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New Jersey Devils Traded Sami Vatanen to Carolina Hurricanes for Janne Kuokkanen, Frederick Claesson, Conditional Pick

Near the end of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, the New Jersey Devils traded currently injured and pending UFA defenseman Sami Vatanen to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils acquired forward Janne Kuokkanen, defenseman Frederick Claesson, and a conditional fourth rounder in 2020 This post is a reaction to the deal.

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes
Sami Vatanen (L) is now a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, along with Jordan Staal (R)
Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Within the final ten minutes of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, the New Jersey Devils traded right-sided defenseman Sami Vatanen to the Carolina Hurricanes. Bob McKenzie of TSN reported this and that the Devils received a prospect and a pick in return. As of 3:19 PM, the details came out from McKenzie:

UPDATE: HOWEVER, this was not the actual return. The actual return was updated in this tweet by Elliotte Friedman at 3:53 PM ET (or just as this post was going up off of McKenzie’s information). This post is updated for the trade return paragraph.

Sami Vatanen is a pending unrestricted free agent in addition to being a right-sided defenseman under the age of 30. For those reasons alone he was a prime trade target. Vatanen has been on injured reserve since the beginning of the month. As far as I am aware, he is not close to returning. I figured that would dampen any interest for a trade. That clearly did not happen as there was a trade at all.

Carolina badly needed a defenseman with injuries to Dougie Hamilton (out for the season) and Brett Pesce (injured in their previous game). In addition, Carolina is in a dog fight for a playoff spot in the East. Whatever help they can get is help that could be most helpful even if it takes another week or two for Vatanen to provide any. Especially for the playoffs, should Carolina make it.

Will Vatanen help them much? Maybe? Vatanen’s 5-on-5 on-ice numbers were among the better ones among Devils defensemen this season but they were still well below the break-even percentage per Natural Stat Trick. However, the Devils have been systemically bad at allowing attempts, shots, and chances. It is possible that on a team with better coaching and structure - like Carolina - Vatanen could thrive. Vatanen did take prime power play minutes from the likes of P.K. Subban and Will Butcher. His ten power play points boosted his production of 23 points in 47 games. Depending on when he returns and how the Hurricanes’ coaching staff evaluates him, he could contribute to their power play.

As far as the return goes, it is a so-so return. The Devils did not have a second round pick for 2020. They now have one. It may not be a high one, but it is a pick all the same. Perhaps enough to be less tempted to move of one of their two extra first round picks down for additional picks deeper in the draft. The prospect, 21-year old left winger Janne Kuokkanen, is someone who could at the least help out Binghamton right away. Kuokkanen has been very productive with Charlotte with 10 goals, 42 points and 92 shots in 54 games in the AHL. With the Devils having little to play for from here on out this season, they could call him up and give him some legitimate minutes to see what he can do in the NHL. Per Steve Kournianos on Twitter, Kuokkanen was a victim of the numbers game in Carolina’s system and it suggests he is an offensive player. It’s a fine prospect to acquire. Frederick Claesson is a left-sided defenseman and a pending unrestricted free agent who has spent all season with Charlotte, Carolina’s AHL affiliate. If he could not break into Carolina’s blueline, then I have little hope of him adding much to the Devils. The conditional fourth rounder is conditioned on how many games Vatanen plays. If he hits a certain amount, then it becomes a third round pick. The Devils do not have a third round pick, so there is reason to be hopeful for a speedy recovery for Vatanen. That said, it is not as good as a second rounder, which was initially reported. That makes me feel less good about about the deal.

I would like to think that a healthy, active Vatanen would have garnered a little more of a return or perhaps more interest. Yet, he is a pending UFA and so any deal for him would be a rental. The Devils’ offensive prospect pool is a little deeper with Kuokkanen. New Jersey now has potentially four picks in the first two rounds in the 2020 NHL Draft with one more second rounder than than the zero they had yesterday. I like this trade. The conditional fourth rounder is not much; even if it upgrades to a third, it still is not a valuable pick. Claesson is a throw-in and may help out much more in Binghamton than anwhere else. I think whatever the Devils get out of this deal is going to be contingent on how well Janne Kuokkanen does in the Devils organization unless the team hits big on that fourth (or third) rounder from Carolina. We shall see whether Vatanen is active when the Devils take on Carolina on March 12 and March 29, which will both be in New Jersey.

Now, I want to know what you think about this trade. I’m sorry that I went with McKenzie’s report first; Friedman’s update definitely impacts how this trade goes down. Feel free to share your thoughts about this deal in the comments. As well as vote in our flash poll (ends at 7 PM ET today). Thank you for reading.


The Devils traded Sami Vatanen to Carolina for Janne Kuokkanen, Frederick Claesson, and a conditional fourth rounder in 2020. What do you think of the deal?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    I love it!
    (63 votes)
  • 41%
    I like the trade.
    (351 votes)
  • 31%
    I’m in the middle / I’m not sure.
    (270 votes)
  • 15%
    I don’t like the trade.
    (129 votes)
  • 4%
    I hate it!
    (38 votes)
851 votes total Vote Now