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The Devils Should Consider Trading their First Round Pick

The Devils have been rumored to be interested in several Vancouver Canucks forwards in recent weeks. But I think Fitzgerald should set his sights on a bigger prize, even if the price is a top 10 pick.

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New Jersey Devils v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

Last week, I wrote about a potential trade between the Devils and the Canucks along with the pieces rumored to be involved. And while Garland’s name has not been mentioned much (or at all?) in trade rumors in the past week, certainly not connected with New Jersey anyway, the smoke has continued to build around a deal between these two clubs. So much so that Pavel Zacha’s name is listed on trade boards from Frank Seravalli, ESPN, and The Athletic. Not that Zacha is the only Devil on those lists, but he’s the only one on there under the age of 25, or who will still be an RFA after their current contract is up. The player rumored on the other end of that hypothetical deal is soon to be 25 year-old, right-shot winger Brock Boeser. From Seravalli:

He [Zacha] has reportedly been connected to the Vancouver Canucks. He could be part of a package that includes Boeser (No. 6 above) as the Devils were believed to have gone deep on Boeser in the last couple years on deals that never quite got done.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this potential deal. Sure, one-for-one it would be an upgrade, but the Devils are almost certainly adding more to their end of said deal. And of the two Canucks right wingers rumored in potential trades to the Devils, I would absolutely prefer Garland, who doesn’t have the same goalscoring ability but plays a grittier, 2-way style, and is locked up for longer for less money.

Boeser’s main attribute is goalscoring, and he’s fairly good at it. His 82 game goal pace this season is 27 and he’s never averaged less than 23 goals/82 games. The caveat here is that Boeser has never actually played 82 games. In fact he’s never even played 70 games in his 5 year career (to be fair, 2 of those years have major asterisks on them), so he’s somewhat injury prone. Putting that aside, the main issue I have with Boeser is that he’s one of those players who doesn’t excel at much else besides goal-scoring.

You can see in the chart above that much of his value comes from putting the puck in the net. Outside of that, he’s an average player. Don’t get me wrong, scoring is obviously extremely important and something the Devils absolutely need. My point is that A) what are the Devils giving up in a potential deal for Boeser and is it too much?, and B) I’d like them to aim higher. If Fitzgerald is looking for a way to shake up the roster, trading for the luxury brand version of Pavel Zacha is not my preferred way to go about it. Which brings me back around to the main topic for today.

In John’s post from Monday, he noted that the Devils shouldn’t try to move any draft picks given that the team are sellers. Normally, I’d agree with this notion. Bad teams generally shouldn’t be moving high draft picks given the value a good young player on an entry level deal provides to an organization. Particularly if that high draft pick ends up being 1st or 2nd overall. My argument is that the Devils already have a good young core in place with Bratt, Hughes, and Hischier. They also have more young talent on the way up with Holtz, Mercer, and Luke Hughes. And they just signed a 28 year-old star free agent defenseman to a big contract. This is to say that the Devils roster is one that should be gearing up more immediate success, not hoping for another lottery win. And while the obvious counter is that their standings position suggests they are nowhere near ready for a playoff run, let alone a Stanley Cup run, my belief remains that better goaltending, coaching, and health would have allowed this team to meet Fitzgerald’s stated goal of playing meaningful hockey down the stretch. Add to that one or two more impact players from the trio of Holtz, Mercer, and Luke Hughes (yes, Mercer is here now, but I think in a year or two he is driving his own line) and I would like to see Fitzgerald continue the more aggressive maneuvering he began last offseason and add a high end piece rather than a minor-moderate upgrade.

In addition, the Devils don’t have time to wait 3+ years for their 2022 first round pick to show up in the NHL. Their current young players are already moving off their entry level deals, their two best defensemen are in their late 20’s, and I think I speak for the vast majority of Devil’s fans when I say we’re all sick of losing and of the most exciting parts of the hockey calendar being events that don’t involve actual hockey games.

Instead of hoping to win the Shane Wright sweepstakes, the Devils should dangle their 2022 first round pick in a potential package for an elite forward. Admittedly, this isn’t an easy thing to do, and it is the type of trade that usually doesn’t happen until the offseason, if not on draft day. But little is likely to change in that time anyway, other than knowing the specific draft position and less chance of having to worry about an injury tanking a player’s trade value. The quality of player the Devils could get back by putting their first rounder on the block is much higher than what they could get if Zacha were to be the centerpiece of a trade.

As an example, let’s look at a player from a team the Devils were rumored to be having trade talks with last offseason, Timo Meier. The Swiss forward is having a breakout season with 50 points in 44 games prior to last night’s contest, he is the 21st ranked skater by Evolving Wild’s xGAR model, and his player card shown below has him in the 99th percentile in terms of even strength offense. So trading for him now would be buying high. That’s if the Sharks had any desire to deal him. They likely wouldn’t part with him, but they probably should consider it given their position in the standings, the fact that 3 of their top 5 scorers are over the age of 30 and they’re possibly going to lose Hertl soon as well. They are a team at a crossroads and should be preparing to tear things down. A package that includes a roster player of similar age to Meier, a top 10 pick, and other, lesser assets, should be very enticing from their position.

My point isn’t just to fantasy cast Meier in a Devils sweater (even though I am trying to will that trade into existence) but to point out that that the Devils are in a position where they have the assets to be more aggressive and to aim higher than Brock Boeser, they just have to be willing to take some bigger risks to make it happen.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of a potential Boeser trade? What do you think they would have to give up to get him? Should the Devils aim higher? Should the they be willing to give up their first round pick? If so, who else besides Meier would be a potential trade target? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading.