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Devils Potential Trade Targets: Forwards

There will be a lot of forwards moved between now and the NHL Trade Deadline. This extensive post looks at who might be on the move and if they make sense for the Devils.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL Trade Deadline now nine days away, we are in the home stretch of the “Devils Potential Trade” series. A couple of the names I have already profiled like Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, and Noel Acciari are now off of the board, but there are still a litany of options available for Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils to pursue.

Of course, just because they can go after someone doesn’t necessarily mean that they should go after someone. There are a lot of factors to consider when making a trade, including but not limited to, cost, fit, age, the specific need and/or needs you are addressing, the player’s contractual status, and the health of the player.

With time being of the essence, rather than write about a handful of players from a specific team, I’m going to lump together the best of the rest of the forwards who are expected to be moved at the deadline in this article. I’m aiming to cover a wide variety of Top Six, Middle Six, and Fourth Line forwards who could theoretically help the Devils make a deep postseason run. I’m going to try to mostly stick with players who have been rumored to be on the trading block by credible insiders (Elliotte Friedman) and outlets (TSN, SportsNet, etc), although I may take some liberties here or there wherever I see fit. Who are these players, what do they do well, what might they cost, and most importantly, are they a potential fit for the Devils?

Lastly, if you do not see a particular player, its probably because I’ve either already written about them, I don’t think the player will do much to help, or I think its highly unlikely the player is getting moved. I will not be writing about Timo Meier or Ivan Barbashev because I have already done so (and you can click below if you missed it). Check out the links below if you missed any of my previous coverage.

Trade Target: Adam Henrique, Ducks C/LW

Trade Target: Timo Meier, Sharks LW/RW

Trade Target: Arizona Coyotes (Players covered: Nick Bjugstad, Nick Ritchie, and others)

Trade Target: St. Louis Blues (Players covered: Ivan Barbashev, Pavel Buchnevich, and others)

Trade Target: Chicago Blackhawks (Players covered: Max Domi, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and others)

Canucks Wingers Brock Boeser & Conor Garland

Brock Boeser is a 6’1”, 208 lb. righty shooting right-winger who is in the first year of a three year deal at $6.65M AAV. He’s a goal scoring winger who hasn’t scored many goals this season. He plays zero defense, hasn’t been much of a play driver for several years now, isn’t a great skater, hasn’t finished, and has a bad contract with a big cap hit on top of that. I also wouldn’t look at Boeser and consider him to be particularly tough to play against. According to his agent, the Devils have been one of the teams in contact for his services.

Conor Garland is a 5’10”, 165 lb. righty shot who can play either wing position. He has three more full seasons at $4.95M AAV remaining on his contract. The biggest knocks on Garland are his size and the fact he’s having a little bit of a down year offensively, but he checks a lot of other boxes where he might make sense for the Devils. His possession numbers have dipped a bit this season, although that might be more of a product of general Canucks dysfunction than anything else. He’s a good defensive forward with a reputation for playing with a high motor and being relentless on the puck. He has shown a willingness to go to the dirty areas and mix it up despite his smaller frame, and that is something the Devils could use a little more of in their lineup. The Devils have reportedly had interest in Garland in the past, according to The Fourth Period, so they may check in here as well with this being a lost season for the Canucks.

Vancouver will likely be active sellers, as they’ve already shipped off Bo Horvat to the Islanders. I wouldn’t have a ton of interest in Boeser as I feel he’s a bit of a one-dimensional player who isn’t consistent enough with that one dimension to help the Devils. However, I could see Garland being an interesting addition to the Devils middle-six. If the Devils didn’t already have a few undersized forwards in their top six, I’d probably push harder for Garland since he makes up for his lack of size with everything else he brings to the table. The one positive with both players is that I don’t think either one would cost a ton to acquire. Vancouver would probably be happy to move either contract out. Of course, what Vancouver would do with that newfound cap space is likely short-sighted and ill-advised, but that’s an entirely different argument for another day.

Flyers Wingers James van Riemsdyk & Travis Konecny

James van Riemsdyk, listed at 6’3” and 217 lb., is in the final season of a 5-year deal paying him $7M AAV ($5M in salary and bonuses as his deal was frontloaded). He missed some time earlier this season with a broken finger but has been productive and has generally stayed healthy consistently throughout his career. He’s not a great skater at this stage of his career, but he has good size and a reputation for getting to the home plate area in front of the net. He’s not the most physical guy, and his cap hit would necessitate Philadelphia retaining half of his remaining salary to facilitate a move, but it would be easy to envision him playing the bumper on PP1 and being a source of secondary offense for the Devils somewhere in their middle six. He’d make some sense if the Devils miss out on bigger targets, and as a pure rental with a big cap hit, shouldn’t cost a ton to acquire. The Devils have been linked to him, although as it’s been pointed out before, the Devils aren’t exactly enamored with rentals.

Travis Konecny (5’10”, 175) is an interesting name as he’s a point producing, scoring winger enjoying a career year. He’s also a physical, effective, two-way forward who can play in all situations and is signed for a team-friendly $5.5M AAV through 2024-25. He’s the type of player the Flyers shouldn’t be looking to move, but might if they got a good enough offer. It really comes down to where the Flyers believe they are organizationally. Their approach last summer suggested they thought this team would be good (they were never going to be good, but I digress), although John Tortorella’s recent letter to season ticket holders would lead you to believe they know they are looking at a multi-year rebuild. If this is indeed a multi-year rebuild, maximizing the value of a soon-to-be 26-year-old Konecny makes sense. He would also qualify as a “Top Six Winger with Term” that would check that box Tom Fitzgerald is looking for. Whether the Flyers are finally accepting that its time to rebuild and/or they’d trade their best forward to a division rival is a whole other question. One last important note on Konecny....he recently got knocked out of a game with an upper-body injury.

I think van Riemsdyk is likely moved for a 3rd round pick or equivalent prospect assuming the Flyers retain salary, while Konecny is more likely to go for a 1st round pick plus sort of package. I think both players could help the Devils, although I’m not sure either one is my first choice.

Sharks Winger Kevin Labanc & Center Nick Bonino

Kevin Labanc (5’11”, 185 lb) makes the list as The Fourth Period linked the Devils to the Staten Island native. Labanc has enjoyed a bounce back season offensively and would bring another much needed righty shot to the Devils lineup. He also would not be a pure rental as he is signed through the end of next season at $4.725M AAV. The issue is that Labanc has a bit of a reputation as a one-dimensional player who is an inconsistent forechecker and for being a guy who sort of floats out there. He’s also drawn the ire of Sharks coach David Quinn and has been benched from time to time this season. I think the Devils have enough passengers in their lineup where they don’t need another one.

Nick Bonino (6’1”, 195 lb) brings a wealth of experience as he was a key role player on the Penguins Stanley Cup champion teams in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He’s a shutdown defensive center who would be an upgrade over Jesper Boqvist and Michael McLeod in a bottom six role while bringing veteran leadership and postseason experience to the table. Bonino won’t provide a whole lot offensively (although he might be a little unlucky there as he has 10.3 xG), but he is the perfectly acceptable “does a lot of things well” type of player who can play anywhere in the bottom six on a postseason team. He is a UFA after this season with a cap hit just north of $2M.

Bonino is the more likely player of the two to provide something the Devils don’t have and help them win postseason games, and I think the price for him will be fairly reasonable. If I were going to look to the Sharks for help, I’d probably be looking to get him back in addition to Meier if that trade ever happens. I would guess Bonino goes for a 4th while Labanc might cost a 2nd and maybe a smaller, secondary piece.

Panthers Forwards Sam Reinhart & Sam Bennett

The biggest question for Florida will be whether or not they are actually sellers at the deadline, and if so, would they be willing to move guys with term. Even if Florida doesn’t make the playoffs this season, they’re pot-committed with the roster they have assembled and aren’t really in a position to rebuild on the fly.

Let’s start with Sam Reinhart (6’2”, 193 lb), who is signed through next season at $6.5M AAV. The righty-shooting winger has produced .82 PPG over the last five seasons and has a reputation for being a great finisher, playmaker, and strong defensive forward. He plays in all-situations and is the type of forward who can present matchup problems for the opposition. He’d make a lot of sense as a fit next to Jack Hughes for the next season and a half.

Sam Bennett (6’1”, 195 lb) is the Panthers second line center who is signed through the 2024-25 season at $4.425M AAV. He’s not quite as polished an offensive player as Reinhart but he’s not a slouch either. He has speed, but he’s also able to be a grinder, pain-in-the-neck type of player that other teams don’t like playing against. He also plays in all-situations for Florida. He could potentially give the Devils a “winger with term” if he shifted to wing, or he could be a massive upgrade over Erik Haula as the team’s third line center past this season.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette is very familiar with these players from his time in the Panthers organization, which is why they earn a mention here. There’s a decent chance Brunette has said to Fitz at some point behind the scenes to check in on Florida on one or more of these players. With that said though, I think its more likely the Panthers keep their better players, trade away their UFAs, chalk up this year as a fluke, and gear up for another run next year. Florida is locked in with the roster that they have assembled so I don’t know what flipping Reinhart or Bennett for a first round pick plus does for them.

Florida is currently over the cap and, assuming they ever get everyone healthy at the same time, they may need to move some money out. Anthony Duclair has been rumored to be on the trading block for that reason, although he’s more of a one-dimensional player than Reinhart and Bennett and is lower on my wishlist as a result. I’m not as willing to gamble on a somewhat limited player coming off of an Achilles injury.

Blue Jackets Winger Gustav Nyquist

Gustav Nyquist (5’11”, 180 lb) is an interesting name in that he is currently expected to miss the remainder of the regular season with a shoulder injury that doesn’t require surgery. However, there is a possibility that he does return late in the regular season as Chris Johnston points out.

Nyquist, who is in the final season of a multi-year deal paying him $5.5M AAV, may be looked at around the league as a potential LTIR stash as the salary cap implications go away once the postseason begins. I don’t think that is really in the “spirit of the CBA” to trade for an injured player with that intention in mind, but neither was Tampa Bay having Nikita Kucherov on LTIR all year or Vegas trading for a retired Shea Weber so they can annually exceed the cap ceiling, so here we are.

Is Nyquist worth going out of your way to stash though? Probably not. He’s been a solid middle-six winger for years and can play in all-situations, but I don’t consider him to be a shutdown defender or physically imposing. He was having a down year before the injury, but how much of that was due to the injury and how much of it is that he’s a 33 year old winger on a bad team who is on the Back 9 of his career. The Devils have had trouble finding consistent contributions out of their bottom six but I don’t know that Nyquist is the answer to those issues. Add in the fact that Jarmo Kekalainen seems to be asking for the moon and the stars for his rentals and this is a stayaway for me.

Coyotes Winger Lawson Crouse

I didn’t mention Crouse initially in my Coyotes deep dive, but he seems to be popping up more and more as a potential trade target as we get closer to the deadline, so let’s talk about him now.

Crouse (6’4”, 215 lb) is in the first year of a 5-year deal paying him $4.3M AAV, so any team that acquires him would be getting plenty of control at a reasonable cost. He’s on pace for a career high in points, which is promising since he previously appeared to plateau in his development. Keep in mind that he’s also shooting close to 20% on the season, so buyer beware that this offensive breakout is actually sustainable. He’s a below-average passer and is not a guy who can create chances on his own, but if you put him out there with a playmaker, he is capable of putting a few pucks in the back of the net.

He’s always been a physical player and has made some strides in his defensive game, so he’d be an interesting player to target. I just think there’s little reason for Arizona to move Crouse at the moment unless a team blows them away, and I don’t think Crouse is the type of player that is worth selling the farm for. As I mentioned previously, Arizona is in full-blown tank mode and I do think selling on Crouse now probably helps, but they will need players going forward and Crouse’s cap hit does help them reach the cap floor. I understand that Arizona won’t have any issue taking on bad contracts if they want to continue to do so moving forward, but they do need players.

Crouse is not without his flaws as a player. If I’m Tom Fitzgerald with a treasure trove of draft picks and prospects, is Lawson Crouse the player you empty it out for? I don’t think he is.

Wild Winger Jordan Greenway

The Wild are in a tricky spot as they’re on the fringes of the playoff race in the Western Conference and presumably would like to add. They have a little cap space, but not a ton of cap space. They also have a big $7M AAV long-term deal with Matthew Boldy that begins next season, along with the most expensive dead cap years of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter twin buyouts due up the next two seasons.

Michael Russo, who is as tapped in with the Wild as any beat writer in the league is with their team, believes Jordan Greenway is being shopped. Greenway (6’6”, 225) is a big winger who is having a down year offensively and has 2 more years at $3M AAV remaining on his contract. One of the big knocks of his game though is that he doesn’t always use his size and strength to his advantage. If this critique sounds familiar, its because it was one of the main criticisms of former Devils forward Pavel Zacha.

Greenway has stopped shooting the puck this season and has provided almost nothing offensively. He also found himself in coach Dean Evason’s doghouse earlier this season for oversleeping and missing a team meeting. Greenway is defensively sound though and could be an upgrade over several cogs in the BMW line that Lindy Ruff tends to lean on in those situations. He’s probably a good player who is struggling and a natural buy-low candidate, but he’s also just expensive enough contractually where its not worth going out of your way for him. I’d consider giving up a mid-to-late round pick for him if they would take back Miles Wood in your classic change-of-scenery type of trade, but that’s about the extent of my interest in Greenway.

Red Wings Wingers Tyler Bertuzzi & Jakub Vrana

Tyler Bertuzzi (6’1”, 199 lb) is scheduled to be a UFA at the end of this season, carrying a cap charge of $4.75M AAV. He has had an injury-riddled season, twice missing time due to a broken hand and recently dealing with a minor lower-body injury. As a result, his numbers are down this season, but he has been a productive player in the past. Bertuzzi posted his first 30 goal season last year in just 68 games, partly due to his vaccination status and inability to enter Canada.

Bertuzzi, the nephew of former NHL player Todd Bertuzzi, is known for playing a rugged, feisty, brand of hockey that can get under the skin of the opposition. He’s not as big or as gifted offensively as a Timo Meier, but he’s not a slouch either and could be the power forward the Devils could use in the postseason.

The question with Bertuzzi is whether or not he will even be available, as Detroit isn’t too far off of the playoff pace in the Eastern Conference. Elliotte Friedman believes that the Red Wings will keep him. But assuming that he will be available, it will be interesting to see what might command in a trade coming off an injury-plagued season. I’d guess he goes for a second round pick, which seems a little high considering he has had an injury-plagued season, but his track record and skill set would suggest to me he’s worth that. If the Devils miss out on their bigger targets, Bertuzzi would be on my short-list for Plan B options.

Jakub Vrana (6’0”. 195) is in the second year of a three-year deal paying him $5.25M AAV. Vrana’s name will sound familiar if you follow the league closely, as he was in the league’s “Player Assistance Program” earlier this season. Upon his return and after completing a conditioning stint, the Red Wings placed him on waivers with the purpose of assigning him to their AHL affiliate. Vrana had 11 points in 17 AHL games before being recently recalled by the Red Wings.

Vrana’s future with Detroit is somewhere between murky and non-existent, in that he’s not really in their current or future plans but with another year left on his deal, he’s probably not going anywhere unless the Red Wings buy him out or trade him in the summer. Still, Vrana has a history of being a productive scoring winger at 5v5 at the NHL level with 189 points in 323 games. He should be getting regular playing time at the NHL level somewhere and could be a sneaky, savvy pickup for any team looking for more offense. Vrana won’t help much in terms of being tough to play against defensively, but he can be very tough to play against offensively with his speed. If Detroit has basically written off Vrana moving forward and wants a lifeline on the last year of the contract they gave him, perhaps a one-for-one swap of Miles Wood for Vrana would make some sense.

Oilers Winger Jesse Puljujarvi

Jesse Puljujarvi (6’4”, 201 lb.) will be an RFA at the end of this season ($3M AAV). He has been a healthy scratch recently and may be placed on waivers at some point between now and the trade deadline, so if the Devils wanted him, they could simply put in a waiver claim for him at that time. Its more likely though that he passes through waivers and gets traded for a minimal return or is a minor piece of a bigger trade as he has fallen out of favor in Edmonton. Why has Puljujarvi fallen out of favor? Simply put, he hasn’t shown the ability to finish despite having strong underlying numbers.

Puljujarvi has had good defensive metrics to go along with a big frame and he does bring some physicality to the table. He might’ve been worth a stab as a project if this was last year and the Devils were well out of the playoff race, but that isn’t the case in 2022-23. I’m not sure its the best idea to gamble that a change of scenery can unlock Puljujarvi’s offensive game. He has spent the most time at 5v5 this season on Connor McDavid’s wing. If he can’t produce consistent offense skating next to the best player on the planet, why should I think he’ll be more productive with Jack Hughes or anyone on the Devils for that matter?

If the Devils had the cap space and time to take on a reclamation project, I’d be all for buying on Puljujarvi while his value is as low as it will ever be. But the Devils have only a finite amount of cap space available at the deadline this year to do anything and can’t really afford to take on a rehabilitation project when they’re squarely in the playoff mix. I’d have a little more interest in the offseason, but for now, I’d pass.

Penguins Center Teddy Blueger

Teddy Blueger (6’0”, 185 lb) is the Penguins 4th line center who also has some experience killing penalties. He will hit UFA after this season and comes with a cap charge of $2.2M AAV.

It’s not often that a team is hanging on for dear life in the playoff race would be looking to move a rental player, but the thought process around the league is that if the Penguins are going to make a bigger splash at the deadline, they would need to shed some salary. Blueger has an expiring contract and has recently had his ice time drop, so he would be an obvious candidate to be on the outs in Pittsburgh.

Personally, I’m not all that interested in helping bail the Penguins out of their cap situation only for them to turn around and land a better player who can help them now. I’m not interested when there is a non-zero percent chance the Devils will meet the Penguins in the postseason at some point. The Penguins probably only have a few more kicks at the can with the Crosby-Malkin-Letang core, and the last thing the Devils should be doing at this stage is helping them clear out money to keep their window open by a crack.

Blueger is a solid 4th liner though who plays a good defensive game. He won’t contribute much offensively, but can win faceoffs. I don’t think the Devils will pursue him though, nor do I think the Devils and Penguins will make a trade now that both teams are competing for playoff positioning.

Canadiens Center Sean Monahan

Monahan (6’2”, 200 lb) is a pending UFA ($6.375M AAV) who brings plenty of experience and the ability to play all three forward positions. He brings playmaking ability to the table and would be a welcome addition to the Devils third line in general if they wanted to get a little more offense out of the position than what Erik Haula and Jesper Boqvist have provided.

The biggest issue with Monahan right now is his health, as he is currently on LTIR with a lower body injury. He has been limited to just 25 games this season, and while he has been productive, he can’t help the team if he’s injured. If Monahan can get healthy, he might make sense for a Devils team that lacks an identity on their third line.

The other big issue with Monahan is that if he’s not scoring, he doesn’t bring a ton of other qualities to the table. He has shown the ability to win puck battles in the past, so maybe he’s better suited for the wing than at center at this stage of his career. But he’s had a few too many injuries recently for my liking, including the dreaded hip surgery that ended his season last year. I wouldn’t be comfortable gambling on his health if I were Tom Fitzgerald.

Predators Forwards Tanner Jeannot, Nino Niederreiter, & Colton Sissons

There have been conflicting reports on what exactly the Predators should do going into the deadline, but after getting drubbed 5-0 against Boston last week and seeing exactly where the Predators are in the Western Conference standings, the answer is obvious. The Predators should be sellers. Nashville doesn’t have much in terms of pure rentals but they have forwards who would make a lot of sense for the Devils.

Tanner Jeannot (6’2”, 207 lb) enjoyed a breakout season offensively last year, but that was likely buoyed by an unsustainable 19.4 shooting percentage. Jeannot is better known for his rugged, physical style of play, going to the dirty areas of the ice, his willingness to drop the mitts, and his work on Nashville’s top penalty kill unit. In terms of a salary cap hit, he’s a bargain as he only counts for $800K against the salary cap before hitting RFA this summer, and he has one more season of team control remaining. You may recall over the summer when I previewed a certain Tampa UFA forward in Nick Paul. I bring that up because if the Devils goal this deadline was to come away with this year’s version of Nick Paul, Jeannot is a strong candidate to be that guy. The two players share a lot of qualities with their physical style of play and no-nonsense approach, and if Jeannot has another level to his game offensively, he could be a steal.

Nino Niederreiter (6’2”, 218 lb) is in the first year of a two-year, $4M AAV deal. His numbers are slightly down off of year’s past but he’s always been a perfectly capable middle-six forward who has always had strong possession numbers and can provide secondary offense. Niederreiter has been a good player in this league for a long time, with the only real knock on him being his lack of postseason production in the past. He has 30 points in 82 postseason games, which isn’t great for a player who has typically been a .5 PPG player over his career, but he’s also never been the go-to source of offense on any team he’s ever played on. If you keep offensive expectations in check with Niederreiter, I think he’s more than serviceable as a middle six winger.

Colton Sissons (6’1”, 200 lb) is a shutdown defensive center who has three more seasons at $2.857M AAV remaining on his deal. He will not contribute much offensively over the course of an 82-game season, but his style of play is built for seven-game playoff series with his physical play and penalty killing prowess.

It’s tough to say what any of these players might cost since we don’t really know yet whether or not Nashville will even sell, but all of these players would make varying levels of sense for the Devils.

Ducks Winger Troy Terry

The last name we’ll touch on is Ducks winger Troy Terry (6’0”, 186 lb), who has shown that his breakout year last year was no fluke. Terry was enjoying an All-Star season before he recently went on IR with an upper-body injury. Terry will be due a large raise this summer as he’s in the final season of a 3-year, $1.45M AAV deal. He has two more seasons of team control remaining after this season, so he would fall under the category of an extended rental.

Terry has played the most 5v5 minutes this season with Adam Henrique and Trevor Zegras. I have my doubts he’ll ever score 37 goals in a season again but he should be good for 20-25 goals most seasons and he’s more than capable of getting the puck to other playmakers. He’s also been unlucky this year, shooting under 9%. He’s a righty shot, which the Devils could use a little more of in their lineup in general. He’s a solid defensive forward who has probably been a victim of the horrible blueline and goaltending the Ducks have assembled the last few seasons. He is not a physical player though, so if you’re looking for more grit and toughness in the lineup, you might want to look elsewhere.

Between Terry’s low cap hit the rest of this season and the two additional seasons of team control, Terry will not be cheap if the Ducks are inclined to move him at all. To be clear, the Ducks probably should be building around Terry and not trying to move him. Not only is he costing a Meier-like package via trade, but his next contract probably will be anywhere between 6M and 7M AAV. I’m not saying he’s not worth that, but he will come at a significant cost. Maybe Tom Fitzgerald will think that he’s worth that if he can get him signed for less than what Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier make, but I’d also argue he’s not quite the top line winger Meier is and you’re getting what you’re paying for.

Final Thoughts

The big question for the Devils going into the postseason is where they are lacking in their lineup. Their most likely first round opponent at this point will be the New York Rangers, who have already made a big move in Vladimir Tarasenko and a minor move in Tyler Motte to address their holes. The Devils shouldn’t solely be approaching the deadline by trying to match up specifically against the Rangers, but that should be a consideration to some extent. They SHOULD be more concerned with trying to add talented players as well as role players who can play that rugged playoff style and help them grind through and ultimately win sixteen postseason games. The Devils have shown throughout the season that they can grit their way through a game and get two points even if they’re not playing their best, but the playoffs are a whole different animal.

If it were up to me, I would go after Meier first and foremost, since he’s the only player we’ve profiled who is arguably an elite-level talent AND projects to be moving forward. But Meier should not be the only player they target, and they need to be ready to move on other players if they do not get him. I’d be open to a couple smaller moves to make the Devils lineup deeper and tougher to play against. If the Devils deadline haul was Bertuzzi and van Riemsdyk, or Jeannot and Barbashev, I think you can at least feel comfortable going into the postseason with the added reinforcements and your ability to match up better against the opposition.

The one thing I would not do though going into the deadline is stand pat though. Even with the Montreal loss last night, the Devils are on pace for a franchise-record for points in a season. This is a win-now team and they should be making moves reflective of that status. I’m not saying they should be making short-sighted moves, but I would be disappointed if they didn’t address some of their depth issues between now and March 3. Especially when we’ve identified several players who could make a difference.

You’ve heard enough from me though, so now, its time to hear from you. Who, of the names above, piques your interest? Is there anyone else out there that merits discussion? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thanks for reading.