The NHL Trade Deadline for this season is on March 3, 2023 at 3 PM ET. Past trade deadlines for the Devils either have been light on activity or just a whole bunch of selling off for whatever they could get. This season could be different. The Devils are Actually Good this season. They are in a prime position to make the playoffs. They could even go on a Playoff Run depending on who they face first. Many of the People Who Matter want to see the Devils be buyers at the deadline. Media rumors continue to include the Devils. Any trade is going to involve the Devils giving up something and/or someone. Now is a good time as any to look at the Devils organization and rank their perceived value.
I did this last season and in 2020. For the unaware, here is a set of guidelines for this ranking of Devils by perceived trade value. 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. This post is an exercise in how I think each player’s trade value may be perceived to the rest of the league. As always, I could be wrong.
This is a ranked list. The higher the rank, the more I think it would take for a team to pry the player alone away from New Jersey. If they are part of a package, great. This list does not consider that. This is not a list of players who I think are the best on the team. You and I can argue over whether Tomas Tatar is having a better season than Dawson Mercer. Whatever we agree or disagree with does not necessarily mean I think Tatar is going to have more trade value than Mercer. 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. That is all.
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 22 skaters and 3 goaltenders in this post. This means Nolan Foote, Tyce Thompson, and Andreas Johnsson are not in this post. They did not make the games cut-off. Johnsson went through waivers already and was not claimed; his value is minimal at best. He would be dead last on this list if he was in New Jersey and played in three more games. Thompson, Foote, and any other Comet you can name has little value outside of Simon Nemec and maybe the goalies. Sure, I like what Graeme Clarke is doing but if he is not doing it at the NHL level, then he is not going to drive a trade. I am also leaving Jonathan Bernier out as he is on long term injured reserve and not expected to play at all this season. Prospects are also not included. I can see teams being most interested in Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec and I can safely say that Tom Fitzgerald would be foolish to move either right now. The others are just players to throw in packages at the moment.
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.”
#25. Kevin Bahl - 2022-23 Salary: $750,000 - Entry Level Contract, Pending Restricted Free Agent
Kevin Bahl opens this list as being in an awkward position in his career. With injuries to Ryan Graves and John Marino, Bahl has had chances to command more NHL ice time. Bahl has repeatedly shown that the pace of the NHL is a bit too quick for him, his large frame is not so imposing at this level whenever he utilizes it, and his handling and movement of the puck is ripe for opponents to pick on. Bahl has been given 15 games this season with an average icetime of 11:32. He really has not commanded more than that. He will turn 23 before his contract ends and looks every much the part of the AHL/NHL tweener. Someone who can perform really well at the AHL but struggles at the NHL level. Someone that every team in the NHL has in their organization. To that end, I doubt teams will line up for Kevin Bahl.
#24. Nikita Okhotiuk - 2022-23 Salary: $750,000 - Entry Level Contract
While the Devils coaching staff has recently chosen Bahl over Okhotiuk, I would put Okhotiuk slightly ahead of Bahl in terms of value. He is a bit younger. He uses his size far more often so those looking for physical depth would be interested. He is on an ELC. That said, he is kind of the same spot as Bahl is. Is he good enough to play regularly in the NHL? Maybe, but he’s not doing so right now and that matters. Is he going to get much better? At age 22, probably not much more than he currently is. Do teams have an Okhotiuk in their system? Possibly. Is Okhotiuk’s future in the organization bright? With Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, and Shakir Mukhamadullin pushing for spots in the next season or so, not really. On his own, Okhotiuk and Bahl and everyone in this tier is not going to command much.
#23. Fabian Zetterlund - 2022-23 Salary: $875,000 - Pending Restricted Free Agent
Let me be clear: I like the Swole Swede. I do think he is a NHL player. He has shown some real flashes of being an effective bottom six winger. That is kind of the issue. There are a lot of bottom-six caliber wingers in the NHL and teams are not going to really line up for Zetterlund unless they too want to get pumped. Zetterlund has not been a regular as of late because he has been ice cold at scoring. This has not stopped the organization from dressing some other players, but it is what it is. And Zetterlund is a 23 year old right winger still trying to break his way into the lineup more often. I think he is good enough. Until he establishes that, I have to put him in this tier. If he was more productive and in the lineup more often, I would have him much higher. Fortunately for him, there is no one yet from Utica pushing for what could be his spot in the lineup.
#22. Jesper Boqvist - 2022-23 Salary: $750,000 - Pending Restricted Free Agent
For the most part, Boqvist has been a regular for the Devils this season with 41 games played. He can play center or either wing. Unfortunately, Boqvist averages about 10 minutes per game for a reason. He has not really made an impact in most games. Sure, he has flashed some skill here and there for some plays and scores. But with five goals and eight points so far, there is a chance he does not even top his 10 goals and 23 points from last season. He is also not so strong in five-on-five play either, although there are worse Devils. There have been a lot of games where he is just a guy. They do not command a lot in deals on their own. He is 24 too and will turn 25 in October. Boqvist is pretty much what you see is what you get as a player. Short of a late bloom, I think he is really just a depth forward. Maybe he can be useful in another organization but organizations will not give up a lot to get the player.
Tier 2: Low Value: “Is he available? We can make it happen. How about as part of a package?”
#21. Akira Schmid - 2022-23 Salary: $842,500 - Entry Level Contract
Goaltenders are important to have. Just look at the last two seasons of Devils hockey for how it could go without solid goaltending. That said, the goaltending market is weird just like analyzing the position is weird. Schmid was awful in his 6 games in 2021-22 on an awful Devils team. This season, he was fantastic as Vitek Vanecek’s backup while Mackenzie Blackwood was hurt. An overall save percentage of 91.9% in 9 NHL games after a brutal 83.3% in 6 games in the prior season is fantastic. Which is the real Schmid? He has been good so far with Utica and I can believe he is the Devils’ #3 goalie right now. If a team is needing a goaltender and does not want to spend a lot, Schmid would do. But I think the Devils could squeeze more than just a late pick for it just based on the position. Would Schmid be moved? Probably not on his own. But if the Devils like Nico Daws more, they could entertain the idea.
#20. Brendan Smith - 2022-23 Salary: $1 million
Brendan Smith is the kind of player that does get moved around the deadline. A veteran depth defenseman with a cheap contract is something playoff teams are interested in. Of course, the Devils are one of those teams this season so they would not give up Smith. That said, I do not think Smith would command a lot. He is very much a #6 defenseman. While his 5-on-5 on-ice rates are quite good; he can get in over his head against tougher competition. His own attempts at offense are, well, not confidence inducing. He is also not getting any younger; he is the oldest Devil at age 33. While Smith has drawn more calls than the other Devils defensemen with 14, he also takes more calls with 22. And some of those calls, well, they are not good ones to take. I think Smith’s experience and role would command something, but not much.
#19. Miles Wood - 2022-23 Salary: $3.2 million - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
Oh, Miles Wood. The man is ice cold right now. Unless he did something on the scoresheet in Nashville other than get into the penalty box, Wood has not scored a goal since December 13 against Dallas and not registered an assist since January 4. Those who want to point out that this bottom-six winger has seven goals and sixteen points need to understand that it has been a while since he added that. And Wood’s production has been his main saving grace. More and more of the People Who Matter are understanding that Wood does not bring a lot to the table when he is not producing. Wood is not a good player off the puck, he takes a lot of shots (only Hughes has more shots in 5-on-5 play this season) and most of them are not dangerous ones, he does not defend well or help much in the run of play, any line he is on has to play dump-and-chase to utilize his speed - which limits the effectiveness of that line, and he can take plenty of dumb penalties which offsets his ability to draw them. I can buy that Wood’s reputation of being a gritty, energy winger can give him some appeal. However, anyone who really wants Wood can wait until the Summer and spend nothing together. If Wood was not so cold, then I would consider even moving him up a tier. Or higher up in this one. But right now, anyone to trade for Wood would be buying low. Also, if Zetterlund is out of the lineup for not producing, then what of Miles Wood?
#18. Michael McLeod - 2022-23 Salary: $950,000 - Pending Restricted Free Agent
Michael McLeod has the worst 5-on-5 on-ice rates of any regular Devils forward this season. He is also not a very productive player, even though he is two points away from matching his career high of 20 points. However, McLeod is able to kill penalties. He can win faceoffs. He is 24. He is on a cheap contract and retaining him would not be expensive. McLeod is very much a fourth-line center. He would not command a lot in a deal, but I think he would get more than, say, Wood outside of a team who really loves Miles Wood. It is marginal. If you want to flip Wood and McLeod, I would not be bothered about it.
#17. Nathan Bastian - 2022-23 Salary: $750,000 - Pending Restricted Free Agent
Plenty of the People Who Matter liked the Nathan Bastian re-claim on waivers last season. It has not gone unnoticed that the Devils’ slump started shortly after Bastian was injured this season. That is more coincidental. The man had three goals and eight points in 24 games. He was not exactly on fire. The Devils’ power play was not much better when Bastian stood in front of the goaltender. He is very much a bottom-six winger. And he has been useful. I like him best among the three car-nicknamed fourth line. He is also more effective in the run of play than McLeod or Wood, who both really missed Bastian when he was injured or away from them over the past three seasons. Bastian is coming off a cheaper deal than McLeod and Wood too. I think those facts should give him an edge in terms of value. Not that either would garner much in a deal right now on their own.
#16. Ondrej Palat - 2022-23 Salary: $8.25 million - No Movement Clause
Palat has a no movement clause and so that would kill off plenty of interest. Palat’s salary for this season is huge, but most of that was in a signing bonus so it has mostly been paid out already. I can understand the appeal for Palat. He has Cup rings, loads of experience, and a career of playing well on high scoring teams. He is also 31, he signed for another five seasons, and he has had groin surgery this season. It could be argued he is still integrating back into the lineup from injury given that he had all of six games as a Devil before the injury. I am not sure teams would be lining up to take on the commitment even for what he would do today. Not that it matters because Palat has a no movement clause anyway.
#15. Tomas Tatar - 2022-23 Salary: $5.25 million - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
The thing about Tatar is that he is great at a lot of little things to help drive play in 5-on-5. He has had great 5-on-5 on-ice rates in his short time in New Jersey. He is among the best forwards on the Devils in this season. The issue has been the production; the lack of results to go with his help to push play forward. 15 goals and 30 points in 76 games was a disappointment in 2021-22. 10 goals and 27 points in 47 games so far this season is more acceptable. His past days of being a consistent 20-goal, 45-60 point scorer are past him, but he has his uses. Which is why he would not command a lot in a deal. The 32-year old is definitely in the back end of his career. He would not come all that cheap - his cap hit is $4.5 million. And anyone really interested in him may be able to get him this Summer without giving anyone up. I think Tatar has done enough to remain in the NHL. Should he continue to keep rolling on as he has this season, I am confident he will get NHL contracts in the Summer. But I cannot foresee a team offering a lot for his services in a trade now.
#14. Erik Haula - 2022-23 Salary: $2.5 million - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
Haula is in a similar spot with Tatar - of last season. Haula has been quite good at helping drive the play forward. He has been frequently next to Jack Hughes, primarily to take faceoffs. Which is something Haula has been quite good at this season He has a 55.2% winning percentage after the Las Vegas game; good for 18th in the NHL among all takers with at least 500 draws. Of course, the problem is that Haula has been entirely unlucky with shooting the puck to the point where his lack of results may have held back some of the offense by Hughes’ line. Haula was the last of the regulars to get a goal despite his efforts; and he has 21 points (and 4 goals) in 47 games. Lindy Ruff seems to understand this and has moved Haula away in recent games. Which has not made Haula less effective. He has his uses; I think there is just a lot of fatigue of seeing #56 with #86 so much. Anyway, I have him ahead of Tatar because Haula’s contract is cheaper and centers are generally seen as more valuable than wingers. I cannot place him all that high because, like Tatar, anyone who wants Haula can get him as a free agent this Summer.
Tier 3: Medium Value: “Hmmm...I’ll think about it, but you’re going to have to give me something of some value back. What are you offering?”
Aside: I know I wrote that I would not include prospects in the ranks, but if you must know, I would put Shakir Mukhamadullin and possibly Seamus Casey in this tier if I did. All but two others would be lower - if not minimal. I like Arseni Gritsyuk too, but no.
#13. Mackenzie Blackwood - 2022-23 Salary: $4.125 million - Pending Restricted Free Agent
The goaltending market can be weird. Variation of goaltenders from season to season can be stark. Not to mention that some goaltenders are inconsistent - until they are not. Blackwood is very much an inconsistent goaltender. In terms of the surface, there is something to like. He is 26. He is large and athletic. He has had some good performances since returning from injury. Yet, even some of his good performances can be marred by some real soft goals against. For example, Blackwood was a main reason why Seattle did not wreck them earlier this month. He also conceded a brutal five-hole goal for the overtime loss. Goaltending is not a position where you can just ignore the real bad mistakes because enough good or tough saves were made. The point is to make as many stops as possible. Anyway, there are some positive signs for Blackwood over the last season. In 13 games so far, he has an even strength save percentage of 91.1% and his overall save percentage is just below 90% at 89.6%. It is not NHL average, but it is an improvement. It does not help Blackwood or the Devils that he has suffered multiple injuries in recent seasons; and rumors swirled about whether he has a future in the organization. Vanecek has taken the #1 or #1A spot from him, that is for sure. But so far Blackwood is not showing any ill-effects. Those numbers could get better as this season goes on. Blackwood could command something of decent value if a goalie-needy team wants him. And the Devils may want to avoid dealing with negotiations if they are comfortable with Vanecek-Schmid (or Vanecek-Daws) for the stretch run. If you want to move him down to the lower tier, I understand, but he would be ahead of just about everyone in that group.
#12. Yegor Sharangovich - 2022-23 Salary: $2.2 million - Pending Restricted Free Agent
I still do not understand Yegor Sharangovich’s usage. On the one hand, I am unsure how other teams would regard Sharangovich. He is a middle-six winger, someone who can provide the vaunted secondary scoring that some teams want. Despite his movement throughout the Devils’ lineup, Sharangovich is not far off from the scoring pace he had in the past season. His 5-on-5 on-ice rates are solid and he does a decent job defensively. A 20-goal season is still entirely possible for the 24-year old forward. He is also coming off a cheap contract; a qualifying offer would not break a bank in the Summer. Yet, do other teams see a useful winger or someone who seems to be useful for New Jersey but not much elsewhere. If it is the former, the Devils could get a good return since he is still fairly young, he can play center or wing, he can play in multiple situations (he could be better on the PK, but hey), his contract is relatively cheap for a potential 20-goal scorer, and a change of scenery could even yield a breakout. If it is the latter, well, not so much. I decided to split the difference and put him here.
#11. Ryan Graves - 2022-23 Salary: $4 million - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
Playoff-bound teams like to add veteran, defensive-minded defensemen. The Devils are one of those teams this time around. However, I do think Graves has a bit more going for him than the other pending UFAs on the team except for one. Graves is relatively young at age 27 as he will turn 28 in May. Graves could end up matching his point total of 28 from last season at this pace of 16 in 44 games, which is quite good for someone who is somewhat limited offensively. Graves can fit well with a gameplan that asks defensemen to activate despite not being so quick. Graves has also been quite disciplined given how he plays with just 14 PIM this season. While he has the worst 5-on-5 on-ice rates among the Devils defensemen, he is still above 50% across the board - which means it is not that much of a drag on how the team performs. All this for the remainder of a $4 million salary and a cheaper cap hit of $3.16 million. Given that the team could be looking ahead at the playoffs, they may prefer to keep Graves (and the other pending UFA defenseman). This could drive up a more valuable deal. And Graves is the lesser of the two pending UFA defensemen.
#10. John Marino - 2022-23 Salary: $3.5 million
John Marino is in the second season of a six-season contract that runs into 2027. His salary will be higher than his cap hit of $4.4 million after this season. However, the 25-year old may be worth all of that. Marino started off the season as hot as a shutdown defender could get. That cooled off, especially with the Devils leaning on him for tough matchups. Hence, his amazing 5-on-5 numbers came down to Earth. A very good part of Earth, but down to Earth nonetheless. Marino has been injured - which hurts the value in the short term and is partially why he is here - and the defense has suffered a bit without him. Still, a 25-year old right-sided defenseman who can play a lot of minutes and play it well is very valuable. That value only goes so far without the offense, but Marino is far from an anchor on that end. The Devils got him just for Ty Smith because Tom Fitzgerald took advantage of Pittsburgh’s cap issues. It would take a lot more than Ty Smith for the Fitzgerald to let Marino go elsewhere. Hence, I have him here.
Tier 4: High Value: “Look, I’m ready to say ‘No.’ But I’m not saying ‘No’ now. But I need a quality player in return”
Aside: I know I wrote that I would not include prospects in the ranks, but if you must know, I would put Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec in this tier if I did.
#9. Alexander Holtz - 2022-23 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract
It could be argued that Alexander Holtz is not really ready for the NHL just yet and should have played more in Utica first. It could be argued that Holtz, like Zetterlund, has been given a raw deal with respect to not getting a lot of ice time to perform and not getting enough leeway to actually learn the NHL game. Especially while one watches Wood and McLeod not add much offensively. The reality is that Holtz still commands a lot of value. It was not that long ago that he was a top-10 draft pick in the NHL. The league knows his shot was his best asset as a prospect and that shot is absolutely viable in the NHL. His limited time has seen some real lasers from the youngster. I am of the opinion that he should get more of a chance than just 18 games with an average ice time of 8:12 in 5-on-5 play and spot duty on a second power play unit still riding with an unproductive Miles Wood. That is not a lot of time for anyone to do anything, regardless of how perfect it may be. (This also applies to the few games of Nolan Foote this season.) If he becomes available for a trade, I think a lot of the NHL would absolutely inquire with the idea that perhaps they can get him going while the 21 year old still has room for development. The Devils could and should command plenty if they are going to give up on Holtz now. They may need to if they want to swing big for one of the bigger names being talked about this year.
#8. Damon Severson - 2022-23 Salary: $5.05 million - Pending Unrestricted Free Agent
Normally, pending UFA players would not command a lot in a deal because a team could sign the player in the Summer without having to give up anything. However, I am making an exception for Damon Severson. When John Marino and/or Ryan Graves has been injured, Severson’s ice time rose and the team did not collapse on itself. Severson may have a penchant for catastrophic errors and still has not learned how to defend a 2-on-1 well, but he has been a very good player in 5-on-5 for the Devils in this season and past seasons on some otherwise awful teams. Severson has thrived in a lesser role next to Smith and while demonstrating he can move up the blueline as needed without being a total disaster. Despite a lack of production and shots in this season, he has the offensive skillset to really bolster an attack from the back end. Severson’s experience is also not to be discounted. He has over 612 games with the Devils while still being under 30 years old (he’s 28). Severson is as part of the team’s successful season to a point where some (most?) of the People Who Matter don’t want him dealt ahead of the playoffs. Severson was the subject of some significant rumors last season so I am led to believe there are teams interested in Severson. The Devils are in a position to command more than most pending UFAs would as they can just drive an offer to make it worth the risk to give him up. That means the other team(s) need to offer someone of quality. Hence, I have to put him in a tier ahead of Graves, Haula, Tatar, and Wood. Personally, I think he gets dealt for little before the draft - if at all.
#7. Vitek Vanecek - 2022-23 Salary: $3.55 million
As of January 25, 2023, among goalies with at least 10 games played this season, Vitek Vanecek sits 16th in the NHL in overall save percentage at 91.6% in 31 games. He is just behind Andrei Vasilevskiy and Igor Shesterkin, right with Jeremy Swayman and Darcy Kuemper, and just ahead of Stuart Skinner and Pytor Kochetkov. If you just look at even strength save percentage with those filters, Vanecek’s 92.2% puts him 22nd - right with Spencer Knight, right behind Semyon Varlamov and Swayman, and right ahead of Kuemper and Craig Anderson. The point is that Vanecek is in some solid company. The reputation of Vanecek having some struggles here and there may scare some people off. But that happens to almost every goaltender and I am struggling to think who is super-consistent throughout a season as an exception. The point is that Vanecek has been playing like one of the better goalies in the NHL. Especially for his very reasonable salary and cap hit of $3.4 million. The bigger questions are: Can Vanecek maintain this form this season? And: What will Vanecek put up next season? The Devils have him signed for two more seasons as his contract is looking rather smart. Fitzgerald did great business to get Vanecek and he looks even better as Vanecek continues to do well in New Jersey. As such, the Devils would have to require a lot (and a goalie) in return for Vanecek.
#6. Jonas Siegenthaler - 2022-23 Salary: $1.05 million - Extension Signed
This may seem high for Jonas Siegenthaler. A defensive defenseman who plays on the left side? Especially as he already signed a contract extension for five more seasons? With his currently low salary jumping up to $4.25 million next season? I think this is warranted, though. For one, Siegenthaler is 25 and will turn 26 in May. He has a lot of great seasons left in him as he did not play a ton before the Devils acquired him. While he is absolutely not an offensive defenseman, he has not been an anchor for a Devils team that wants defensemen involved in offense. His 14 points in 47 games matches his career high set from last season, which he did in 70 games. Most importantly, Siegenthaler has been a great partner for Hamilton on a top pairing. With averaging over 17 minutes per game (second only to Hamilton), Siegenthaler’s 5-on-5 numbers are very, very good. If one puts together a highlight reel of Siegenthaler’s season, then it would have to include him making great plays one-on-one with some great opponents, including the best player in the world, Connor McDavid. Check the tapes for November 3, 2022. More seriously, Siegenthaler has been a very effective defender - and all while under 26 years old. No wonder Fitzgerald locked him up. While the contract extension is a large commitment, that $4.25 million is the peak of it salary-wise and a cap hit of $3.4 million is a huge bargain for someone on the Devils’ first-pairing. I think more teams than you may think would inquire about Siegenthaler after his growth in New Jersey, and they may offer more than you may think. Fortunately, the Devils do not and probably will not need to worry about that for a long time.
#5. Dawson Mercer - 2022-23 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract
In this season, the 21 year old forward has been moved around the lineup both in and out of the top-six as well as in and out of the first power play unit. This would throw off plenty of players’ seasons. Not so with Mercer. He is averaging 0.6 points per game, he has been positive in the run of play at 5-on-5, and he is on pace of improving his overall production from his rookie season. Imagine if he was kept on a line with Hughes or Hischier more often. Even if he just maintains this pace, I can guarantee you that 31 other teams would be very interested in a 21-year old on an entry level contract with another season left on it who can produce this much, play both center and wing, and help their team out off the puck. Very, very interested. So much so that Fitzgerald would be very, very unwise to do so. As a result, I put Mercer just outside of the most valuable tiers on this list.
Tier 5: Extremely High Value or The Jesper Bratt Tier
#4. Jesper Bratt - 2022-23 Salary: $5.45 million - Pending Restricted Free Agent
Jesper Bratt absolutely gets his own tier this year. He is in a special place in his career. Most teams would want to lock up a young player who developed through their system after a breakout season. Or in the case of Buffalo with Tage Thompson, right before the breakout. The Devils did not do that. Whether you believe it is Bratt and his agent demanding too much or Tom Fitzgerald nickel-and-diming the Devils’ best player last season, the result was a one-season contract signed right before an arbitration hearing happened. The Devils and Bratt kicked the can down the road. Opinions among the People Who Matter differed. Some believe Bratt had to prove himself. Some believe Bratt was betting on himself.
Clearly, Bratt has more than proved himself again and he is about to cash in big time on his apparent bet.
Bratt is currently a top 50 scorer in the NHL with 19 goals and 49 points in 48 games after the Nashville game. He is rocking a point per game rate above one, which puts him on pace of surpassing what he put up last season. Bratt is more than just a provider of points. He is either the team’s best player or among their best players in 5-on-5 on-ice rates this season. Bratt helps puts the play forward and the team relies on him to do so. Is he the best player on the Devils? In some respects, yes, but in some respects, no. Is he a big reason for the Devils’ amazing turnaround this season? Absolutely. He also turns 25 in July; Bratt has plenty of quality seasons to go in his impressive career.
The reason why Bratt gets his own tier is because there is an actual possibility that Bratt may at least get some inquiries about his status. Bratt is a pending RFA and it is in his best interest to keep producing and performing to maximize his earnings. He should not talk about a contract extension now. That is an offseason activity. If Fitzgerald and Bratt’s people have a third-straight contentious negotiation, then there may be a concern about keeping Bratt long-term. That could lead management to want to move on from the winger. Further, if you want the Devils to swing big for the Timo Meier’s or Bo Horvat’s of the trade market and look to retain such a player on a long-term deal, then it becomes harder to also placate Bratt with a big contract. The cap may go up but it is not going up that much for 2023-24 and it remains to be seen how much more it will go. Taking him on for just another year means he would be an unrestricted free agent in 2024 and that would be a horrible possibility. There is a logic in moving Bratt in exchange for a similarly productive winger. Basically, if Fitzgerald thinks he cannot secure Bratt’s services for a while, then moving him now
I personally would not go as far as that. But it is possible. If Bratt becomes someone Fitzgerald wants to move on from, then it absolutely has to be for another player performing like Bratt. As such, he has to be in a tier in his own and higher than everyone but the three Devils I cannot see Fitzgerald trading short of a scandal or Fitzgerald losing his marbles.
Tier 6: The Near-Untouchables: “I might as well resign now if I even think of moving this guy. No. Goodbye.”
#3. Dougie Hamilton - 2022-23 Salary: $6.3 million
Dougie Hamilton remains as the biggest free agent signing in Fitzgerald’s time as Devils GM. The salary is going to blow up next season as Hamilton will make $12.6 million in each of the next two seasons and $11.55 million in 2025-26 (with $10 million as a signing bonus!). It is arguable Hamilton is doing his best to earn somewhere close to that kind of money. He is responsible for a lot of the team’s offense. Hamilton has 13 goals already and his 42 points in 47 games puts him on pace for 73 points. That would be the second highest point total in a season by a defenseman in Devils franchise history, falling short of Scott Stevens’ 78 points in 83 games back in 1993-94. Getting even 58 points would put him ahead of Scott Niedermayer’s most productive season, Brian Rafalski’s most productive season, and Bruce Driver’s most productive season. Hamilton is that productive; it is beyond good - it is marvelous. The critics may claim Hamilton is soft in his own zone. His shot, his vision, his stamina, and his driving of play in 5-on-5 is anything but soft. That has been quite good; enough to justify the big contract given to be the team’s top defenseman - nevermind their top right-sided defenseman. Hamilton’s contract would be an issue for some to acquire him, but the bigger issue is that it would take a lot for the Devils to even consider moving Hamilton at this point. Hence, he is in the highest tier for now. Moving him would a massive loss for Fitzgerald.
#2. Nico Hischier - 2022-23 Salary: $4.5 million
His salary is $4.5 million? Yep. Do not worry about his finances. Hischier will make at least $7.75 million in each of the next four seasons. Anyway, the captain has been wonderful in 2022-23. He has played in all situations; Hischier wins plenty of draws; his drive to the “dirty areas” leads to drawing plenty of calls; and he attacks a lot in 5-on-5 while supporting the run of play very well. All this with a point-per-game average this season. Hischier is the total package at center. Combined with his relatively cheap contract with a $7.25 million cap hit, it would take a massive amount of assets for the Devils to even consider moving their captain. It would also cause some people to be fired if Hischier is moved anytime during his prime years.
#1. Jack Hughes - 2022-23 Salary: $9 million
The Big Deal is a top 10 scorer in the NHL. He put up 31 goals in 48 games, the third fastest Devil to have ever done it. And he has 30 assists, with that 30th one coming at the cost of getting wrecked by Brayden McNabb - and still dished out an awe-inspiring dime to Dougie Hamilton for a win in overtime. The Big Deal is special. He is 21 and he is reaching the outstanding potential said of him back when he was drafted first overall in 2019. His $9 million salary and especially his $8 million cap hit are team-friendly bargains to put it lightly. And he is the best player on the Devils. Enough said.
I hope you appreciated my perceived trade value rankings of the 25 New Jersey Devils players who have played at least five games with the team this season and are still active in the organization. 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 take on these rankings.
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? Is the order Hughes-Hischier-Hamilton, then Bratt, then the rest? Do you think Holtz has a high trade value? Do you think Wood has a low trade value? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the trade value of the current Devils players in the comments. Thank you for reading.