Silly season is upon us again and while prices may be a bit depressed because of the lower-than-expected cap ceiling you can bet a lot of regrettable contracts are still going to be handed out in this last week of June and first week of July.
I think Ray Shero is still going to be looking at the trade market to utilize his 2019-20 cap space and probably should be looking to move Sami Vatanen as well. He should not be looking at trading a 1st round pick away given the uncertainty with Taylor Hall and the bloodbath that is going to be the Metro division.
Ultimate target: Vegas Golden Knights' Alex Tuch and Colin Miller
Getting there by way of: Toronto Maple Leafs' Kasperi Kapanen, in order to be able to offer Vegas a good young winger who is not too big of a downgrade from Tuch.
Trade Sami Vatanen (50% retained, $2.4375M x 1 for each team), a B prospect, and a 2020 4th round pick for Kasperi Kapanen (RFA) and Connor Brown ($2.1M x 1). Given Kapanen has reportedly agreed with Toronto to a 3 year deal in the neighborhood of $3.3M AAV, this represents a cap savings of about $2.1M if the Leafs replace Brown with an $800K player on an ELC (like Jeremy Bracco) and gives Toronto a very cheap one-year RD2 rental.
A better pick like a 2020 3rd or 2021 2nd would be options to make the trade more appealing to Dubas.
Trade Kapanen (33% retained, $2.2M x 3 cap hit for Vegas, $1.1M x 3 for the Devils), Connor Carrick, and a B prospect to Vegas for Tuch ($4.75M x 7), Miller ($3.875M x 3), and Ryan Reaves ($2.775M x 1). This gets Vegas to about a $80.7M cap hit with 19 roster players (assuming a Cody Glass call-up) before putting David Clarkson on LTIR, leaving them with $6.05M to sign Gusev, Carrick, a depth defenseman, and a backup goalie to round out their 23-man roster. The retained money on Kapanen gives Vegas a true bargain for the next 3 years, and they can still boast Gusev - Glass - Kapanen as a skilled and cheap 3rd line.
Taking on Clarkson's last year would be an option to make the trade more appealing to McPhee.
These maneuvers would bring the Devils 2019-20 cap hit to $74.1M, assuming a $2.1M x 2 deal for Pavel Zacha, a $2.3M x 2 deal for Will Butcher, a $935K qualifying offer for Mueller, and a $925K cap hit for Jack Hughes. Of the amount added to the cap through these trades, $7.3M is for 2019-20 only (Vatanen's retained money, Brown, Reaves) and $1.1M would stay on the cap for 3 years (Kapanen's retained money). After Andy Greene's cap hit comes off that still leaves the Devils with $30M of space in 2020-21 even with a flat cap to pay Hall, Hischier, Bratt, and Blackwood, replace Andy Greene and fill Brown, Reaves, Rooney, and Mueller's places in the lineup.
The Devils' lineup would be:
Hall - Hischier - Tuch
Bratt - Hughes - Palmieri
Boqvist - Zajac - Brown
Coleman - Zacha - Reaves
Butcher - Subban
Greene - Severson
Smith - Miller
Schneider - Blackwood
Wood, Rooney, Mueller as extras
These trades would successfully address our lack of RW depth, shift Bratt and Coleman to their natural side, add a face puncher who can play the game, and replace Vatanen with a suitable intermediate-term solution. Tuch would also help the PP as the net front man. Futures expended would be a mid round pick and a couple of B prospects. Trading Wood could recoup some of those futures and free up some cap space for future years.