Today is one month away from the National Hockey League’s Trade Deadline for the 2021-22 season. Plenty of teams know that they are already not playing for anything this Spring, such as the New Jersey Devils. Plenty of teams know that they have a shot at the Stanley Cup and will look to strengthen their team. One player discussed to be moved by the deadline, Tyler Toffoli, was recently dealt from Montreal to Calgary. More is expected to happen over the next four weeks. Now is as good as time as ever to get prepared for the 2021-22 NHL Trade Deadline.
What is the NHL Trade Deadline Again?
The NHL Trade Deadline is the last day within the season for teams to trade players. For this season, the day is Monday, March 21. All trades must be registered with the league’s offices by 3 PM ET. The 23-man active roster limit is lifted after the deadline and teams are limited to four non-emergency call-ups through the rest of the season. All teams must still be compliant to the salary cap (and salary floor) and the limit of fifty NHL contracts for the season. Essentially, the stretch run to close out the 2021-22 regular season will begin at 3:01 PM ET on March 21.
A key word in that paragraph is that the trade must be registered with the NHL by 3 PM. It is often for trades to be announced and confirmed after 3 PM. So if you hear or see news of a deal after 3 PM on March 21, it is not necessarily false.
What Did the Devils Do Last Season?
In his first full season as the general manager, Tom Fitzgerald did the following ahead of last season’s trade deadline:
- Both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac were sent to the New York Islanders on April 7, 2021. The Devils received the Islanders’ first round pick in 2021 (used on Chase Stillman), a conditional fourth round pick for 2022 (the Isles didn’t go to the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals so it is a fourth round pick in 2022), A.J. Greer (congratulations for the recent quad-trick), and Mason Jobst. The Devils also retained 50% of the cap hits for Zajac and Palmieri.
- Dmitry Kulikov was sent to Edmonton for a conditional fourth round pick in 2022. As the Oilers did not go all the way in 2021 either, that pick is now just a fourth round pick in 2022.
- While it was not a trade, Nikita Gusev was placed on unconditional waivers for the intent of terminating his contract. Which was done. He then signed a short-term, $1 million deal with Florida.
- Sami Vatanen was placed on waivers and Dallas claimed him.
- And New Jersey sent Arizona’s conditional 2021 third round pick from the Taylor Hall trade to Washington for Jonas Sigenthaler. The condition was not met so it remained as Arizona’s pick, which was used on Ryder Korczak. Sigenthaler.
For the most part, the Devils were sellers by April 12, 2021. Within a week of the deadline, the Devils were down five players that were or were thought to play notable roles at some point with the organization: Zajac, Palmieri, Vatanen, Gusev, and Kulikov. However, it was not a complete sell-off/clearing-out as Fitzgerald did add Sigenthaler. Without diving into any data, I think most of the People Who Matter will agree that Sigenthaler has been worth the 75th overall pick in last year’s draft. Given that this season is ending up on the same level as last season’s, we cannot fully rule out that Fitzgerald will try to make a move with next season in mind.
Will the Devils be Buyers or Sellers at This Season’s Deadline?
Sellers. I know I just wrote that it is possible for Fitzgerald to add a player who may not be getting a shot in one organization and give him one in Newark with the hopes of being a contributor. I would actually like to see something like that as it will show that someone in the organization is interested in building something of value and not a platitude or a headline that plays well in the media. But the Devils stink, they have nothing to play for this season, they would have nothing to play for if they did receive league average or median level goaltending (Columbus’ playoff odds are less than 2% right now), and they seem to not follow my plea for not following Sherman Abrams’ way of doing business. All signs point to the team moving at least one player to a contender.
What is the Devils’ Cap Situation?
The salary cap is always a factor in terms of what a team can do around trade deadline day. Players are paid for every day in the league and so with every day, their cap hit - usually presented for a season - is lower. This is how teams with low cap space can still acquire players. However, as of this writing, just over half of the league has less than $1 million in projected cap space per CapFriendly. Everyone in that group of 17 teams but Toronto and Calgary are using long term injured reserve to some degree to stay compliant, but that is only a temporary measure. And Toronto is making paper moves to stay compliant regularly. The point is that there are a lot of teams up against the ceiling.
This is worth noting because the Devils have ample cap space that they could leverage in a better return. As of Sunday, February 20, 2022, the Devils have a projected cap space of about $7.3 million with a current cap space of $21.1 million according to CapFriendly. The current cap space value takes into account the potential cap amounts the Devils could add to still meet the daily requirement up until the league’s end. In other words: the Devils can retain salary cap space to make a deal work and take on pretty much any contract in the league. This is something Tom Fitzgerald should and may do as he tries to move on from some players. He can offer this - for a sweeter return.
Additionally, the Devils also have 23 players on their active roster right now and 47 players on contract. This means the Devils will have to demote some players to Utica when some players come off injured reserve or if they add any NHL players. But they can add up to three players to their books barring any other changes. This is also a factor in deals. Taking Greer and Jobst back in the Palmieri and Zajac trade last season, for example, was necessary as the Isles were up against the contract limit.
Who Could be on the Trade Block for the Devils?
It is tempting to write everyone since the Devils have earned just 17 wins out of 50 games this season. Truth be told, there are some truly untouchable players and supremely unlikely players to be dealt (both really good and really minimal players) on this roster. Without going into a complete list of the Devils players by trade value*, here is who I think is likely to be traded or at least rumored to be traded by March 21:
- P.K. Subban is the team’s biggest pending unrestricted free agent. Generally, these players get dealt from bad teams in the final year of their contracts. While Subban has not been entirely bad and the right side is going to look real bad without him, there is not much value for keeping him in New Jersey. His cap hit may be large, but his salary for the season is small ($2 million) and it is shrinking every day he is in the NHL. The Devils can totally retain $4.5 million of a cap hit for a better return for #76 to, presumably, a playoff team that wants to bolster their right-sided defensemen.
- Jimmy Vesey, the only other pending UFA with some kind of (small) value, would not yield much in a return, but one could argue that a fourth line winger who can help on the penalty kill and has seemingly found his NHL game could garner some interest. Do not expect a lot, but if someone wants him, then why not get something before he likely walks in July? Even if the something is a fifth round pick.
- Pavel Zacha has been the subject of plenty of trade chatter, mostly with Vancouver. This has led to plenty of discussion, comments, thoughts, and even some posts here about whether Zacha can or should be traded for someone like Conor Garland or Brock Boeser or part of a larger package to bring a different Canuck back to New Jersey. It may be just smoke, but it is unusual to see insiders bring up New Jersey as part of trade rumors. Much less involving Pavel Zacha. He is a pending restricted free agent and there is some logic to the Devils moving him elsewhere if Fitzgerald does not think he fits the team’s future. For the good of any potential trade, I will keep my thoughts about Zacha’s playstyle and performance this season to myself until March 22, 2022.
- Damon Severson has also been the subject of speculation. Apparently, per Jonas Siegel of The Athletic ($), Toronto’s Kyle Dubas is interested in a right-sided defenseman and would not mind if the player has some term on his contract. Severson is 27 and has one more season left on his current contract ($4.16 million cap hit, $5.1 million salary in 2022-23). I think this is more wishing than actual buzz. But, again, if management does not see Severson as part of the team’s future as Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Jesper Bratt grow, then I think he could at least be discussed. I also think he is more likely to get moved next season, but it is not impossible.
(*Aside: If you want one, please let me know in the comments and I will do it. If you want a massive post about it that is not “this team is bad and you know this but here is more proof of it” then request it and it will be done before March 21.)
Who or What Should the Devils Not Trade? Or Who or What Should They Get in Their Deals?
The Devils should really not try to trade any draft picks. Given that they are likely going to be sellers at the trade deadline, the general goal is to add draft picks and prospects for established players. Currently, the Devils own all of their picks for 2022 except for the fifth rounder. They also own Edmonton’s fourth round pick, the Islanders’ fourth round pick, and Columbus’ fifth round pick. If they can move, say, P.K. Subban and add an additional first or second round pick by March 21, then you could call it a success of some kind.
The 2022 NHL Draft may not be exceptional like some of the hype around the 2023 class. However, I would like to think these prospective players may end up showing more value than they do since a lot of them missed out on plenty of hockey due to the pandemic and they’re still catching up. And, again, if a team is going to pick in the top-ten of this year’s draft class, they’re going to get a real good player unless they go off the board. Which may work if he ends up like Moritz Seider. Less so if the player does not develop.
As far as who they should not trade, I think the Devils will definitely not move the guys who signed big deals for this or next season. Or Jesper Bratt, who is in line to make a fat stack of cash this Summer. As much as you can want to argue for someone like Ty Smith, that would require a significant trade that would attempt to jump start the team’s trajectory. I know Smith is struggling. Without going into more detail (it may be worth its own post), I think he needs a different coach than Alain Nasreddine and any different mentor.
What should the Devils try to do? Again, picks and prospects are fine returns. I would be pleased to see if Fitzgerald opts to make another move like he did last year that brought Siegenthaler to the team. I think flipping a mid-round pick for a young player who may have talent but has not received an opportunity to play is worth doing. With nothing for the team to achieve in this season, the player will have his own motivation to prove he belongs in this league. This will require keeping tabs at the AHL level as well as noting who has been on the fringe of some rosters, but it would be productive. It would also be a small sign that perhaps management does not want to totally accept the status quo.
Any Other Things to Note?
Yes. The schedule. Between now and March 21, the Devils will play twelve more games. The Devils will be heading out to Western Canada in the week before the deadline for a three-game road trip. That trip ends in the afternoon of March 19, 2022. Then the Devils travel back and will play their next game on the 22nd at the Rock against Our Hated Rivals. That the Devils will be way away from home before the deadline could drive Fitzgerald to make a deal happen before hand. And if it does not, then there is still two game-free days where everyone will be at least back in the home area. Either way, I would suggest paying attention to who is on that trip. If someone does not go and they are healthy or close to it, then that may be a sign they could be traded. Likewise, if you see anyone being held out for “precautionary reasons,” that is an even bigger sign that the player could be moved real soon.
What Happens Now?
As ever, we wait. The Devils’ season will resume on February 24. I would expect more chatter, discussion, and rumor about Devils players. Especially if a Canadian team is supposedly interested in a Devil. Their teams are fairly well-covered by media in the area and by nationwide or league-wide sources. Do not be shocked at secondhand sources reporting any smoke about a deal. Do be careful as to who is providing the information. Trust people who actually work for legitimate sources like TSN, Sportsnet, The Athletic, and so forth. Some random person on social media? Ignore them. Just ignore them.
For the day itself, we will once again have an open post for all of you, the People Who Matter, to discuss the deadline day activities as it happens. If and when trades happen, we will try to get a post up in a timely manner to discuss it. As ever, we will continue to roll on with this miserable season.
Will the next four weeks be the last time we see this team as we now know it? Who do you think will be traded (not who do you want, who do you think will be dealt)? What would you expect Fitzgerald to get back in a trade? Who should the Devils try to get, if anyone? Please leave your answers in the comments and discuss the upcoming trade deadline. Thank you for reading.