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Let the Selling Begin

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The New Jersey Devils have already begun to move assets in what is going to be a losing season for them. Today we look at who else could be moved prior to the trade deadline in an attempt to improve the team’s fortunes next season.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning
One player in this picture has already been traded; the other could be soon.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils were in the hockey headlines yesterday when it was announced that Brian Boyle had been moved to the Nashville Predators. In return, the Devils received the Preds’ second round pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL Entry Draft. While it hurts to lose a leader like Boyle, he will get a chance at a Stanley Cup and will hopefully only have to stand in front of the net on power plays, rather than being used to attempt to corral dumped in pucks.

Before getting into the bulk of today’s writing, I wanted to state that I appreciated what Boyle did in his time here and he is a true warrior both on and off the ice. That being said, he is a pending unrestricted free agent and additionally, he’s 34 years old, meaning he doesn’t fit age-wise with Jersey’s current core. Getting a second round pick in exchange for a pending UFA who has spent most of the season on the fourth line is phenomenal, and it was something that needed to be done for a team that is still technically rebuilding.

The trade deadline is only 18 days away at the time of this writing; the Devils have some other move-able parts that they could send elsewhere in exchange for future building blocks, be they picks or players. So let’s take a look at who the Devils have as pending UFAs, what they might realistically bring back, and why the Devils should be selling these players ASAP.

Available UFAs

Marcus Johansson

The largest expiring contract on New Jersey’s book is that of Johansson, who has struggled to find consistency in his time in the Garden State due to injuries. He’s still managed to post 20 points in 40 games this season, and has looked better the longer he stays in the lineup. While the Devils shouldn’t be forcing any legit Top-6 forward talent out the door with the state of the roster, if the right deal comes along and/or GM Ray Shero believes that Marcus won’t re-sign with the Devils next season, then the best bet would be to recoup some assets at or before the trade deadline.

Prediction for Where Winds Up: Back in Washington to help bolster their postseason run

What Is He (Probably) Worth: I could honestly see a late first being paid for MoJo, but I could also see that being too rich for many teams. A 2nd and prospect of some caliber seems about right.

Ben Lovejoy

GMs go ga-ga for veteran defensemen to bolster their blue lines around the deadline every year. While Ben Lovejoy isn’t exactly the best NHL player, he’s certainly a serviceable third pairing player with leadership qualities that can eat up some minutes on the penalty kill as well. This is another contract that the Devils could retain salary on as well to enable a cap-stretched team to fit him on their roster, which could make him a more viable option to acquire in the next two and a half weeks.

Prediction for Where Winds Up: Ray Shero will ship him back to Pittsburgh, a team that both player and GM know very well.

What Is He (Probably) Worth: The Rev is probably worth around a 3rd or a 4th, or an equivalent prospect from a contending team, if he is indeed sent off for a playoff run.

As an aside, the Pens don’t have their 3rd or 4th; they do have a conditional 4th from Buffalo (becomes a 3rd if Conor Sheary scores 20 goals which doesn’t seem likely) so maybe they would part with that if they are the winners of the Lovejoy Lottery.

Drew Stafford

While this option may not be over-enticing to some teams, Stafford could be a choice for a team that could use a decent depth forward who brings good leadership. I didn’t think much of Stafford until he called a players only meeting after one practice, and while his best days on the ice are behind him, he’s proven that he still has value to franchises, especially younger NHL teams.

Prediction for Where Winds Up: Still in New Jersey unless someone inquires about him as an injury replacement.

What Is He (Probably) Worth: Best guess here is a late round pick; I’d say a 5th or a 6th.

Egor Yakovlev

An interesting addition to this list is “rookie” defender Egor Yakovlev; due to the nature of his entry level deal (first season in the NHL), he was signed to a one year contract and he qualifies as a UFA at season’s end. While Yak has been in and out of the lineup (both in New Jersey and Binghamton) he has contributed 5 points in 14 NHL games and 10 in 12 AHL games. While he is relatively unproven still in the NHL, he does have KHL playoff experience and a team could take a flyer on him being a worthwhile addition.

Prediction for Where Winds Up: Back in Binghamton because he keeps getting thrown all over the place this season.

What Is He (Probably) Worth: I’m honestly not sure here due to the relative little usage on North American ice. I do believe due to his potential and past that he could net the Devils a 4th round pick if they elect to move him. I’d personally rather keep Yak and try to re-sign him to see if he can build off of this season and be a more effective piece in 2019-20.

Other Possibilities:

Cory Schneider or (more realistically) Keith Kinkaid

Rather than keeping three goalies on the roster, the Devils elected to send MacKenzie Blackwood back to Binghamton when Schneider’s conditioning loan ended. The only problem is that Blackwood has been the only goalie worth playing this season. Unless the Devils goal is to quietly (loudly?) tank away the rest of the season, Big Mac needs to come back, which requires moving one of the above.

Schneider’s contract coupled with his play makes him essentially unmovable, unless Shero can work his magic and fleece another GM. The realistic switch here is to send Kinkaid away as he is a pending UFA anyway and he probably won’t be brought back with Blackwood looking like the better choice going forward.

Prediction for Where Winds Up: Columbus after they move Bobrovsky? In seriousness, I’m not certain anyone really needs a goaltender, but I do see the Devils trying to move Kinkaid.

What Is He (Probably) Worth: A 5th; the goalie market isn’t crazy busy and Kinkaid isn’t all that great, but teams need depth at this time of year.

One of John Quenneville and Stefan Noesen and One of Will Butcher and Mirco Mueller

Okay this is the questionable entry here, but I think the Devils need to move some lesser parts to try and retool a couple of areas. Up front, John Quenneville hasn’t made an impact on a weak Devils’ roster and Stefan Noesen is looking like another odd man out. While the assets gained from moving either (or both) probably wouldn’t be much, the more that the Devils have to work with, the higher the chances they improve faster.

The same can be said on the back end where Will Butcher and Mirco Mueller have both been disappointments. Mueller just never panned out into an effective player, and Butcher has had huge defensive gaffes while not producing as many points as he did last season. I will say that I only see one of these two moving if Sami Vatanen returns prior to the trade dealine and the Devils hold on to Yakovlev.

I’m not going to provide destinations or returns on this one, as there’s just too many variables and each player would have a different price.

Your Take

The trade deadline is coming and the Devils are already selling; who do you see them moving prior to 3 PM on February 25th? What do you see the Devils getting back in return for those they send elsewhere? Will they move some lesser parts to acquire more assets? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!