As we sit just over two weeks away from the NHL trade deadline, the New Jersey Devils still currently sit third in the entire NHL standings. Many of us predicted a better season from the Devils, but I don’t know if we predicted things to go this well. Part of the reason for that is some of the offseason additions to the team. Vitek Vanecek, John Marino and Ondrej Palat have all brought different skillsets to the team that have complemented the core group in finding this success.
At the same time, there have been discussions of moving some player prior to the trade deadline due to their impending status as unrestricted free agents. Damon Severson and Ryan Graves in particular, have had their names come up numerous times as players that the Devils could choose to move. After all, why not move players from a position of strength? With Simon Nemec and Luke Hughes in the system, there’s already replacements in the pipeline for players who may or may not want to re-sign with the team anyway. Severson in particular seems to be one player that a decent percentage of the fan base just can’t seem to wait to get rid of.
The problem is the team is in the midst of a playoff push, and subtracting from what has made the team successful to make an addition in a different area just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We as a fan base (and maybe hockey fans as a whole) have become conditioned to the idea that if a player isn’t going to be offered a new deal or doesn’t want to come back, they should be traded to recoup assets. While that should absolutely be the blueprint for a rebuilding team or a team having a rough season that won’t make the playoffs, the Devil fit neither of those criteria this season, although again it’s understandable given the conditioning of that having been the case for most of the past decade.
It’s time to break that habit though, as Severson and Graves have been too important to try and plug their spots with players who currently have no NHL experience. Even if they aren’t here for a full season, this would still be a case of rushing the prospects into action before they’re ready. I would rather have two guys walk in the offseason for nothing than rush Hughes and/or Nemec into action that they may not yet be ready for. Additionally, we don’t know for sure that the Devils won’t attempt to bring one of both of these players back for next season; sure, salary cap-wise it’s probably not happening, but you never know, especially when it might depend on where other dominoes fall.
Now, I’m not saying the Devils don’t move one of Graves or Severson if it’s in a hockey trade to improve the lineup; that could still happen if the other team sees one of them as a useful asset for this season or beyond in a trade. I’m simply saying don’t expect the Devil to trade one or both of their defenders for picks and prospects (as we’ve become accustomed to doing) just because they could leave with nothing coming in return this summer. I would rather this group play some playoff hockey and get this core a taste of success than sit on a mountain of perpetual assets year after year. Hopefully, this is the choice management makes as well.
With 75 points in 53 games, the Devils are well on pace to see some postseason hockey. They more than likely make an addition prior to March 3rd, however unless their trade partner wants a UFA to be as part of the deal, the Devils won’t be shipping off parts for futures this season. It’s time to embrace the mentality of a team whose window is opening and no longer time to think about what we can get in return for guys on expiring deals. The Devils should still have eyes on them as we approach the deadline...just for different (and better) reasons now.
What are your thoughts on this as we approach the trade deadline; have you already accepted the fact that the Devils won’t be trying to recoup futures? Would you be okay with including Severson or Graves in a hockey deal, or do you feel they’re needed for the team to make a deep run? Are you still trying to break away from the mindset forced upon us from years of rebuilding? Leave any and all thoughts below and thanks as always for reading!