By the time you are reading this, the New Jersey Devils are doing nothing. This is their designated bye week. It just happens to run into the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, a weekend event for the National Hockey League where a lot of executives and management personnel will congregate. It also happens to be about a month away from 2018-19 NHL Trade Deadline, which is on February 25, 2019. There is a lot of time for Ray Shero and his staff to take stock of where the organization is and what they should do in this season. What that is will largely be up to Shero and his staff.
What I think they should do, among other things, is make some moves for the future. In other words: “sell” assets. Barring a miraculous run, the New Jersey Devils are very likely to be done after game #82 this season. After the loss to Anaheim, Moneypuck has the Devils’ playoff odds at 2.93%. You’re not likely going to find a prediction model that has the Devils with a decent chance of making it to the postseason. Moreover, little about how the team has performed this season - especially on the road - would suggest that a miraculous run is coming. I echo Mike, who wrote on Friday that the Devils need to be sellers for the upcoming trade deadline. With some trades already made in the NHL, they do not need to wait until late February to do so.
While Mike listed a number of players that he thinks the team should consider trading, I want to expand on that. After thinking about it, I have decided to take a page from Bill Simmons and put together a list ranking all of 2018-19 Devils players based on how I see their trade value. This is a sport where Wayne Gretzky was traded; no one is truly untouchable.
Now, let me be clear. I am not suggesting, arguing, proclaiming or demanding that Shero trades everyone. I am not suggesting, arguing, proclaiming or demanding that Shero trade the players with more value than others. I agree with Mike that some players should be moved; but I will also agree that the deal has to make some sense for the Devils. Whether that is obtaining draft picks, prospects, or players to help the team for 2019-20 (Aside: I will say that I think some “buying” may not be a bad idea; you need to build in a rebuild at some point). Still, this all what I think each player’s trade value may be perceived.
There is much more to consider than just whether the player is good or not. Factors like age, contract, position, and type of player all matter. This is not a list of who’s the best, this is a list of who I perceive of having the more trade value. So you and I may agree that, say, Mirco Mueller is better than Ben Lovejoy. But based on perceived trade value, Lovejoy has more value for a number of reasons.
Also understand that these are my perceptions. I am not a general manager in the National Hockey League. The people with actual power may rate some of these players more than I would. Someone I may think has little trade value may actually be traded whereas someone I think would have more value may not be moved or moved for much at all. In other words: I could be wrong.
Lastly: I’m limiting this to players who played in at least 5 games with the New Jersey Devils this season. So, sorry Eric Gryba, Kurtis Gabriel, Nathan Basitan, and Michael McLeod - who may actually have a little value at the moment (and I do mean a little). Also sorry to prospects and future prospects (a.k.a. draft picks). This means 28 players will be ranked.
Let’s get into it - in reverse order. All contract information is from CapFriendly.
Tier 0: Minimal Trade Value or “Whatever You Can Get - If You Can Get Anything”
#28 - Cory Schneider - Goaltender
He’s 32, he has 3 seasons remaining on his contract at $6 million/season, his numbers from January 2018 to December 2018 are best described as terrible (From NHL.com: 2017-18 and 2018-19), he’s been injured throughout this past season (and is still on injured reserve as of this writing), and he has a no trade clause. All that and he’s a goalie, which is one of the trickier positions to move. I do not see how anyone would want to take him. Now, if he actually gets healthy and plays at a remotely NHL level, then this is a different discussion. Until Schneider proves that - if he can prove that - he’s last on the list.
#27 - Blake Pietila - Left Winger
Pietila makes the cut with seven appearances this season. With an average ice time of 10:44 with three shots on net and the lowest CF% on the team at 31.25% per Natural Stat Trick, Pietila has made seven appearances this season. Truthfully, he is an AHL player who has had a stretch of being a fill-in. Unless someone wants to bolster their farm team, I do not see anyone really wanting Pietila.
#26 - Kevin Rooney - Center
Rooney has made eight appearances this season. He has one goal out of four shots, a putback in a recent goal-explosion against hapless Chicago. He has averaged less ice time than Pietila. He is also bad in the run of play like Pietila. So why is he higher? One: he can play center. Two: he has received some PK time, which has not blown up in the Devils’ face. The latter suggests that the coaching staff thinks he can do something a little more than just take up an active roster spot. This is a distinction of all of one spot, so I would not quick to argue if you feel like this should be swapped. They’re both AHL-level players and would likely be dealt in AHL-level deals.
#25 - Egor Yakovlev - Left-handed Defenseman
Ray Shero has been willing to take a flyer on a European-based player in the hopes of strengtening the depth of his NHL roster. This season’s flyer is 27-year old defender, Egor Yakovlev, who was signed from SKA St. Peterburg of the KHL. He had 11 appearances and has not been utterly bad. However, it is telling that he has been demoted to Binghamton and yo-yo’ed back and forth without getting in any recent games. His last appearance was on December 10, the end of the California road trip. Given how the blueline has been picked apart in recent weeks, that he is still scratched or with Binghamton speaks to how he is seen in the system. He might be a decent third-pairing option on another team, but I think it is more likely that if anyone wants him, then he’ll be available this summer. I think that anyone will be in the KHL, though.
#24 - John Quenneville - Left Wing/Center
The 24-year old has been given chances and he has provided a whole lot of not much in 15 games with the Devils. No points. Twelve shots on net. Less than twelve minutes per game. His 5-on-5 numbers in those games, per Natural Stat Trick, are far from the worst among Devils forwards, but with so few shots and zero production, it does not mean much. As such, Quenneville does not have much value at all. New Jersey’s actions would agree with that. He has not been seen on the ice since January 2. I have no reason to believe he’ll succeed as a NHL-caliber player in New Jersey. I’m not super confident he’s really a NHL-caliber player either.
Tier 1: A Little Trade Value or “He’s Worth More than a Bag of Pucks, but it’s Not a High Price Either”
#23 - Drew Stafford - Right Winger
Drew Stafford was signed right after Jesper Bratt suffered a fractured jaw in a practice before this season. He was available all offseason in 2018 and no one took him until October 5. Stafford has been good in shootout situations. He has not provided much value otherwise. He has 23 shots on net in 29 games, he has scored two goals and put up five assists while averaging less than 11 minutes of ice time in those 29 games, and he has been wrecked in 5-on-5 play as per Natural Stat Trick. Stafford is not fast (he’s 33, he’s not getting faster), he does not attack much, and he does not provide much support off the puck. I could see him being moved for a team that wants a depth winger but do not expect much more than a low to mid-draft pick.
#22 - Brett Seney - Left Winger/Center
Brett Seney has surprised many by working his tail off in preseason, earning a call-up to New Jersey, and sticking around for the most part. The 22-year old is on his entry level contract and he is also exempt from waivers. What remains to be seen is what his potential really is at the NHL level. So far, he has been a sparkplug at best and a plug at worst. For a fourth line player, four goals, six assists, and 36 shots on net in 37 games is not bad at all. That when he is on the ice (per Natural Stat Trick), the Devils get out-attempted, out-shot, out-chanced, and out-scored is not good at all. On a stronger team, Seney would likely be in the AHL where he could earn more prime minutes and hone other parts of his game. I could see Seney grow; but moving him now would not likely yield a lot unless the other team really likes his potential.
#21 - Stefan Noesen - Right Winger
The Devils picked up Stefan Noesen off waivers back in the 2016-17 season. He was an effective depth player last season. This season, he has not been effective. Noesen has an expiring contract, so I think any team that really wants him can afford to wait until July 1, 2019 to sign him. I do not think he would garner much in a trade. But if teams want or need a right winger to strengthen their bottom six, then I could see it.
#20 - Keith Kinkaid - Goaltender
Two months ago, he would be in a higher tier. Now, I’m questioning if I’m overrating him on my own list. Kinkaid may be in a slump and a victim of some truly pathetic off the puck play. But no one is going to spend a lot on someone who has been a backup NHL goalie for most of his career. Especially someone who has seen his even strength percentage drop to 90.3% and his overall save percentage drop below 90%. Even if there are some teams who have goaltenders worse than Kinkaid this season (see: San Jose), I do not see why anyone should trade much to get his rights. If you believe his slump will go away in time, then why not just wait until the summer to get him and not trade, say, a fourth-round pick or whatever for him.
#19 - Joey Anderson - Right Winger
Joey Anderson signed an entry level contract after his sophomore year with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He made his debut with New Jersey on October 27. Clearly, the New Jersey staff like what Anderson has shown in preseason and in a few games with Binghamton. Unfortunately, Anderson has been kept to limited ice time. He has one (1) goal, one (1) assist, and seventeen (17) shots in eleven (11) games with New Jersey. But the Devils were not wrecked when he was on the ice in 5-on-5 play and averaging over a shot per game with such limited ice time is a positive sign. Unfortunately, Anderson was hurt early in the November 21 game against Montreal and he has been out since then. He has not done a lot to warrant a lot of trade value. There’s potential and that is pretty much it (leaving aside that few teams want players on IR). In the future, he’ll shoot up the rankings. I hope. We hope.
#18 - Mackenzie Blackwood - Goalie
This may be a bit high. After all, Blackwood’s history in the pros prior to this season is not good looking. He posted an overall save percentage of 90.7% in 36 games with Albany in 2016-17 and an overall save percentage of 88.9% in 2017 in 32 games with Binghamton in 2017-18. However, Blackwood has shown improvement in Binghamton in 2018-19 with a 91.1% overall save percentage in 15 games on a not-so-good Bingo team. More importantly, he has been given a NHL opportunity and has ran with it with Schneider injured and Kinkaid falling. OK, his last three starts have not been all that hot, but he has not given up a lot of bad goals either. Blackwood’s large frame and quick lateral movement are good traits for any goalie. He’s 22, so he definitely has some room to grow. The big concern is whether his impressive NHL debut is indicative of his true level as a goalie or whether he just had a hot streak. That and since he is a goalie and there seems to be more talent than spots available, it means he does not have a lot of value. Still, if the Devils do not believe he’s a part of their future, then maybe one other team will and they could swing a better deal than expected. Who knows.
#17 - Mirco Mueller - Left-handed Defenseman
On the one hand, he plenty of of positives. He’s cheap with a $850,000/season contract! He’s young as he is 23! His contract is expiring and he will be a restricted free agent, so he can be kept easily if you like him! In 5-on-5 play, Mueller’s against rate stats are actually not bad compared to the rest of the defensemen! The problem is that Mueller really does not move the needle. A good night for him is a fairly anonymous one. He does not contribute to offense, he is not particularly adept in his own end, and he does not really have an easily-identifiable traits. If he is on the PK for New Jersey, it is on the second unit or when either Greene or Lovejoy are in the box. He is not (and should not) be on a power play. At the least, he has stuck around in the NHL with New Jersey. Unlike with San Jose, Mueller only appeared in the AHL on a conditioning assignment. However, he has been scratched not that long ago, so he has not fully stuck around. He’s not worth little but he’s not worth a lot.
Tier 2: Medium Trade Value or “OK, But I’m Not Just Taking Whatever For Him”
#16 - Andy Greene - Left-handed Defenseman
Greene is the Devils’ captain so it would take something shocking to happen for the Devils to move him. He’s also 36, he has another season left on his current contract at $5 million, and he has been poor as one of the team’s most used defensemen. Greene is second in average ice time per game per NHL.com and he is owning a CF% just above 46% and a shots against rate of above 35 per Natural Stat Trick. Greene was great six seasons ago, but he has been declining. Oh, and he has a full no-trade clause. I cannot put him in Tier 0 or Tier 1 because he could help a lot shore up some bluelines in a more limited role. His game is all about being smart positionally and he can be a real stabilizing force for a team in need of defensive help. He can absolutely help on a PK. But I cannot put him much higher given his contract, his age, and the fact that he is near the end of his career. I do not think he will be traded either.
#15 - Ben Lovejoy - Right-handed Defenseman
On the other hand, Lovejoy is the most likely to be traded Devil in my eyes. Lovejoy is on an expiring contract and he ticks the cliche boxes for a tradeable asset for a playoff rental. Lovejoy oozes experience, particularly in the playoffs with 63 NHL playoff games. Lovejoy has been an effective part of the Devils’ excellent penalty kill. That’s another plus. Lovejoy has actually been decent on the Devils’ third-pairing; especially alongside a more mobile, younger, and offensive defenseman. He’s also a right-handed defenseman and those players have inherent value to some organizations. If you want a stay-at-home defenseman who is all about the veteran presence, Lovejoy is your man. If you want someone who will not be 35 by the trade deadline, someone who can skate well, someone who can handle the puck (and not just bomb away from the point), and someone who is not a one-dimensional defenseman, then look elsewhere. The Devils should push him if only because they have a better player ready to step in for him.
#14 - Brian Boyle - Left Winger/Center
Brian Boyle may not fit what the team has been aiming for under Ray Shero. He was signed as an older player (he’s now 34), he’s not fast, and he’s not particularly attacking. However, he has been a fine fourth-liner in multiple regards. In 43 games this season, Boyle has 12 goals (fourth most on the team), 17 points, and 76 shots while averaging less than fourteen minutes per game. While he may seem like an odd fit on the power play, he is second on the team in power play goals with six. He does all of the rough stuff that is usually seen among fourth liners, he has been more successful on faceoffs than not, and all signs point to him having an excellent reputation. The Devils would be selling high given his production, but they could get possibly get more than a late pick to “rent out” Boyle. Teams that need to beef up their forward depth, particularly at center, could use an experienced player like Boyle.
I will point out that given how the Devils stood by and supported Boyle’s fight with leukemia, I doubt the Devils will actively move him unless Boyle gives his OK.
#13 - Steve Santini - Right-sided Defenseman
Steve Santini has not exactly played a lot with the New Jersey Devils in his pro career. Whether it was injuries or a crowded blueline, Santini has yet to play more than 40 games in a NHL season. However, he did play in 38 games in his first pro season; Shero did re-sign Santini to a three-year, $4.25 million deal last summer; and his defensive rate stats have been not bad. To put it bluntly, I see Santini as Lovejoy’s replacement. And I think he will be better. In addition to being younger (he’s 23), Santini is a better skater and he does not handle pucks like they are grenades. He could very well be what a defensive defenseman looks like for this generation. I rate him higher in trade value because he’s cheap and young. What holds him back is that when he has been on the ice in 5-on-5 play, the Devils’ offensive rates drop off a cliff. Perhaps that is due to usage but it speaks to me that he’s a one-dimensional player. Like Lovejoy.
#12 - Travis Zajac - Center
Travis Zajac is a do-it-all-fairly-well center. He has been good in 5-on-5 play this season and has a career of taking on tough matchups and doing well. He has been an excellent help on the Devils’ great penalty kill. He has been a reliable player on and off the puck. He can even chip in on a power play, whether it is being in the middle of a 1-3-1 formation, being near the top in an umbrella formation, or taking that draw. He has also chipped in plenty of production with eleven goals and sixteen assists; he is fourth on the team in points. No, he is not the big-minute force he was in the past. He was not Toews-light like he was over five years ago. But the 33-year old center can help a lot of teams in multiple ways. What undercuts his trade value is his contract. In addition to a no trade clause, Zajac has two more seasons on his deal with a cap hit of $5.75 million. (Aside: Zajac’s salary this season is $6.5 million. That will drop to $5.75 million for the last two seasons.) Unless Zajac wants to waive the clause and the Devils want to retain some of that salary, that limits his value. As with Greene, it would likely take something shocking for Shero to trade the career Devil and current assistant captain away. But between the two, I think more would be interested in Zajac.
#11 - Marcus Johansson - Left Wing/Center/Right Winger
Like many Devils fans, I was happy when Shero traded for Marcus Johansson back in July 2017. About 18 months later, and I’m wondering when he will be dealt. Johansson is a versatile forward. He can play any of the three positions and he has skills at both ends that would fit on a second line and a power play unit. However, New Jersey has not been a good fit for Johansson at all. Last season was undercut big time by injuries, notably from suffering two concussions. Johansson has been healthier this season, but in 36 games, he has seven goals, nine assists, 74 shots on net, and he has not really pushed the play in 5-on-5 situations. I think his talent, past pedigree, and that his contract is expiring means he has some decent trade value. It is limited by what he has and has not done with the Devils, his injury history, and that his contract has a modified no-trade clause. Per CapFriendly, he has to submit a list of five teams he does not want to be traded to. That last bit is an obstacle for Shero and could limit what he could get for him. On paper, it was a trade to bring in a badly needed top-six forward. It did not work out as intended. So it goes.
#10 - Pavel Zacha - Left Winger/Center
I have no idea if I ever wrote my working theory of Pavel Zacha. In addition to the ability of having Devils fans recall the entire 2015 NHL Entry Draft after Zacha’s pick, Pavel Zacha may be the player that Jacob Josefson was thought to be. Josefson 2.0, if you will. Zacha demonstrates skill on the puck but it is not consistent enough to be a threat. Zacha’s shot is better than Josefson’s, but he is not a productive player like Josefson and he does not always shoot the puck as much as he should. Zacha kills penalties and does a good job at it. But he can get overwhelmed in the run of play, such as this season amid a revolving door of linemates this season. A part of me thinks a different coaching staff could get a lot more out of him than the current crew in New Jersey. Another part of me thinks he is what he is, which is to say he is a NHL player who will shine sometimes but not nearly enough to be a second-line caliber center or winger. That said, he’s a 21-year forward with his entry level contract ending. It is reasonable to think he can improve in the next couple of seasons. Maybe the best time to move him has passed but rather than hoping he figures it out or the coaches figures out his best usage or both, he could garner some interest.
Tier 3: The Above Medium Trade Value Tier or “The Offer Better Be Good Because I Don’t Want to Give This Guy Up”
#9 - Blake Coleman - Left Winger
Blake Coleman went from “guy in the system” to one of the few bright spots of the 2018-19 Devils season in a matter of years. Coleman took his second chance in 2017-18 and ran with it, establishing himself as a competent bottom-six winger and a superb penalty killer who is relentless on the forecheck. The 27-year old earned a three-season contract and has been even better. In 46 games, Coleman already surpassed his goal (17!!) and point (27) totals from last season. While he gets plenty of shorthanded chances, he has 20 points in 5-on-5 play. He has been taking a lot of shots with a remarkable 142 in 48 games. Amid injuries and players not performing well, Coleman has seen some increases in ice time in recent weeks and he has managed it all well enough. To the point where he’s above 50% CF% on a team where a lot of players are not breaking even in 5-on-5. I really like Coleman’s play last season and I’m enjoying his play for the most part this season.
This could very well be his peak value. Coleman could very well net over twenty goals; but could he do that regularly? At age 27, what you see out of him is what you’re going to get and this may be at his best. Is that enough to keep around as the team needs to build? These are not questions that Shero can ignore. This may be a bit high, but if someone offers a real player for Coleman that could help beyond the next two years, then Shero needs to at least think about it.
#8 - Miles Wood - Left Winger
I have been frustrated with Miles Wood this season. After a 2017-18 season where he seemingly improved by leaps and bounds from his rookie season, he has seemingly regressed. His puck luck has been poor; his shooting percentage is a mere 4.6% out of an impressive 109 shots on net in 45 games. However, he tends to act first instead of considering better options when he is on the puck. This has led to a lot of non-dangerous shots and passes going awry that hurt attacks. Off the puck, Wood is a mixed bag at best. Sometimes, he will backcheck appropriately and support as a winger. Other times, he will just float in his own zone and just wait for the play to turn around or do a whole lot of puck-watching. All that and Wood has a nasty streak that leads him to taking calls. At the same time, the run of play has not been awful when he has been on the ice in 5-on-5. His production has improved recently with eight points (two goals, six assists) in his last ten games. Wood is a very fast player and he can (and does) use that speed to his benefit and the team’s, creating opportunities out of nothing. This has unfortunately led the coaches to instruct him to do a lot of chasing in dump-and-chase plays where he is in a non-shooting position when he does win that chase. There is a lot to appreciate, but there is a lot that irks me.
The reason why I think his trade value is this high is that he is still a young player who could be coached up to become a threatening forward. Wood is 23 and has a reasonable contract that has three more seasons at $2.75 million. A coaching staff that can get him to be more judicious on the ice, commit more on defense, and stay out of the box can have a second-line caliber winger for a reasonable amount of money and just about to hit his prime as a player. I think the Devils think they can sort him out. I hope they do. I’ll even take 2017-18 Wood at this point.
#7 - Will Butcher - Left-handed Defenseman
The Devils won the Will Butcher sweepstakes in 2017. It did not take long for those to find out why the Devils sought him out. The 24-year old defenseman was the sole defenseman on the team’s top power play unit, feeding pucks to the likes of Hall and Palmieri for initial success. The power play in general could use a lot of improvement, but Butcher is a mainstay. He has also been a very effective third-pairing defenseman right out of college. So much so that he has some of the best 5-on-5 numbers on a besieged blueline and he is has received increased ice time over the past month. This suggests he is earning more trust of the coaching staff. While he is not big and may struggle in physical spots, being able to provide offense either from being the top man in a 1-3-1 formation, facilitating breakouts and providing support from the point in the offensive zone is always valuable. The next two guys are not that far ahead of him.
#6 - Sami Vatanen - Right-handed Defenseman
For better or worse, Sami Vatanen is on his way to being the most successful Finnish player in Devils franchise history. Here is the full list at Hockey-Reference, Vatanen is still behind Taipo Levo in points but he should surpass Tuomo Ruutu in games played. Shero acquired Vatanen in a significant deal last November and has been utilized as one of the team’s top defensemen right away. Vatanen will fire away as he leads all defenders with 97 shots and he plays with some flair on offense. He has a hard slapshot and is willing (and sometimes able) to make a great first pass to lead forwards on. However, Vatanen has a tendency to make a poor decision and sometimes suffers for it - as per his 5-on-5 numbers suggest. Still, he is a right handed defenseman, he is 27, and his contract has one more season left on it with a cap hit of $4.85 million. That may be a fairly high cap hit, but it is a short commitment. Given how valuable right-handed defensemen may be, Vatanen could command a lot of interest.
#5 - Damon Severson - Right-handed Defenseman
I rate Damon Severson just a hair higher than Vatanen and Butcher. It has been a rough season for Severson. His pairing with Greene has not gone well for all involved; his 5-on-5 numbers went down; he has a fairly high number of penalty minutes (34); and he occasionally gets benched for his errors - something Vatanen and Greene does not get. However, Severson is a two-way player who is very good when he is focused and on his game. While he does not have a flashy slapshot like Vatanen, Severson has been quite productive this season with six goals and seventeen assists. Past seasons show that he has been better in the run of play. Severson is younger than Vatanen and while his contract is longer, a bit under $4.2 million per season for the next three seasons is not a terrible commitment for someone who can provide a lot of good things at both ends.
After Adam Larsson was traded, Severson received a very similar contract. I suspect that Shero rates them about the same. To that end, he would ask for quite a bit if someone calls for his availability. Of course, if you want to flip Severson with Vatanen and/or Butcher, then I would not fault you.
Tier 4: The High Trade Value Tier or “No. No. No. (Sigh.) Fine, I’ll Hear You Out But I May Regret This”
#4 - Jesper Bratt - Right Wing
Jesper Bratt missed the first month of this season with a fractured jaw. When he came back, it was instantly noticeable. While he has not lit the lamp much - four goals in 34 games - his stickhandling combined with his speed gave the Devils another attacker on the wing. And it has helped as he has posted sixteen assists already. Bratt has been a top-six winger for the most part this season and has done well in the run of play with skilled wingers that he can play off of, such as Johansson and Zacha. Over the whole season, his 5-on-5 numbers are not breaking even but it is high-event so the hope is that as he develops, he can contribute more on defense and the coaches sort out how to best use him in match-ups to be as offensive as possible. He will absolutely develop; he’s just 20 years old, which is a big reason why he’s so high up these arbitrary trade value tiers I have made up. He’s already an offensive NHL winger and he’s not even 21. He is coming off his entry level contract after this season; his next contract will be an interesting one. But if he is remotely available, then the offers will likely be more significant than just a pick or a mid-range prospect.
#3 - Kyle Palmieri - Right Wing
Scorers will always command attention. Kyle Palmieri is a scorer. Yes, he is a streaky one. But he already has 22 goals by the All-Star Break; he has scored at least 20 goals in each of his four seasons with the Devils. He has a real chance of reaching the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career and breaking it by a good number. He leads the Devils in power play goals with eight and he receives loads of time on the top line, where he is often being fed the puck for shots. With Hall injured, Palmieri recently took over the team lead in points and he also leads the team with 153 shots. But he’s not just a shooter. His 5-on-5 numbers are respectable given the team and he can and does play a regular role on the penalty kill. Palmieri is 27 years old and has two more seasons left on his current deal with a current cap hit of $4.65 million ($5 million in salary next season, $4.25 million in salary in the final season). Palmieri has a modified no-trade clause where he can list eight teams that he will not accept a trade to; but goal scorers like him are always sought after. Those who want him will try to make it work and Shero can make it work out to get a significant deal in return. He pretty much would have to if Shero does not want to be the GM who traded away an under-30 year-old consistent 20-to-30 goal scorer for a whole lot of not much.
Tier 5: The Highest Trade Value Tier or “These Guys Are Just About Untouchable And I Risk My Job if I Touch Them”
#2 - Taylor Hall
The reigning NHL MVP is not number one? Indeed. There can be a reasonable case made for the Devils to trade Hall. Hall’s current injury brings to mind that he has battled injuries throughout the first five seasons of his career. Hall is 27 and while he had one of the best seasons by a forward in Devils history in 2017-18, is he ever going to be at that level again? And before committing seven to eight seasons and boatloads of money, any team who wants to sign him in/for 2019 needs to question what Hall could contribute towards the end of that deal. It will likely not match his incredible 2017-18 campaign, but will it be enough to warrant a massive contract? And if Shero cannot extend Hall by this time next year, Hall’s trade value will be even lower since more teams will recognize that an extension may not happen and so will gear up to sign him for massive dollars. Any desperate deal to get “something” instead of “nothing” in 2020 will not be as much as it would be in 2019. There’s a larger and probably more interesting post into this possibility that will likely be written later.
Do not misunderstand; he is easily New Jersey’s best player today. In 5-on-5 play, he’s the only forward with great attempt, shot, goal, and scoring chance differentials. Keep in mind, he is going up against the other team’s best night-in and night-out. And it took a while for Palmieri to surpass Hall’s 37 points in 33 games, which is still a marvelous rate of production. Hall has the most talent of any player on the roster and it shows in most games. Teams tank to get a draft pick in the hopes of getting a player of Taylor Hall’s caliber and talent level. If he’s on the market now, he should command more than all but one Devil in my opinion. Of course, if he’s on the market, Shero either has an amazing deal lined up or he’s not going to see this rebuild (Second rebuild? Rebuild 1.5? What are we calling this?) through.
#1 - Nico Hischier - Center
The 2018-19 Devils are easily missing a true #1 goalie and they could use a #1 defenseman (for a given definition of a #1 defenseman). They could really use more talent in general among both forwards and defensemen. But they do have something that is very rare in the NHL: a #1 center under the age of 21. Nico Hischier has managed to be a first line center since entering the NHL after being selected first overall in 2017. Even with Hall out, Hischier is still coming out ahead in the run of play, he is one of the league’s best at drawing penalties, and he grinds out points despite the tough matchups and being in an ill-fitting role on the power play. Hischier is already a very good player in his second NHL season. And he’s only going to get better.
Of all of the things the Devils need, they already have a center to build the team around for a long, long, long time to come. Unless the return package includes an Eichel, a Matthews, or a McDavid, Hischier should be a Devil for as long as possible. And he will have the most trade value or at least a very high amount for a long time to come.
I hope you appreciated my perceived trade value rankings of 28 New Jersey Devils players who have played at least five games with the team this season. As always, I could be quite wrong when trades do or do not happen. All the same, I do think the Devils should be sellers and they should probably make a deal sooner rather than wait until the deadline and hope for a more desperate buyer. They have nothing much to play for already, so if a deal can be made now, then I think Shero should make it so. We shall see what will happen in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, I want your take. How would you rank the Devils by trade value? Do you agree that Hischier has more trade value than Hall? How would you rate Severson, Vatanen, and Butcher from a trade perspective? Who did I rank too low? Who did I rank too high? Why? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the trade value of the Devils players in the comments. Thanks to Bill Simmons for the inspiration, thanks to Mike for helping the idea along, and thank you for reading.