American Thanksgiving has come and passed, and as hockey fans we’ve heard the motto before: if you’re not in a playoff spot by the time this holiday comes, you’re more than likely not making the NHL playoffs. Well once again for our New Jersey Devils this is the case, even after last night’s win over the Montreal Canadiens. The team has fewer points than games played at this point, and they’re bleeding goals left and right still with an the second worst goal differential (-21) in the league.
I know the season is just past one quarter done and I know there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played, but with the inconsistencies plaguing the Devils, the playoff flame is all but extinguished. The Devils have a few players who will become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, as well as some other players who could be made available. Today I’m taking an early look at pending UFAs the Devils could part with at the trade deadline (or sooner), others that could be available, and in both cases, what the Devils might expect back for these players. Keep in mind that I’m certainly not an expert on this subject, but I’m partly basing possible returns off of comparable deals (in terms of players and their returns) from recent past seasons.
Why He’s Available: CJ wrote about this just over a week ago, and Hall is destined to be one of, if not the best available rental at the trade deadline this season. As much as I like Hall and as much as I would love him to sign an extension, the fact that the team cannot afford to let him walk for nothing is the largest factor at play now. Rumors have flown about unwillingness to sign an in-season extension and, as CJ’s article went into, he’s not playing MVP-like hockey despite his point totals.
What He Could Fetch: Hall may be the hardest return to gauge simply because we don’t know what the market will be like at the deadline. I believe his return will be maximized the longer the Devils wait, as more teams could fit him into their salary cap structure the closer we get to season’s end. On the other side, there could be more rentals available as teams see their playoff hopes fading, which could see fewer teams bidding for Taylor’s services.
I think a first round pick, a good prospect/roster player and another asset are the absolute minimum coming back to the Devils; there are variations of this for sure, such as the Vegas Golden Knights acquiring Mark Stone, as prospect Erik Brannstrom was more akin to the first in that deal. If the Devils got a similar deal, the “another asset” I mentioned would probably be lesser, as Stone came to Vegas essentially with an extension in place. The Devils should be looking to maximize their return though, so hopefully they look to teams looking to go deep in the playoffs that have a young promising defender they’re willing to part with.
Why He’s Available: Another player approaching UFA status that has not signed an extension with the team. If Vatanen continues to play as well as he has this season (which has looked closer to when he first came to NJ rather than last season), Ray Shero should be looking to lock him up to an extension. If not, he should be traded at the deadline as well; the Devils really are not in a position to let anyone walk away at this point in time.
What He Could Fetch: I’ve seen speculation online that Vatanen could fetch a late first from teams looking to improve their defense. I think he more than likely gets a second and another pick/lesser prospect, but it will all depend again on who is made available and how many teams are looking for improvement. I originally was going to make the comparison to the Marcus Johansson deal of last season, but as Sami plays the more important position, I think he does gets a larger return.
Why He’s Available: Technically, he isn’t as Greene carries a no trade clause through this, the last year of his current contract. He is, however 37 years old, and he may choose to waive it to have one last chance at chasing a Stanley Cup in his career. As the Devils are continuing to get younger, and as Greene’s game continues to slow down, he may opt to allow a trade to a contending team so that he can possibly retire as a champion. At the same time, he may want to come back for another season, and if he continues to be effective as he is this season, there could be interest from the Devils and others in a one year deal in 2020-21.
What He Could Fetch: For his veteran presence and steady, stay at home play, I think the Devils would comfortably be offered (and accept) a second round pick. It might be a late second, but it would still be a good building block, while at the same time offering Greene one more shot at a deep playoff run.
Why He’s Available: If you’re the healthy scratch each night while Matt Tennyson is a regular, you’re not in the team’s long-term plans.
What He Could Fetch: There could be a team that hopes Mueller turns it around for a late round pick (let’s say a fourth or fifth) and Jersey’s Team should recoup part of their losses of trading for him.
Why He’s Available: On a one-year deal trying to reestablish his value around the NHL, Simmonds will more than likely be sent elsewhere by the Devils at the deadline. While he isn’t finding the back of the net with the regularity he did earlier in his career, The Wayne Train has amassed 11 points in 24 games this season, with 10 of them in his last 15 games. He also still brings a physical presence, and if a team determines that he’s a good fit for their playoff run, the Devils will be sending him out for assets.
What He Could Fetch: While he was traded at a low value last season, I don’t think he’s going to have much more value than a mid round (third or fourth) pick. Either way, the Devils shouldn’t be turning down assets for a player who probably won’t be back next season and definitely isn’t in the long term plans.
It ain’t over until it’s over, but using past seasons as a guide, the Devils’ season is already all but over. Do you believe they will trade the above players? If so, do you foresee different values than what I listed? Anyone in particular that you are looking for the team to acquire? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!