The New Jersey Devils have had a few days off since their most recent disappointment of being shut out by the Columbus Blue Jackets but will resume their season tonight when they visit the Boston Bruins. With so much having not gone the way they would have liked this season, there are a few interesting narratives to be paying attention to as the Devils wrap up their 2018, and march towards the trade deadline on February 25.
1.) “Mackenzie will get a real good look here after the break.”
This of course is a quote from Coach John Hynes regarding Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood. With the terrible goaltending that Cory Schneider has provided this season, and Keith Kinkaid falling off of a cliff as well, someone needs to step in and try and give the Devils some quality between the pipes. While his NHL look has been limited so far, Blackwood has given Jersey’s Team a chance to win whenever he has started in net. He’s also come in and looked pretty good in relief appearances as well, inspiring hope that maybe, just maybe there’s still someone on this roster who can keep a puck out of our net.
2.) Lack of Left Wing Luck
Developing a bit this morning, with Chris Ryan reporting that both Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson will not play tonight against Boston. Johansson is less of a surprise, as he was placed on IR before the holiday break and while he can be activated, he must still be dealing with his injury. Hall’s injury is being reported by radio play by play man Matt Loughlin as being the same one that kept him out of a couple games earlier this year. While this puts Jesper Bratt (rightfully) back into a top-6 role, it also means Stefan Noesen will be on the second line.
3.) Should They Stay or Should They Go?
We are now officially under 3 months away from the trade deadline, and while that still leaves a lot of time (and hockey) between now and February 25th, it’s worth thinking now about how the Devils can work to re-shape their underachieving roster for next year.
As it stands, the Devils will have 6 UFA at year’s end: Brian Boyle, Marcus Johansson, Drew Stafford, Ben Lovejoy, Egor Yakovlev, and Keith Kinkaid. While I’m not saying that all of these players will be moved, if a team offers the Devils something to help them build out of this mess in exchange for one of these players, they should jump all over it. If the Devils feel they want to re-sign some of these players (Boyle for his leadership perhaps; Johansson if he’s able to stay healthy) then it may be best not to trade them, but with where this team has gone this season, I think Ray Shero has to listen to anything that weighs in his favor.
Additionally the Devils have a few restricted free agents coming up as well in Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller, John Quenneville, Pavel Zacha and Stefan Noesen. These players could be dangled as trade chips as well, due to the fact that they could be more cost-controlled than some of the more established players in the league. At the same time, I don’t think Shero should “sell low” just for the sake of change, so he may have to play a wait and see game through January before making moves.
The Devils season has left a sour taste in many a fan’s mouth, and tonight could start either a road to redemption or a road to retooling the current roster. I personally hope Blackwood does well and proves himself to be NHL caliber so that the Devils can cross “goalie” off their wish list. How do you see things panning out with Mackenzie Blackwood in net? Are you concerned about the injury issues on the left wing to two top-6 players? What do you think, if anything, is done to reshape the roster? Is it pending UFAs that go, or RFAs? Does Shero make a surprising move and ship out someone with term instead? Please leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!