This article is just as much for the discussion I hope we get from it as it is for what I, in particular, have to say. But in short, I have no idea what the trade deadline moves mean for the Devils rebuild.
To me, the Devils were playing with house money up until this point. This is to say that anything that happened this year was gravy and not the actual expectation. Shero could have coasted through the year, put together a respectable record but missed the playoffs, and no one would have been angry at him. However, these moves mean we are no longer playing with house money — we are invested in this season’s outcome.
The Devils traded Yegor Rykov and a 2nd round pick for Michael Grabner and then a 3rd and Dudek for Patrick Maroon. John’s immediate reaction can be found here, and I think the comments section is worth thumbing through as well. I we nibbled around the edges of an explicit discussion on “is the Devils rebuild over?” I think it depends on what we mean by “rebuild” and “over.” I’ll try to figure out where we are, and then at he end of the article I’ll give definitions of those words that I think would appropriately define the position we’re in. I’ll come at the moves from two different directions -- a positive one and a negative one.
The Not So Good Interpretation
We’ve invested a 2nd, a 3rd, and one decent prospect (lol to everyone who just thought I meant Dudek) in two rental forwards. This is important for a few reasons. First of all, that’s a lot to give up if neither player is back in 2019 — by this time next year, we may have lost those assets for nothing. Second, this upcoming draft has been touted for how defense-rich it is in both top-end talent and depth. This would have been an excellent opportunity for Shero to address the long term needs of the franchise by getting one or two high-end defensive prospects. Instead, he traded away a guy that has been getting real time in the KHL and could be a legitimate NHLer if he decided to come over — not a given, but still desirable in a rebuild. Third, we didn’t even get a defender back. The largest single long-term need of the franchise is at the blueline. The fact that we went and got two wingers could be interpreted as Shero valuing not only the short term (this year), but the extremely short term (current injuries) over the long term needs of the franchise
We traded away 2 picks in the first 3 rounds of a D-heavy draft, and one of our better D-prospects and came away with 2 wingers who will be 30+ years old without a contract come July 1st. As a condition of the Henrique trade, if the Ducks don’t extend Rico by 2019 our 3rd rounder from them moves to 2020, and if he still doesn’t get extended at all, we lose that pick. In other words, it’s very possible that the Devils — a team who, coming into the season, felt like they were right in the meaty center of the rebuild — will have just 3 picks in the first 3 rounds of 2018 and 2019 drafts ...COMBINED. Via CapFriendly:
That is not what the draft portfolio of a rebuilding team is supposed to look like.
The “....But, Shero...” Interpretation
But what about Ray Shero? We’ve entrusted him with the rebuild and he’s never led us astray — Mirco Mueller trade notwithstanding. So if everything I just said above is true, what was Ray Shero thinking?
Well back in the offseason, I wrote a similar article about where the Devils were in the rebuild clock. If you scroll down to the section of “Commentary on Shero’s Management,” you’ll see a lot of things that are carrying over. I believe that, in a way, Shero is been the anti-Chiarelli. He seems to either put extremely low priority, or possibly pays no attention at all , to “needs” of the team. The only time I’ve seen him do that is Henrique-Vatanen. He seeks out the value in every trade, regardless of what the Devils biggest needs are. It’s been blatantly obvious to virtually the entire fanbase for ... I don’t even know how long ... that this team is absolutely starved of current or potential top 4 NHL defenders. By my appraisal, Severson’s a legit 3, Vatanen is a legit 3-4, and Greene is probably top 4 now, but on his way out. Butcher may get up there, and who knows about the NCAA guys like Jeremy Davies and Riley Walsh.
But his isn’t necessarily a prohibitively bad thing. Last year, the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ ice time leader was Brian Dumoulin (via Hockey-Reference). Next was the gauntlet of future hall-of-famers, Olli Maatta, Ron Hainsey (now a Maple Leaf), and Ian Cole (passed around like a hot potato and landed in Columbus). Shero thinks he can build this team to be propelled by a deep and talented forward group and so rather than sacrifice value in a transaction to “fill a need” he may simply recognize that there is more than one way to win in this league and getting value is the most important thing.
What I don’t know is what the Devils will do in the next 8 months or so. Do the try to get more picks? Trade down? Sign a defender? Take care of guys in-house? Does the goalie issue get addressed at all?
I said I’d define “rebuild” and “over.” I think the if a rebuild is tearing down the contracts/core/identity of an old franchise and building a new one, you could argue we’ve down that. Between Hall, Bratt, Hischier, and Zacha, the future of the forwards looks fine. If Butcher and one of the NCAA kids grows, a top four of Severson, Vatanen, Butcher, and Walsh/Davies could be serviceable. And Shero’s proven he can always go out and get other players to fill in for runs.
What I think has happened is that Shero knows that it’s hard to make the playoffs and we have a shot here to do it. It rewards the locker room and gives the 1st year guys a winning identity. It rewards the fanbase who may have sunken into a feeling of perpetual mediocrity. And it gives us first shot at getting two more decent NHLers before/when they become UFAs. That might out-value a 2nd+3rd who often do not become NHLers.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the rebuild is over? Do you think there are core members that we’ve yet to add or have the most important pieces been established? Do you think the rebuild should be over? Why or why not? Thank you for reading as always, and leave your comments below1