The broad principles that guide me in the following trade ideas are that the Devils should weaponize their cap space at the deadline as much as possible (it's not just an offseason thing to do), and when circumstances allow should target NHL-ready players that are vulnerable to the expansion draft.
Andreas Johnsson (50% retained, $1.7M until 2023) and Nathan Bastian to Toronto for Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5M until 2023), Rodion Amirov, and Joey Anderson
Johnsson has unfortunately not worked out well in NJ and while Fitz would probably not abandon hope on him this quickly, he has more value to Toronto than to any other team. This trade would not only bring Toronto the scoring winger Dubas has publicly coveted, but Johnsson is a known fit for them and with the money retained he would be an excellent value for the cap hit. The Leafs would be saving $1.8M against the cap in the next two years, as well as giving them space to make a deal to upgrade the D or C positions right now.
For the Devils, they are adding salary and Kerfoot provides NHL level depth. The real prize in this trade is Amirov and I believe the Devils can ask for a top prospect in this deal, considering the cap value that Johnsson would bring to them. I think Toronto would be okay parting with Amirov since he is a few years away, compared to NHL-ready prospects Rasmus Sandin and Nick Robertson. I don't believe Timothy Liljegren is enough to make this deal work.
Why the Bastian-Anderson swap? Toronto has a slew of veteran forwards who are not signed beyond this season but needs two forwards who meet the 27/54 games played requirement to expose to Seattle - Bastian fills those requirements but Anderson does not.
Kyle Palmieri to the New York Islanders for Leo Komarov and a 1st round pick
Is Palmieri worth a 1st round pick on his own? No, not with his struggles to score this season. But I do think he fits well for what the Islanders need, the Devils would be freeing up $3M cap space for the Isles next season by taking on Komarov which is probably worth a 2nd round pick on its own, and Lou has never been shy about making a deal to help his team in the short term. Lou will not want to part with current contributors Wahlstrom or Dobson, but a 1st round pick is the next best thing.
Sami Vatanen (50% retained, $1M) and Nick Merkley to Tampa Bay for Cal Foote
Vatanen is a 3rd pairing defender but he'll be one of the few and potentially the "top" RHD available at the deadline (David Savard is the other notable RHD but Columbus has worked their way back into playoff contention). Just as importantly to TB, at 50% retained he can fit into their very tight cap structure and would minimally raise their cap hit when replacing Foote with him ($75K), which Savard cannot do. And lacking 2nd round picks this year and next after trading away first rounders last year, the Lightning would not need to use more draft capital in this trade.
Why would the Lightning give up Foote, their top D prospect, for a middling rental like Vatanen? For one, they need depth on D to survive what they hope is another Cup run, and lost Bogosian and Coburn from last year's Cup team. Foote is a good prospect, but he's getting less than 12 min a night in Tampa and won't likely be trusted with much more in the playoffs. For another, Foote is probably going to be exposed to Seattle, with Hedman, Sergachev, and Cernak the locks to be protected by TB. Merkley is a less enticing prospect than Foote, but he remains young enough to work his way into a bottom 6 role and TB has a history of making the most out of smaller skilled forwards. TB also has a greater need to re-stock their cupboards at F as they may end up losing Johnson, Palat, and Killorn in the next few years.
For NJ, Foote fills a need in the prospect pipeline as a big RHD with a big shot and solid defense who can step in immediately as the team's RD3. Like his brother Nolan, the question on him is mostly about Foote-speed. He's not an A prospect, but a better fit for NJ's pipeline than Merkley.
Dmitry Kulikov, Kevin Bahl, and a 3rd round pick to St Louis for Vince Dunn
I like Kevin Bahl, but you need to give to get and Vince Dunn provides immediate help while allowing other prospects like Okhotiuk and Vukojevic to get their reps in the AHL. Kulikov can skate and defend as a solid 3rd pair D for the Blues, who are underutilizing Dunn and can't protect him in the expansion draft. Moreover, the Blues actually add a little cap space because of Kulkov's cheap contract to add one more minor piece to their roster this season. Bahl provides the Blues with an enticing prospect exempt from the expansion draft. I debated whether the Devils needed to add a draft pick to the deal and decided one might be needed to push St Louis into doing the deal now rather than waiting until the draft.
Ryan Murray (50% retained, $2.3M) for a 3rd round pick
Maybe Murray won't fetch this much, but he's a proven defender and the benefit to a team acquiring him is they can test drive him without committing to him in free agency this summer. For less than a 3rd round pick, the Devils shouldn't have to retain salary.
Scott Wedgewood for a 4th/5th round pick
In a normal year Wedgewood wouldn't have any trade value. This isn't a normal year, and his solid play might get the Devils something small.
Nikita Gusev for a 4th/5th round pick
Just get what you can, Fitz.
Serve as a pass-through to retain salary on a Taylor Hall deal for a 3rd round pick
Devils' post-deadline lineup after all these deals:
Bratt - Hughes - Thompson
Zacha - Hischier - Kerfoot
Kuokkanen - Zajac - Sharangovich
Wood - Maltsev - Anderson (McLeod, Komarov extras)
Smith - Severson
Dunn - Subban
Butcher - Foote
Devils' expansion draft protection list:
F - Hischier, Bratt, Zacha, Kuokkanen, Sharangovich, Wood, Kerfoot or McLeod (Anderson, Komarov, and either Kerfoot or McLeod exposed)
D - Severson, Dunn, Foote (Subban and Butcher exposed)
Amirov, 1st round pick (NYI), one 3rd round pick (net), two 4th/5th round picks
Bahl, Merkley, $4.7M cap space in 2021-22 (Komarov, Johnsson), $1.7M cap space in 2022-23 (Johnsson only)