While 2017-18 was a step in the right direction for the New Jersey Devils, their early playoff elimination showed that the team still isn’t a true contender quite yet. The narratives of the defense, young forwards continuing to progress, and possible issues in net have already been discussed; one story line from last season that has floated a bit under the radar is that of Marcus Johansson. General Manager Ray Shero acquired MoJo (or MarJo whichever you prefer) for a pair of draft picks prior to last season, and the expectation was that he would help to shore up New Jersey’s top 6.
That expectation never truly became a reality; while Johansson played in the top 6 when healthy, the fact that he unfortunately missed 53 games due to different injuries affected his ability to solidify the upper tier of the forwards. He would record a respectable 14 points, which isn’t bad for a guy whose season started, stopped, started again, stopped again, and then saw a few playoff games.
With his health issues hopefully behind him (and with Brad Marchand hopefully not cheap-shotting him again), Marcus could slot in for his intended purpose this season; the problems now are two fold: the Devils have a good number of left wings and this is a contract year for MoJo.
In Johansson’s absence, the Devils still had Taylor Hall, Miles Wood, Blake Coleman, Jesper Bratt and, after the trade deadline, Patrick Maroon to play on the left side. Additionally, a couple of the team’s more highly-touted prospects coming up through the pipeline (John Quenneville and Jesper Boqvist) shoot left as well. The weakness of the team currently is still on the right; Coach John Hynes balances this a bit by having Bratt play on the right last year, and Johansson is capable of doing so as well.
The fact remains that with so many choices already available on the left side, and more left-shooting wingers on the way, Johansson could be redundant. Should the team as a whole take a step back this season, or should another lefty surpass him on the depth chart, and the Devils might decide to trade Marcus for help in a position of greater need.
Another factor that could lend credence to the idea of trading Johansson is that he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. MoJo will turn 28 during this season, meaning he fits perfectly with the current Devils’ core; age is also the enemy here, as he is exiting his prime, and Marcus, like most NHLers, will be looking for a large contract here to secure his future. While the Devils have more than enough cap space to fit him in comfortably, they will need to re-sign Hall and Bratt to new contracts after next season. How much money can the team afford to tie up in left wingers?
While the Devils can’t be affording to trade quality players, if it is a hockey deal (such as last season’s Henrique for Vatanen swap) that would improve the team, then hopefully Shero will at least listen to the offer, especially if it both strengthens the team and returns a player with more term on their contract. Shero himself has said that once cap space is gone, it is difficult to get back, and while MoJo won’t take up all that much space, again the team needs to be careful with how much is tied into one position. Trading MoJo shouldn’t be looked at now, especially with his value pretty low, but if the stars align, and the right deal comes along while the kids continue to grow, then perhaps it’s something to look at as the 2018-19 season continues along.
Thank you as always for reading!