After the Devils blockbuster trade where they sent a combined 20 years of Devils experience away to Long Island, the next thought related to the trade deadline was “Well do the Devils have anything else left to work with to acquire any more picks or prospects?” The answer: sort of. I think there are a few obvious players the Devils might be shopping and a handful of other spicier options that they could look at selling for the right offer. Without further ado, let’s check out what the Devils are working with here:
The Obvious Possibilities
Dimitry Kulikov - Kulikov has been a surprisingly stout addition to the Devils’ defense this season and has performed well above most people’s expectations after the Devils grabbed him on a one-year deal in the fall. Kulikov brings little in the offensive end, but he has been great as a defensive defenseman for the Devils and could be a worthwhile addition for any team looking to solidify their back end. Add in the fact that he is on a very inexpensive contract and even the most cap-strapped teams can probably find a way to work his remaining cap hit into their squad. Plenty of teams could use these type of impacts heading into the playoffs:
As far as single, tradable assets go, Kulikov is almost certainly the most valuable one the Devils have remaining. I don’t know that they will end up moving him for sure, but I don’t think there is a ton of downside to doing so. Kulikov is 30 and while he might be a useful stopgap, he probably isn’t a long-term piece. The Devils can always circle back with him in the summer if he and the organization are on good terms. If the Devils are hoping to acquire something of reasonable value like a second-round pick or a prospect with a bit of upside, Kulikov may be their best route to that right now.
Ryan Murray - Similarly to Kulikov, Murray’s value is more tied to his defense than offense and he’s arguably one of the better Devils in his own end. I’d call this season a bit underwhelming for Murray compared to the expectations/hopes there were for him coming in, but I’d rate his performance somewhere in the “fine” range and I think his track record is such that he’d garner some interest if the Devils have chosen to shop him.
The thing holding Murray back in this market will be his contract, given how tight against the cap most teams are. At a $4.6M AAV, Murray is the third-highest paid Devil left on the payroll (lol). The good news for the Devils is that they can still make at least one more retained salary transaction (they used two of their three to ship out Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri), so they have that option to try to get back a solid return for Murray, who is probably considerably more palatable/moveable at a $2.3M hit than $4.6.
Will Butcher - This has been an unfortunate season for Butcher, and it seems unlikely that he or the Devils are particularly interested in continuing the relationship where they pay him $3.73M to eat chicken fingers in the scratch suite. I think Butcher may still have some sort of NHL future and there are certainly attractive elements to his game in the right situation/system, but he and the new Lindy Ruff regime have apparently mixed like oil and water.
The problem, of course, is that Butcher still makes that aforementioned $3.73M and has another year on his contract after this. Anyone picking him up at that price seems highly unlikely and could actually theoretically cost the Devils assets to move him (not that they would do that). Even at a half-retained $1.85-ish million hit, I’m not sure there are a ton of takers when teams know that Butcher has not been able to crack a decidedly mediocre defensive group. The Devils’ best hope of unloading Butcher may be at the expansion draft as a theoretical reclamation project for Seattle.
Nikita Gusev - Uh so nevermind about this one.
Sami Vatanen - This makes up almost the entire d-corps at this point, but in terms of veterans on expiring contracts, that’s where all the remaining particularly moveable contracts are. It would be rough to trade the same guy at the deadline two years in a row but it’s not unheard of. I do question how much interest there will be for Vatanen, who hasn’t been particularly good this season, but he’s a veteran on a relatively cheap expiring deal, so he figures in as a rental option.
The Spicier Options
Miles Wood - I have really liked what Miles Wood has done this year at times, but I think even with the improvement he’s shown, you can see his limitations as a player. Wood is a speedster and he can really cause problems for teams by catching them on their heels, he is still not much of a facilitator, though, even if he’s gotten a bit better at slowing things down when appropriate. And while he is certainly not shy about shooting the puck, he’s not exactly a sniper with his career shooting percentage south of 9% in a pretty large sample.
Again, I’ve liked some of the steps Wood has made this year and I think he’s a useful player, but if you’re looking for players who have some decent value as a trade piece while not being an inexpendable part of the roster, Wood probably fits that mold. Do I think such a trade is likely? Considering the team just gave him an alternate captain letter the other night, no. I also think you’d have to get a pretty strong return to make a move like this worth your while, which is questionable in the current cap environment.
Pavel Zacha - Because we here at AAtJ are gluttons for punishment in the form of Zacha Discourse, I’m going to toss him on the trade block here. Why? I honestly don’t know that there will ever be an opportunity to sell higher on him. Zacha leads the team in total scoring despite having borderline heinous 5v5 underlying numbers. He just doesn’t seem to work as a center in this league but if a team is convinced he is a legit top-six center option, you might be able to pry something of serious value away from them (maybe even a good defensive prospect/young defender?).
Andreas Johnsson - I’m throwing this one in because this has been another sort of square peg/round hole situation for the Devils and the results have been disappointing for everyone in this union. Johnsson has seen his minutes slashed at various times and is struggling mightily to produce. The biggest problem here is honestly that I don’t know that anyone will take on his salary with the season he’s been having. Add in the fact that some of his underlying numbers point to a guy who is holding his own but is just extremely cold and you’re probably selling as low as you possibly could if you try to move him at this point.
So who do you see potentially getting moved before the deadline? Anyone? Do you have any of your own potentially surprising trade candidates? Sound off in the comments and thanks for reading.