The Devils are a team with some substantial holes to fill before next season (whenever that happens) and a bunch of cap space to theoretically work with. Whether they will be willing to use it remains to be seen and whether they *should* use it on free agents right now is also debatable. What's not debatable though is that the Devils need help at both ends of the ice if they hope to complete in 2020-21.
Gerard took a look at some of the top defensemen yesterday, so today we'll take a look at the forwards on the market. We will skip the market's biggest potential prize in Taylor Hall for now, as that seems like an unlikely scenario and probably could fill out it's own post anyway. Today, we'll look at five of the other biggest names available.
Dadonov looks like he’s on his way to being a budget casualty in Florida, meaning he will almost certainly be on the move. Outside of Hall, Dadonov probably has a decent claim to being the best other forward in this UFA class. His production has been consistently strong since returning to the NHL and his underlying numbers have been good as well (he was insanely good in 2017-18 but just pretty good on that front the past two seasons). Conversely, Dadonov turned 31 in the spring and he’s probably not quite the near-elite player he was when he first arrived back in North America. His production was still good and he was scoring at a 30-goal pace when the season was halted, but he is on the downslope of his career, which should be taken into account, particularly when considering term. He might be one of my preferred targets in this market, though.
Hoffman is likely to be another player departing Sunrise amid the reports of the Panthers cutting their budget. Hoffman leads the UFA class in points, goals, and points/game from this past season, so he is likely to be a hot commodity in this market, but he does still have some residual off-ice baggage from his disastrous exit from Ottawa a couple years ago. It seems like there haven't been any issues in Florida the past couple years, though so we'll see what kind of impacts it has on the contract offerings. Hoffman's track record in terms of his territorial impacts in the underlying numbers is not particularly good, but he is an elite finisher and is among the best shooters in the league (he's top-20 in the league in goals over the past six years). The Devils have a few different needs at forward but they always seem to need more finishers and Hoffman might be the best of the bunch.
Galchenyuk is one of those players that has always seemed like there's a bunch of untapped potential, and with him having a tough year, production-wise, this past season, my first instinct was that he might be a decent buy low opportunity for the Devils. A closer look at his underlying stats show that he's struggled a lot territorially over the past few years. He's never been much on defense, but that has gone downhill and his offensive game has deteriorated territorially as well. Put that together with the dip in production and Galchenyuk seems like a real "buyer beware" situation. If he's a bargain, maybe it's worth taking a flier on, but he's had a rough couple of years.
Granlund is an interesting case because his production has dipped in Nashville but overall he's a strong two-way center who can score and seems like he'll have plenty of interest if he doesn't re-up with Nashville. Territorially, Granlund has always been pretty good and, at 28, he likely still has a few good years ahead of him. He could make for a strong center to bolster Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes down the middle and be a formidable de facto checking line pivot going forward. The question will be how much money Granlund is commanding and whether those are dollars you should be spending on a guy who projects to be your third line C in the medium term.
Toffoli is a player I've personally been sleeping on but digging into the numbers, he looks like a guy who can have some serious impact on the ice. He's third in goals among UFA forwards and his xG impact numbers are great as well, particularly on offense. There's a reason why some murmurs of them moving Brock Boeser have swirled and Toffoli might be it. Vancouver seems like they'll be pushing to find a way to fit him under the cap, but if they can't he might be a good target. Depending on the price, he'd be nice to have alongside Hischier or Hughes going forward.
So of the players mentioned above, I think I'd put Dadonov and then perhaps Toffoli at the top of my list of targets. I'm not sure how aggressive the Devils will be on the market and I don't know that overextending themselves at this point would be wise. They might be more inclined to go after a few of the depth options like Erik Haula, Tyler Ennis, Jesper Fast, or Josh Lievo. In the likely event that they don't win the Alex Pietrangelo sweepstakes, I do think they should at least be looking at adding an impact forward, and with teams squeezed by the flat cap, maybe the Devils can land someone at a decent price. The question will be how many of the best players are interested in New Jersey, given recent results.
We'll see how it all shakes out in a few months (including who ends up even being available) but for now, what forwards are you all most interested in? Sound off with your wish list in the comments below and thanks for reading.