The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, which is at 3 PM ET on March 21, is less than a month away. I provided a preview for the deadline about a month away in this post last week. In short: expect the New Jersey Devils to be sellers again. While no one really asked for one, I have decided to bring back something I did in recent seasons: a list of Devils players on the team ranked by perceived trade value. Something to chew on in terms how much of a return a player may get, should he be traded from the Devils. Remember that this is a league where Wayne Gretzky got traded; no one is truly untouchable. That stated, I think there are a few who practically are in this organization at this moment. Let us go through who is on the list and where before someone gets dealt. It is March already.
I am not suggesting, arguing, proclaiming or demanding that General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and his group trades everyone, no one, or any specific one player in this post. I am not suggesting, arguing, proclaiming or demanding that the team trade the players with more value than others. Any deal is presumed to make some sense for the Devils. Whether that is obtaining draft picks, prospects, or even players to help the team for 2022-23 and beyond. This post is an exercise in how I think each player’s trade value may be perceived to the rest of the league.
This is a ranked list. The higher the rank, the more I think it would take for a team to pry them away from New Jersey. This is not a list of players who I think are the best on the team. You and I can argue over whether Jesper Bratt is having a better season than Jack Hughes. I think he is, but what I think about that does not mean that I think Bratt is going to have more trade value than Hughes. A lot more factors go into perceived value than just how they are performing right now. Their age, their cap hit, their salary structure on their contract, their position, their past, their current role in New Jersey, and even their skill set can all help determine a player’s value in a potential deal. Again, this is not a list stating that Player X is necessarily better than Player Y. This is about perceived trade value.
Which brings me to my regular reminder that I am not a NHL general manager, an insider like Elliotte Friedman, or a fake insider like all of those Twitter accounts that get people going with no reason to believe them. I am a hockey blogger. This is all how I see it. I am willing and likely to be wrong. To that end, I encourage you to disagree and explain how you see players as more or less valuable than I do. That is what the comments section is for.
To keep this post from going too out of control, I am limiting this post to all of the Devils who have played at least five games with the team this season and are currently in the organization. This means I am ranking 24 skaters and 4 goaltenders in this post. This means Kevin Bahl, Fabian Zetterlund, Chase DeLeo, A.J. Greer, Nolan Foote, and Tyce Thompson are not in this post. They did not make the games cut-off. Marian Studenic (17 GP) was claimed recently by Dallas from waivers. He is also not in this post. I have also excluded Jonathan Bernier and Miles Wood. Wood has yet to even practice with the team and Bernier is out for the season with a hip surgery. While injured players can be traded if agreed upon, I am going to assume no team will trade actual assets for either of those two. This post will include Janne Kuokkanen and Mackenzie Blackwood, who are both on IR and I presume (and hope) will return to the New Jersey lineup this season.
Let’s get into it in reverse order from the least valuable to the most valuable. All contract information is from CapFriendly.
Tier 1: Minimal Value: “You want him? Sure. For what? Eh, whatever.”
#28. Jon Gillies - 2021-22 Salary: $750,000 - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
How can Jon Gillies be the lowest on this list? Simple. He was acquired by the Devils for Future Considerations. Which basically means nothing tangible. Gillies has been given opportunities to show that he can at least be a depth goaltender. After thirteen appearances and an overall save percentage of 88.4% in those games, he is not. In fact, head coach Lindy Ruff and his coaching staff opted to play Nico Daws back-to-back earlier this week instead of splitting the starts like they did in the prior week. This is a sign that as long as Daws is at least decent, Gillies is the backup to the 21-year old in his first season in pro hockey. Add to the fact that Alex Stalock, another veteran goaltender in pro hockey, was just moved for Future Considerations, I cannot really see Gillies getting any more than that - if at all. Therefore, he is last on this year’s list.
#27. Mason Geertsen - 2021-22 Salary: $750,000 - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
Most times I bring up Mason Geertsen, I have to explain myself to a surprisingly vocal set of the People Who Matter. People I am not sure are actually paying attention to the games. The argument is that players like Geertsen still have value, and Fitzgerald understands that which is why he has remained on the active roster - to the detriment of losing Scott Wedgewood and Marian Studenic to waivers this season. My problem, among others with these complaints, is that the issue is with Mason Geertsen alone. Players like Geertsen could possibly have value. Geertsen himself does not. A very slow skater who intimidates no opponent, protects no Devil, takes next to no shots (six on net, 11 attempts in 16 games), has no points at all, and opponents enjoy it when he is on the ice because it means they are often pinning the Devils back as evidenced by Geertsen’s awful on-ice rates in 5-on-5. Geertsen is absolutely terrible. If the Devils are offered anything for him, future considerations included, then Fitzgerald should take the deal and run.
#26. Frédérik Gauthier - 2021-22 Salary: $800,000 - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
Frédérik Gauthier joined the Devils out of training camp last Fall. He made the team and signed a two-way contract. However, it was apparent he was not really going to help the Devils much. Gauthier was not fast. The Devils were picked on in the run of play when he was on the ice in 5-on-5. He was not going to help the attack much. After eight games, Gauthier was demoted to Utica. There, the 26-year old forward is a veteran presence for a young Utica team at forward and has put up a rate of just under 0.5 points per game. This is not a player who will get anything back in a deal - if at all.
#25. Colton White - 2021-22 Salary: $750,000 - Pending Restricted Free Agent
Did you know that Colton White played in 22 games this season? It is true. Has he done well in those 22 games? Not really. He may not look like someone who is making big mistakes or getting constantly overwhelmed. However, he is certainly not helping the cause in pushing back against opposing players. When he has been on the ice, the Devils are often defending a lot - which is not good. Since the Devils want defensemen to activate and shoot as they see fit, seeing White with just 17 shots on net and four assists to show for production is lacking. White is a call-up, fill-in type defenseman that most teams have in their AHL lineup or on their active roster as a spare. You may think White is OK for what he is, but these players are too common to be worth much in a deal.
#24. Christian Jaros - 2021-22 Salary: $800,000 - Pending Restricted Free Agent
It has been a rough season for Christian Jaros. He missed plenty of time due to injury. When he was healthy, his performances in spot duty have not been good. On a team where defensemen are encouraged to shoot and activate, he has just nine shots on net in eleven games with zero points. Recent months have shown that Colton White is preferred as a fill-in, #7 defenseman instead of Jaros. The only reason why I have him this high is because Fitzgerald traded for Jaros so we have an idea what he’s worth. Which were the rights to sign Nick Merkley. If you want to swap Jaros and White in this ranking, then go for it.
Tier 2: Low Value: “Is he available? We can make it happen. Don’t worry, not for a lot, but there has to be something you’re offering.”
#23. Akira Schmid - 2021-22 Salary: $842,500 - Entry Level Contract
Akira Schmid has had a rough time of it in his call ups to the NHL. His overall save percentage of 83.3% in six appearances is not good at all. In the AHL, the 21-year old has been exceptional. His overall save percentage of 92.9% is the best in the AHL among qualified goaltenders. To be fair to Schmid (and Daws), the Devils have not been good and so their action has not always been under the ideal circumstances for a rookie to the pro game. Still, Schmid’s exceedingly good performances in the AHL suggest that he has a future - and that he should stay in the AHL and make a push for the NHL in future seasons. For now, he does not have much value. Not in a season where goalies with more extensive AHL and some more NHL experience are going for future considerations (e.g. Alex Stalock, Michael McNiven, Jon Gillies).
#22. Nico Daws - 2021-22 Salary: $842,500 - Entry Level Contract
Nico Daws has been good in two of his last three appearances. That has been enough for him to jump past Jon Gillies in the current goaltending tandem as his most recent game was a consecutive start. It is also enough to currently own the team’s best overall save percentage at the moment of 90.9% in seven appearances this season. Is it enough to warrant a lot of value in a potential trade? No. It would be mostly on potential and, with the number of goalies out there, a team would have to have a strong belief in his potential to offer something significant for him. In Daws’ defense, he is just 21 and he has done very well in his first season in the AHL with a 91.8% overall save percentage - which is the ninth best among all qualified goalies in the league. That is a good start to a pro career and having some NHL appearances go well is extra gravy on the meat. I just do not think teams would line up to offer anything much for a goalie still relatively new to this league and has seemingly just beat out a bad goalie for a more games in the interim. If Daws can secure a NHL job, then he will rise in these ranks of perception - but that is not the case now and it will not be by March 21.
#21. Jesper Boqvist - 2021-22 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract, Pending Restricted Free Agent
2022 has been good for Jesper Boqvist. Or at least it has been more productive than ever before. Nine of his twelve points have come from the last two months. Recent games have seen Boqvist center a line and using his speed to take more initiative. The best case scenario is that this is a player finally figuring out the NHL game and starting to make more of an impact on there. That would be great. However, Boqvist is not this young prospect learning to hang in this league for the first time. He is 23 and this is his third pro season. Boqvist has not spent a lot of time in the AHL but when he was there, he was a scorer. In the NHL, he was not until the past two months. And his on-ice rates in 5-on-5 have not been encouraging. Past call ups have yielded very little from the forward. If Boqvist was playing like he currently was in past call ups, then 1) he would have more games played in New Jersey and possibly be a regular forward and 2) more in the NHL would agree that he is a player with some value. Despite his recent play, I do not think Boqvist has a lot of value currently. He strikes me as someone to throw into a larger deal as a sweetener. But a deal for Boqvist alone would not likely get a lot back at this moment.
#20. Jimmy Vesey - 2021-22 Salary: $800,000 - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
No one wanted Jimmy Vesey from free agency last Summer. He joined the Devils’ training camp on a professional try out. He earned his way onto the roster and has been a mainstay of the Devils’ bottom six for 50 games now. As a depth player, Vesey has been OK. His on-ice rates have been decent. He has provided seven goals and thirteen points. He has been an effective mainstay on the penalty kill. Surprising to me, he has 80 shots on net and 134 attempts on net (McLeod and Bastian are at 55). For a depth winger, this is pretty good. The issue is that depth wingers do not carry a lot of value on their own. The 27-year old winger is not so experienced that a team would want his presence or something like that. I really do not think Vesey would command a lot in a trade. I think he may be moved, just for something small like a conditional mid-round draft pick or something like that. As he is a pending UFA, I do hope he can get a NHL contract this Summer for his own career’s sake. For the purposes of the deadline, I would not expect a whole lot back.
#19. Nathan Bastian - 2021-22 Salary: $775,000
One of the smarter moves Tom Fitzgerald made this season was to claim Nathan Bastian off of waivers. Bastian was added to McLeod’s wing on the right side. He eventually got power play time to screen a goaltender. The power play got hot and so he has remained there. Getting eight goals for a waiver pick-up is a nice return. His on-ice rates in 5-on-5 are better than his best friend’s, but not positive on their own. For a fourth-line right winger, this is not a bad set of results. Would it be worth anything to some other team? They know that Seattle, an expansion team, dropped him on waivers. Has he done enough on a bad Devils team to elevate his game to warrant someone offering something decent for him? I do not think so. As a result, I have him in this low tier and just behind his best friend, who does have two things going for him.
#18. Michael McLeod - 2021-22 Salary: $950,000
Faceoffs! Penalty killing! Faceoffs! Penalty killing! Faceoffs! Penalty killing! McLeod has been good at the dots with a faceoff winning percentage of 58% (452 for 780) this season. And he has been good in shorthanded situations. That is where the value ends for the 24-year old center. He is a fourth-line center where the run of play goes sour the moment after the faceoff ends. Really sour in 5-on-5. McLeod has good pace and occasionally flashes some skill on offense, but he does not do nearly enough to be considered. Lindy Ruff wrongly tried to use McLeod for match-up purposes this season and it was largely not good since he is not being used that way anymore. Lots of teams have fourth liners or depth forwards who are good at one or two things that are nice to have, but not essential in making a team get a whole lot better. Given his age, that this is his fourth season in the NHL, he was never a significant producer (or player) in the AHL, and he’s not significantly breaking through in production (he matched his production of 15 points last season, so there’s that), I think what you see from McLeod now is what you get. He is not this young, developing player on a cheap contract. He is a fourth line caliber player being paid like one. That does not carry a whole lot of value on its own.
#17. Janne Kuokkanen - 2021-22 Salary: $1.6 million
I am sure if I asked you, the People Who Matter, who the most disappointing New Jersey Devil was this season, then it would likely be Mackenzie Blackwood or goaltending in general. I think a darkhorse for this discussion would be Janne Kuokkanen. He went from being a fine fit with Hughes and Sharangovich last season to falling into the depth end of the forwards. Kuokkanen is currently injured so an actual trade for him is unlikely anyway. But after 25 points in 50 games where he did well in the run of play on a top line, he has five goals and six assists for 11 points in 43 games and his on-ice metrics are among the worst among “regular” Devils. He is 23 and this is just his second full season in the NHL so I do not think he is beyond salvaging. But he is not going to suddenly develop into something much greater; he is not like Ty Smith, who still has some room to grow as a younger player. Right now, moving Kuokkanen would be equivalent to selling low - and I do not think he has done enough in pro hockey to warrant a decent return as it is.
Tier 3: Medium Value: “Hmmm...I’ll think about it, but you’re going to have to give me something back. What are you offering?”
#16. Tomas Tatar - 2021-22 Salary: $3.75 million
When Tom Fitzgerald signed Tomas Tatar, I was happy. The Devils needed another winger to add to their offense. He appeared to be a driver of play in 5-on-5. Sure, his tenure in Montreal did not end well; but his performance that season suggested that he had a lot to offer a team. The good news is that his on-ice rates in 5-on-5 are among the team’s best in some categories. The bad news is that it has not led to a lot of contributions on the scoresheet (nine goals and thirteen assists in 51 games), pucks on net (Tatar just has or on special teams. For a 31-year old making $3.75 million this season and will make $5.25 million next season, Tatar’s season has been underwhelming. This does not make for someone with a lot of value in a potential trade unless someone else really likes the player.
#15. Andreas Johnsson - 2021-22 Salary: $2.5 million
Back at the beginning of the season, Andreas Johnsson was hot. He was putting up points. He was making things happen. He was proving Fitzgerald right to keep him after a poor 2021. Johnsson put up nine goals and 21 points in October and November. Since then, he has two goals and nine points total. Johnsson cooled off. His on-ice metrics have been quite good; he has not been consistent anchor in 5-on-5. But, like Tatar, it has not led to a lot of points on the board. In my view, Tatar and Johnsson are similar in their performances. Since Johnsson is younger at 27-years old and has a smaller cap hit and salary, I think Johnsson would be more desirable in any move. I do not think many teams would be interested in either at the moment.
#14. Ryan Graves - 2021-22 Salary: $3 million
Ryan Graves is on pace to have his best season is his relatively short career. Short? Yes, the 26-year old will hit the 200 game mark on March 6 against St. Louis. Anyway, Graves has four goals and 18 assists for 22 points right now. He already has a new season high in helpers whilst he just four points away from tying his career high of 26 points. You can credit the coaches that encourage defensmen to just fire away as part of the reason that Graves is so productive this season is because he has as many shooting attempts as Nico Hischier. However, the big defender is not the best player of his type or position; his on-ice rates are good but not as good as Jonas Siegenthaler. Plus, he is a bit older than Siegenthaler and making more money than him. I don’t really see the Devils wanting to move on from Graves since Fitzgerald traded for him before last season. An argument can be made that moving him now would be akin to selling high on him. Even so, a team may be more interested in a younger, more effective defenseman of his kind like Siegenthaler or someone with more experience like Subban.
#13. P.K. Subban - 2021-22 Salary: $8 million
P.K. Subban is in the final season of his current contract. The one with the $9 million cap hit. His final season has him receiving $8 million, but $6 million of that was already paid out by New Jersey in a signing bonus. The actual cost left to play would for the remainder of his $2 million base salary. Still, the cap hit makes a move difficult - even if the Devils retained 50% of it. Over half of the league is using LTIR to be over the salary cap, a $4.5 million addition is a tough ask. Especially since Subban is not having that great of a season. He is on the third pairing. He is not on a power play unit. His on-ice rates in 5-on-5 are mostly positive but not as impressive as Severson, Siegenthaler, Hamilton, or even Graves. Despite firing 195 shooting attempts (fifth on the Devils), only 83 have hit the net, and just 3 went into the net. He has provided 15 assists, some of them impressive but not enough to expect it every night. Subban still takes a fair amount of penalties (13 minors, tied with Siegenthaler, behind Severson by one) and that is unfortunate as he has been doing a good job on a secondary PK unit. I also think the league is fully aware that he is not as fast as he once was, he plays like he thinks he still is, and he is liable to be a bit dirty on the ice. I think this would all have to reduce value. Subban still has some. He is a veteran, plenty of playoff experience (96 playoff games), he is a right-sided defenseman, and seems to be fine with his more limited role this season in New Jersey. Teams tend to load up on defenders for the postseason, so I expect Subban to not be a Devil by March 22. However, if he was having a better season, then he could garner more than the just decent return I think he would get.
#12. Jonas Siegenthaler - 2021-22 Salary: $1.05 million
Siegenthaler has been quite good for the Devils this season. The defensive-minded defenseman has great on-ice rates in 5-on-5 play. He does not drag the offense down, although I think the Devils coaches should rein in his shooting in a bit since Siegenthaler has one goal out of 74 shots and 159 shooting attempts. Siegenthaler has been effective in penalty kill situations as well. That he is just 24 and on a cheap, short-term contract are also pluses. The main reason why I did not place him any higher is due the kind of player he is. Siegenthaler is the closest thing the Devils have to a “steady” defender. While that has value, it does not typically garner a lot in a trade. I doubt Fitzgerald would entertain anything non-serious for Siegenthaler, especially as he acquired the player. But I do think the three players I have ahead of him could garner more.
#11. Pavel Zacha - 2021-22 Salary: $3 million - Pending Restricted Free Agent
The enigma that is Pavel Zacha. The corner-turner. The sometimes-center, sometimes-winger. The man who was drafted sixth overall, a fact few Devils have not forgotten - or forgave. I am still a little surprised that Zacha has been the subject of trade rumors. It is true that Zacha could set career highs in production with a longer season. He currently has 13 goals and 13 assists in 51 games, his previous high was set last season with 17 goals and 18 assists in 50 games. His on-ice rate stats are quite good. Yet, Zacha always leaves a fan (and perhaps a coach) wanting more. Zacha was a great penalty killer in past seasons but has not been used much at all on this season’s PK. Zacha has been mostly used at left wing and has found recent success on a line with Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt - only for Hischier and Bratt to have more of it than Zacha. Zacha will be up for a new contract so who ever wants to take him on will have to negotiate a new deal in the Summer. That may not be so appealing. But he’s been the subject of trade rumors and for that, I have to assume he has more value than what his role would suggest.
#10. Yegor Sharangovich - 2021-22 Salary: $1.8 million
I have a feeling that this may be a bit high. However, I am going to stick with it for the following reasons. Sharangovich is 23 and plays wing on a top line, mostly with Jack Hughes. After a very slow start to his season that saw him get some healthy scratches, he has sorted himself out and is back to being the productive player seen in 2021 next to Hughes. Sharangovich tied Hughes for the most points on the team in February and he is now up to 13 goals and 15 assists in 48 games. Last season, he had 16 goals and 14 assists in 54 games. He will likely exceed his rookie campaign in terms of production. His on-ice rates are quite positive across the board. He has also received some special teams ice time, which is another plus. All of this for a cap hit of $2 million with another season left on his deal. This is a good player. I can understand if the rest of the league does not see this as terribly valuable. But I think Fitzgerald knows he’s good enough to warrant a decent return to consider leaving.
#9. Mackenzie Blackwood - 2021-22 Salary: $2.8 million
This is less about Blackwood’s quality as it is his importance. Blackwood has not been good this season. His numbers are rough and he has been playing with an injury - which may help explain the numbers. You may think Blackwood is not the guy the Devils should lean on in the crease. Or that he can’t be the main goaltender for this team. Fine. The reality is that until the Devils find a better goaltender, Blackwood is the most valuable of the bunch they do have. Yes, more than the two rookies to pro hockey never mind the NHL, a veteran #1B whose health status for next season is unknown, and the goalie acquired for future considerations. A trade by the deadline may not be feasible as the 25-year old netminder is currently on the team’s injured reserve list. But if any deal is discussed, Fitzgerald would ask for a lot more than what he would be offered for the other goalies in the system. I will agree that Blackwood really needs to turn things around as soon as he can. And Fitzgerald really should have some Plan B’s lined up for the position unless Daws or Schmid can take over the remainder of this season (and even if Bernier turns out OK). But this does not mean he is devoid of value based on where he stacks up at this position. You may think he is not worth a whole lot, but it would have to take a lot for Fitzgerald to move on him at this juncture. In the valley of the blind, the man with one eye is king.
Tier 4: High Value: “Look, I’m ready to say ‘No.’ But I’m not saying ‘No’ now. It’s going to cost you a lot, though...”
#8. Ty Smith - 2021-22 Salary: $832,500 - Entry Level Contract
I questioned myself about putting Smith in the previous tier. I would like to. However, we must take a step back. Yes, Smith is having a nightmare of a season. Smith is still a 21-year old defenseman who is one season removed from a good rookie campaign, and has plenty of talent in both ends of the rink. It may warrant its own post, but I really do think that the Devils would be wise to do what they can to shape Smith up for his third season instead of giving up on such a young player because of a bad season. Teach him to tie up sticks in battles, be more judicious with the puck, communicate better with his partners, and, most of all, get him to trust his pretty good on-ice instincts instead of hesitating on plays or sticking to the gameplan to a fault. It may not seem that way to you, but I don’t think Smith got stupider between the 2021 and 2021-22 seasons. Better that New Jersey does things like that to get his mind right and get over this bad season for his benefit than another team doing so. Still, if the Devils want to give up on a young defender on an ELC who is still waiver ineligible (and will be at the start of next season), then the asking price should be quite high.
#7. Damon Severson - 2021-22 Salary: $5.05 million
How can I possibly put Severson this high? For two reasons. One, Severson is having a better season than his disaster moments suggest. In 5-on-5 play, his on-ice rates have been quite good with CF%, SF%, and xGF% all in the 52-53% range. That is up there with Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Sigenthaler. It also means that when he is on the ice, the Devils are usually attacking. And Severson is having a very productive season. He has 7 goals, 24 assists, and 110 shots on net in 51 games. This alone is notable; his 31 points are tied for the 20th most among all defensemen in the NHL right now. His most productive season in his career was back in 2018-19 when he had 11 goals, 28 assists, and 146 shots in 82 games. He is on pace to have his most productive season yet as a Devil. Severson, despite his penalty issues, has also been a really good penalty killer this season too. The 27-year old may be having his best season ever right before our eyes. The second reason is leverage. Severson is a right-sided defenseman who has a smaller cap hit than his salary ($4.16 million) and has another season left on his deal. Fitzgerald is in a position to command quite a bit for Severson, especially to a team that can spend a lot of money but need to find cap savings as much as possible. Especially if he deals away P.K. Subban. Those are the reasons why he is in this tier: he’s having a very good season (albeit with some memorable mistakes) and the Devils have more leverage in terms of what to ask for with Severson. That is why he can be worth a lot. Or at least more than the other defensemen.
#6. Alexander Holtz - 2021-22 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract
Holtz barely made the game cut off for this post with 7 games played. He did not do very much in those games. Why is he so high up this list? Remember he was a recent top-ten draft pick. He was touted for his shot and finishing. Holtz did not immediately demonstrate that in the AHL last season, but the 20-year old winger is absolutely doing it now. As of this writing, he is tied for 21st in the AHL in goals with 18 in 31 games. His 34 points with the Comets put him just behind Chase De Leo and Fabian Zetterlund for the team lead. Holtz’s release is legitimately threatening. The decision to keep seasoning him in Utica has been very good for the Comets and certainly his confidence. Holtz is arguably the team’s top prospect playing in the AHL and perhaps second only to Luke Hughes for the best non-Devil in the system. Knowing that the Devils really could use some more scoring at wing means Holtz has a great chance of sticking with New Jersey next season. And I can understand those who wanted him with the Devils yesterday. Either way, anyone who would want Holtz would need to provide a big deal to pry him and his still significant potential away from this organization. That is why he is so high up on this list.
#5. Dawson Mercer - 2021-22 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract
One of the positive developments of the 2021-22 season is the emergence of Dawson Mercer. He impressed in training camp and preseason games. He made the opening night roster and never looked back. Mercer was the pivot for a hot line early in the season involving Andreas Johnsson and Jesper Bratt. Mercer did hit a rough run of games on the scoresheet and in the run of play - mostly in December and January - as the 20-year old found out how difficult the NHL could be. And it did not help that Bratt soared on other lines while Johnsson also went cold and other wingers did not succeed. Recently, Mercer is now on Jack Hughes’ wing and just completed a more productive February with four goals and four assists. All told, the rookie has 32 points in 51 games and is fourth on the team in scoring. He may not get any Calder consideration but he is absolutely a player who can be expected to contribute a lot in the future as he develops. Given that he still has two seasons left on his ELC, any other team who covets Mercer may as well be ready to pay through the nose for him. Assuming he is even available, which I highly doubt.
Tier 5: Extremely High Value: “Even talking about this guy may get me in trouble. Unless you’re making me an offer I can’t refuse, I must refuse.”
#4. Jesper Bratt - 2021-22 Salary: $3.45 million - Pending Restricted Free Agent
Jesper Bratt is having the best season of his career so far. The 23-year old winger has fantastic on-ice rates in 5-on-5 and he leads the team in scoring with 50 points in 48 games. That he has 50 points at all is a big achievement as his previous high in points were 35 as a rookie (although he did have 30 in the 2021 season). He is also not shooting incredibly high; he is actually below his highest shooting percentage in a season. All signs are pointing to Bratt getting a massive new contract this Summer. Short of an exorbitant amount, he will have deserved it. The only way I see Fitzgerald wanting to move him would be if his or his agent’s demands are just excessively high. Even then, that would likely happen in the offseason and not now anyway. In my view, Bratt is the best Devils player this season and has absolutely played his way into the current core - with the three guys ahead of him on this list.
#3. Nico Hischier - 2021-22 Salary: $7.25 million
Nico Hischier could arguably be in the next tier up. He is the team’s captain. The 23-year old is a top center on this team and has been performing quite well this season, both in on-ice metrics and on the scoresheet. Hischier plays in all situations and is as much of a core player for this era of the franchise as Jack Hughes. He is on pace to set career highs in production, too. The only reason why I put him down here is because his big contract has begun and it was given out by Fitzgerald’s former boss, Ray Shero. I do think Fitzgerald would be asking to be fired if he sought to move #13. But I also think the next two guys are even more untouchable than Hischier.
Tier 6: The Near-Untouchables: “I might as well resign now if I think of moving this guy. No. Goodbye.”
#2. Dougie Hamilton - 2021-22 Salary: $6.3 million
Dougie Hamilton was Fitzgerald’s biggest free agent signing in his short time as a GM. It was a massive swing in the Summer to make an offer for a Norris-contending right-sided defenseman. It worked out, especially as Carolina was not willing to match it. Fitzgerald was able to get the biggest free agent on the market to come to Newark. He was also able to convince ownership to allow Fitzgerald to offer Hamilton a seven-season contract worth $63 million. Hamilton has a full no-movement clause for the first four seasons, including this one. That really means he controls his own situation, but it is also highly unlikely that he will be considered to be traded. Still, for the amount of commitment the Devils made to him and Fitzgerald being the one to ask for it from his superiors and offer it to Hamilton, then the thought of Fitzgerald trading him elsewhere is utterly ridiculous. Fitzgerald may as well hold up a sign saying “I blew $63 million of my bosses money, please fire me for I am not smart.” It would not be a good sign, but neither would moving Hamilton. Especially since he has been the team’s best defenseman at both ends.
#1. Jack Hughes - 2021-22 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract
Fitzgerald signed The Big Deal to a really, really big one with a contract extension for eight seasons worth $64 million at the end of November. Hughes has been on a tear. Despite only playing 34 games so far this season, he is second on the team in points, he is averaging over a point per game, and has dynamics on the puck that no one on the team has. He is also just 20 years old and the best years of his hockey career are yet to come. His extension could very well end up as a bargain. Fitzgerald and ownership came together to lock him up. If Fitzgerald actually entertains an offer to move Jack Hughes, he would be fired the moment it comes together. The Big Deal will stay in New Jersey for a long time.
I hope you appreciated my perceived trade value rankings of the 28 New Jersey Devils players who have played at least five games with the team this season and are still active. As ever, I could be quite wrong in how I perceive their value and in what I think the Devils could do by the trade deadline. That is why I want to know your opinion about all of this.
How would you rank the Devils by trade value? Who did I overrate or underrate in this list? Do you agree that Hughes has the most trade value? And that Hamilton and Hughes are the most untouchable players right now? Is Subban, Zacha, and Severson ranked about where you would think they would go? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the trade value of the current Devils players in the comments. Thank you for reading.