically doesn’t strike me as the type of player to flourish in a fourth line role, and I’m not sure Hynes wants him in the top 6.
The other option I see that currently presents itself is to see if Shero can again make a shrewd trade with a cap strapped team; Johansson was an excellent acquisition for our team, but he again is a left handed shot. I’m not sure who would be available, but in terms of teams pressed closely to (or above) the cap, we’re looking at Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Dallas and Anaheim. The former pair are both technically over the cap according to Cap Friendly, while the latter 3 are all very close without having a full 23 man roster. Some of those teams may have LTIR moves to make, but again, the closer they are to the cap, they more likely they may need to move a piece or two as Washington did.
The right side hasn’t been as strong as the left for a few years now for our Devils, but it seems to be a bigger weakness than any other position (yes, even defense) right now. What do you think New Jersey should do about their right wing depth for the upcoming season? Should they go for a rehash such as Lappin? Should they look towards prospects such as McLeod or Bastian? Should Ray Shero be looking for another cap-strapped team to pounce on? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!