The New Jersey Devils are a game away from a bye week and the All Star Weekend. Outside of any news, the next major event on the NHL Calendar will be the NHL Trade Deadline. This season’s deadline is March 8, 2024 at 3 PM ET. The New Jersey Devils are on the playoff bubble. It is my belief that a team that won 52 games and defeated Our Hated Rivals in epic fashion in the playoffs should not be settling on being a bubble team and just playing meaningful games in March. Goaltending has been a weakness all season. Depth has been tested on the blueline and at center due to injuries and other issues. With over a week off between tomorrow’s game and February 6, there will be plenty of time for management to make calls, consider deals, and maybe even make a move to improve the team. This means it is an excellent time to look at the players on the roster and rank their perceived trade value. Especially since Dougie Hamilton has just been put on long term injured reserve yesterday, which gives Fitzgerald $6.7 million of LTIR space to use.
I did this last season (almost a year to the day), in 2021-22 and in 2020. It is practically a tradition now. 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 between Alexander Holtz and Ondrej Palat as who is having a better season. Whatever we agree or disagree with does not necessarily mean I think Palat is going to have more trade value than Holtz. A lot more factors go into perceived value than just how they are performing right now. Their age, their cap hit, the 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 Shane Bowers, Sam Laberge, Santeri Hatakka, and Graeme Clarke are not included. They did not make the games cut-off. I doubt any of them will be worth anything other than as a throw-in into a trade package (like Hatakka was in the Timo Meier deal) or traded for another AHL player on a NHL deal (like Bowers for Reilly Walsh). Prospects are also not included. Seamus Casey would be the one that other NHL teams would want and I will say that Tom Fitzgerald should only move him if he really has to do so. The others are just players to throw in packages at the moment for one reason or another.
Let’s get into it in reverse order from the least valuable to the most valuable. All contract information is from CapFriendly.
Tier 0: The Literally Unavailable & Untradeable
Michael McLeod (and Cal Foote): As of January 24, the team issued the following statement for both: “Michael McLeod and Cal Foote have each requested and been granted indefinite leave of absences from the team. The club will have no further comment at this time.”
They are not going to be moved and no one will want them due to this absence. Nothing further to discuss until more news comes out.
Tier 1: Minimal Value: “You want him? Done. I’ll call him after this.”
Note: If I did rank Bowers, Laberge, Hatakka, and Clarke, then they would go here.
#25 Max Willman - Cap Hit & 2023-24 Salary: $775,000 - Two-way Contract, Pending UFA
Willman was brought into Devils training camp back in September on a PTO, earned a contract, and has been a call up due to injuries requiring a forward to be in the lineup. Willman has been not good in his 12 appearances. The Devils have a CF% of 43.79% and an xGF% of 27.57% when he’s on the ice in 5-on-5, by far the worst among anyone in this post. And this is with averaging fewer than 9 minutes per game too. As bad as last night’s game was, that Willman was scratched for a recalled Justin Dowling further confirms where he stands. He’s technically up with New Jersey on an emergency loan basis. Willman is Utica-bound when the team gets a bit healthier at forward.
#24 Chris Tierney - Cap Hit & 2023-24 Salary: $775,000 - Two-way Contract, Pending UFA
Tierney is a veteran depth center. He has appeared in 26 games with the Devils, 623 NHL games and counting, and the 29-year old has entered this stage of his career. He split time between the AHL and NHL last season for the first time since 2015-16. Tierney is basically here as the Devils’ depth at center has been tested that much. For that reason and that his on-ice numbers are better than Willman’s, he is ahead of him on this list. That said, I cannot forsee an actual market for Chris Tierney that does not return a AHL/NHL tweener.
#23 Tomas Nosek - Cap Hit & 2023-24 Salary: $1 million - Pending UFA
I feel bad for Tomas Nosek has he has been limited to six games this season due to significant injuries. He has been a grinding, fourth-line player for his career in the NHL. The 31-year old is at the point where he needs to show he can be a contributor of something at this level. After all, he didn’t get a new deal on July 1, he got signed by the Devils on July 19 - well after the frenzy of Free Agency. Unfortunately, this has been a lost season for him. He barely had a real chance to get settled with the Devils on the ice much less do anything all that positive for them. To that end, he could just as easily end up as a PTO candidate or sign in Europe as much as he gets another NHL deal. My hope is that he does return and get some actual games in to play - as in more than 3 or 4 at a time - for his own career’s sake.
Tier 2: Low Value: “Yeah, we could make it happen.”
#22 Nathan Bastian - Cap Hit & 2023-24 Salary: $1.35 million
Nathan Bastian was a useful bottom-six winger last season. This season, he has been more anonymous with his 40 shots on net in 43 games and 10 points. He had more in 43 games last season. His on-ice rates at 5-on-5 are actually not bad, but he has been a non-factor in more games than not. Yes, he is Large and can be Tough and those players are Not Hard to Find and teams really do not make deals to Get Them Unless They Really Like Them. Bastian was plucked off waivers two seasons ago and I do not think he has done a lot to be more than a guy who would get claimed on waivers if made available.
#21 Brendan Smith - Cap Hit: $1.1 million; 2023-24 Salary: $1.2 million - Pending UFA, Injured Reserve
It is true that playoff teams tend to add veteran defensemen for depth and change-of-pace purposes. I do not know why they would want this 34-year old defenseman. He is currently on IR with a leg injury so unless he gets cleared to play and does play before March 8, he may not be sought after in a deal. Even if he was, Smith is not quick, Smith is prone to taking penalties (he has taken 16 so far in 5-on-5), Smith has some of the worst 5-on-5 on-ice rates on the Devils blueline, and Smith brings very little offense to the table between his one goal out of 31 shots this season. Unless his reputation is a lot better than I realize, I do not think teams will inquire about Smith. Especially when they can inquire about...
#20 Colin Miller - Cap Hit: $1.85 million; 2023-24 Salary: $1.7 million - Pending UFA
...Colin Miller. He is better than Smith. The 31-year old defensive-minded defenseman has been a fine add to the defense when able. His 5-on-5 on-ice rates have been very good. He worked well alongside Simon Nemec. He is a bit faster than Smith. He is a lot more disciplined than Smith with 7 penalties taken this season so far. Miller even has more shots and points in eight fewer games than Smith, evidence that he brings a bit more offense than Smith. Miller is better than Smith. Simple as. Why isn’t Miller any higher? Remember that Fitzgerald acquired him for a fifth round pick next year back in July. I do not think Miller will command much more than that, especially since he is a pending UFA. I like what he has done in New Jersey but it is not as if another team is going to feel like they need to give Fitzgerald much more than a fourth round pick to get him by March. I could be wrong. But I do think he has more value than Smith. Even if it is not by much.
#19 Curtis Lazar - Cap Hit & 2023-24 Salary: $1 million
Curtis Lazar is a hard working bottom six winger. I like him. You probably like him. He has good 5-on-5 numbers. He has six goals, 16 points, and 40 shots while averaging over 12 and half minutes per game. Lazar has been appropriately used and playing up to his level. This is good. Of all of the issues the Devils have, you have to go down the list pretty far to find anything remotely related to Lazar. That said: that does not mean other teams will covet Lazar either. Hard working bottom six wingers are not hard to find or highly in demand. Remember that it cost a fourth rounder in 2024 when the Devils traded for him back at last year’s deadline. Like Miller, I do not think he has done so well as to command much higher should the Devils put him on the block.
#18 Kevin Bahl - Cap Hit $1.05 million; 2023-24 Salary: $900,000
Kevin Bahl is not having that great of a season. If you’re wondering why the defense has taken a step back, it is in part due to Bahl not taking much of a step forward. His on-ice rates at 5-on-5 show the Devils having a worse CF% and SF% than Smith when Bahl takes a shift. Which is not good. The xGF% and scoring chance differentials are a bit better but still pale to most of the other defensemen. Bahl has also been a penalty machine like Smith with 14 penalties taken. Despite his proclivity to pinch (which he really should not), he has 36 shots and 7 assists for his production this season so far. So why is he higher up than Smith and Miller on this list? He’s relatively young for a defenseman since he is 23. He’s massive. His numbers may be a function of needing to play more in the face of Jonas Siegenthaler being hurt. I can see other teams wanting to take a chance on him and try to adjust his game to be more effective on defense. But not for very much in return should the Devils want to move on from Bahl. Even if a team can level him up, I think his ceiling is limited to a spot better than the Colin Millers of the world but below the John Marinos of the world.
Tier 2.5: The Goalie Zone of Low to Possibly Medium Value: “Maybe you can fix him and we can fix your guy?”
#17 Nico Daws - Cap Hit: $850,833; 2023-24 Salary: $867,500 - Entry Level Contract
Welcome to the goalie zone. The goalie market for known quantities in the net is very steep. I can see teams wanting to address that position without paying through the nose may talk themselves into trying to fix what has been a problem on another team. Daws is statistically the best goaltender among the three that have played this season. Daws has played in just 7 NHL games this season. He is also coming off hip surgery that caused him to miss the first few months of this season. The good news is that he appears to have recovered well, but it is something anyone who wants to get him will have to keep in mind. Daws’ last stint in the NHL was during that awful 2021-22 campaign where he was overwhelmed by a team going from bad to worse. It is hard to get a sense if many (or any) other NHL teams would value a 23-year old Daws because of that and his season so far. I think he has a future but in terms of a deal, I do not think he would return much.
#16 Vitek Vanecek - Cap Hit: $3.4 million; 2023-24 Salary: $3.75 million
Vanecek was legitimately OK to good last season. Then the playoffs happened, Akira Schmid took over, and it seems like Vanecek has been falling apart since then. Consistency? Nope. Rebounds? Plentiful. Glove hand? Stationary to a fault at times. Save percentage? Below 89% and the worst among the three. Why is he in the middle of this zone or much lower? Because I think teams who badly need a goalie and know that he is likely a lot better than this can try to turn it around. Vanecek could very much use a change in scenery, goalie coach, and pads. With his salary dropping to $2.9 million next season, a team who needs more against their cap without spending as much would find that attractive. Just as some have claimed that, say, Lindy Ruff didn’t suddenly lose his coaching skills over a season; I want to believe that Vitek Vanecek didn’t suddenly forget how to tend goal from April 2023 to current. He’s been real bad, though. Possibly bad enough to clear waivers. But flipping him as part of a goaltender deal to improve the position is possible and so I cannot say he has minimal value.
#15 Akira Schmid - Cap Hit: $850,833, 2023-24 Salary: $867,500 - Entry Level Contract
The middle guy in terms of overall save percentage among the three goalies. Has Schmid been good this season? No. Definitely not compared to last season. But just as I wrote for Vanecek, I want to believe that Schmid of 2022-23 was not a mirage. His play essentially sent MacKenzie Blackwood away. In the postseason where he outperformed Vanecek and salvaged a series against Our Hated Rivals. He was trying to hold on in Game 5 in Carolina too. Yet, this season, as with Vanecek, it has all gone pear-shaped. Between his waiver eligibility and perhaps management not valuing him as much as I think they should, Schmid has been in Utica. It has not gone so well there given their own issues with rosters and performances. But again, I can see other teams looking at him and noting that he is not some scrub with nothing going for him. He may just need a different coach and environment. Betting on fixing a big goaltender that turns 24 in May and did not have hip surgery within the last nine months is not a bad bet to make.
But, again, this is the Goalie Zone. There are more buyers than there are options and so maximizing value out of any of these three may come down to who’s willing to fix what New Jersey could not.
Tier 3: Medium Value: “Hmmm...you’re going to have to give me something good. What are you offering?”
#14 Ondrej Palat - Cap Hit: $6 million; 2023-24 Salary: $6.9 million - No Movement Clause
Palat just returned from injury, so he has a chance to improve how he has done this season. What he has done so far is basically turn into a Czechia version of Tomas Tatar. Palat has been a machine in 5-on-5 play with on-ice rates up there with Bratt and Jack Hughes. The team having a 57.88% CF% and a 60.94% xGF% are indicative of Palat doing a lot of the little things and some bigger things to make good things happen on the ice. The issue is that, like Tatar, the production is not going to match those amazing on-ice rates even with minutes on a first or second line. In 35 games, Palat has 5 goals, 14 points, and 63 shots in 35 games. That’s it. Being 14th on the team in total points is not good enough for someone making as much as he does and playing as much as he does (15:41 per game). That said, unlike Tatar, Palat also carries a lot of experience of performing well in the playoffs, something that led to that increasingly-ugly contract Tom Fitzgerald gave him in 2022. With the NMC, that he’s turning 33 in March, and that contract, I could see him being bumped down a tier. But his reputation of being a difference maker in the postseason does a lot for him and being Tatar-esque in 5-on-5 is rather helpful. If only if it led to more production for Palat and the Devils. Maybe it will over the next 36 games.
#13 Erik Haula - Cap Hit: $3.15 million; 2023-24 Salary: $3.9 million - No Trade Clause
Haula earned his three-season deal by being a useful center/winger that, after spending most of the season failing to finish even mostly-empty nets did score some goals and produced on par with his last stop in Boston in 2021-22. Haula is currently on pace to best his 41 points from last season as he owns ten goals and 23 points in 41 games. While I think Lindy Ruff really needs to move Haula back to center given the issues at that position for the moment, Haula has put in the effort. While he will turn 33 in March and he has a NTC, he is the kind of useful middle-six forward that is appreciated by contending, bubble, and rebuilding teams alike. He has very fine 5-on-5 on-ice rates, he has experience, and he is versatile not just in position but also in role. The NTC and that age will not be attractive to suitors, but he would command more than just a little bit should he waive it. Which is unlikely since this is his first season since 2019-20 where he has remained on the same team for more than a season.
#12. John Marino - Cap Hit: $4.4 million; 2023-24 Salary: $5.25 million
Marino was a very solid defenseman who had a hot start last season. Picking him up looked to be an excellent move. This season, Marino has been all over the place in a bad way. He has had some legitimately great games. He has had some performances where you wonder if he forgot that he’s John Marino, a NHL Defenseman. Marino turns 27 in May and has three more seasons on the deal he got in Pittsburgh after this one. The cap hit is reasonable, especially as he is in the higher part of his salary structure right now. Is he being given the role like a higher-paid defensive-minded defenseman? Yes. He’s averaging 21:06 per game and he plays in defensive situations. Is he playing up to that salary? That is hard to say. The Devils have been out-shot when he has taken a shift in 5-on-5 this season and out-scored heavily - with plenty of those GAs featuring Marino failing to make the right play or be in the right position. But the Devils have out-attempted and out-xG’ed their opponents; it is not as if he has been an anchor for the Devils in spite of his lack of offensive contributions (yes, he has 15 points but he also has only 38 shots on net in 46 games) He could play up to his contract. He would get more than a late round pick in next year’s draft if he does hit the market, so he is in this tier.
#11. Jonas Siegenthaler - Cap Hit: $3.4 million; 2023-24 Salary: $4.25 million - Injured Reserve
Of course, why would a team want a defensive defenseman turning 27 with a $4.4 million cap hit for the next three seasons when they could get a defensive defenseman turning 27 with a $3.4 million cap hit for the next four seasons? Especially with a salary structure where this season is the most he will be paid in terms of total salary? Siegenthaler’s broken foot makes him unlikely to be dealt anytime soon. However, he plays a lot like Marino does but for less money. His on-ice rates in 5-on-5 have been better when he takes a shift. The Devils have out-shot their competition with a slightly lower SA/60 than Marino while also not getting out-scored heavily. There have been some real struggles from Siegenthaler this season compared with last one (which statistically was not across-the-board better but still) However, I do not think it is arguable that he is worse than Marino. But he’s been better than him in this season. Siegenthaler has also been a more active shooter with 46 shots in 38 games compared with Marino’s 38 in 46. Not that either are significant offensive contributors but it is worth noting. Ultimately, Siegenthaler’s value is going to be limited by both how he is performing this season and that he is a defensive-minded defenseman. Desired as they are by the deadline, there is a limit as to how much they can bring back in a deal. Still, Siegenthaler has more value than Marino. And arguably more than Palat and Haula if I’m being honest.
#10. Alex Holtz - Cap Hit: $894,167, 2023-24 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract
You could argue this should be lower since Lindy Ruff and the coaching staff have buried Holtz onto a fourth line, left to try to perform alongside Willman, Tierney, and now Justin Dowling. At least the Dowling connection hit paydirt once yesterday. But you have to look at this from an outside perspective. Holtz is a 22-year old winger still on an ELC for another season after this one. Even with just 12:03 of ice time per game, he’s sixth on the team in goals with 12 and seventh on the team in points with 23. He has 79 shots on net despite his limited usage. I wrote about Ruff not utilizing Holtz appropriately not that long ago and it is still true as of this writing. In other organizations, they would reward the young winger producing like this. Especially after he made legitimate improvements in his off the puck play, his defense, his discipline, and his quickness while skating. Instead, its fourth-line duties, getting benched to shorten it, and some spot work on a secondary power play unit. Should the Devils decide to part with Holtz, do not be shocked if he thrives elsewhere. Should they decide to part with Holtz, they will be able to command more than just a middle-round pick. He is a young forward blossoming in production on a very, very favorable contract for another season. That is worth something unless Fitzgerald follows Ruff’s lead and incorrectly figures he’s just a fourth-liner. Many teams will be interested in taking advantage then.
#9 Tyler Toffoli - Cap Hit: $4.25 million; 2023-24 Salary: $3.5 million - Pending UFA
Ah, Tyler Toffoli. Those who think Holtz is some shoot-first, no-defense later skater are confusing him with Toffoli. The thing is that Toffoli has an earned reputation for being a secondary scorer. Teams looking for some scoring punch down the stretch would do a lot worse than renting Toffoli. That he has 20 goals (and 33 points) in 46 games this season absolutely helps his value. There are factors that hurt Toffoli’s value. He turns 32 in April. He is a pending UFA so some teams may wait to try to sign him instead of give up assets for a rental. While his 5-on-5 on-ice rates look great, he also has played a lot with either Bratt or Jack Hughes. Two guys who have carried plenty of weight this season. It is fine that he is a complementary player who can finish many plays when he is in form. The issue is that when he is not in form, he is not contributing a ton on or off the puck. I have taken to calling him Caveat Emptor because this is the kind of player where if everything works out well, then he can justify a significant contract. But based on how he has done in New Jersey and in past seasons, that 34-goal, 73-point scorer from 2022-23 is not likely going to come onto the ice all that often. If at all. So buyer beware. Still, should the Devils look to sell or even just move on from Toffoli, he will command legit offers as a rental.
Tier 4: High Value: “Look, I’m ready to say ‘No.’ But if you’re giving me someone great, then I may not say ‘No’ now.”
Note: If I ranked Seamus Casey, I would put him here.
#8. Timo Meier - Cap Hit: $8.8 million; 2023-24 Salary: $12 million
It has been a real struggle of a season for Timo Meier considering the big contract he signed with New Jersey. He has been benched in October a few times and deservedly so. He has suffered from injury, came back but was still not 100% on the ice based on his performances (and Ruff basically admitting as such), and then suffered injury again. Recent weeks have seen more of the Meier most expected but it has yet to turn into a lot of points with 9 goals, 18 points, and 96 shots in 33 games. Or even strong on-ice rates in 5-on-5 play. Meier is not this beefy power forward that just runs through defenders. Sure, he could do that but he plays more of a transition game like Bratt, Hughes, and Hischier. The injuries have hurt his speed but he seems to have it back now. The talent is there but he has been goalless since his return even with 18 shots taken over five games. I think once he gets going, there will be some fewer complaints about his season. But there are legitimate complaints about his 2023-24. Nothing Meier has done comes close to a $12 million season in salary. It may not be my money but I cannot say he has earned it. Speaking of $12 million men...
#7. Dougie Hamilton - Cap Hit: $9 million; 2023-24 Salary: $12.6 million - No Movement Clause, Long Term Injured Reserve
Hamilton is technically a Tier 0 guy at the moment since he is now on long term injured reserve as recovers from a torn pectoral muscle and the Devils want the LTIR room to be cap-compliant. The no-movement clause also hurts. As well as the fact he turns 31 in June. And that he is in the most expensive part of his contract, which will end on July 1, 2025 (as does the NMC). Why is he in Tier 4? Because he remains a premier offensive threat from the blueline. That is rather valuable on its own. He is still second highest scoring Devils defenseman this season with just 20 games played. Not to mention that Luke Hughes only recently passed him in shots this season and, again, Hamilton has played in just 20 games to get those 61 shots on net. Despite his perceived issues on defense, he has been an absolute machine for the Devils in 5-on-5 prior to injury. Hamilton is still a big-minute defenseman that has been the best guy on the blueline prior to his injury. It may be sooner rather than later as to whether he get usurped there based on #5 and #4 on this list. And his age, contract, and future effectiveness may knock him down into Tier 3 sooner rather than later too. But Hamilton was, somehow, available, I would think teams would have to offer a lot to make it happen. He has the goods even if his torn pec means he cannot possibly justify this season’s salary.
#6. Dawson Mercer - Cap Hit: $894,167; 2023-24 Salary: $832,500 - Entry Level Contract, Pending RFA
Mercer has endured a 10-game slump to start this season and he has struggled in recent games. Even so, Mercer has 13 goals and 23 points in 46 games to go with 83 shots on net. That puts him tied for sixth on the team in points and tied for fourth in goals. He is close to matching his rookie season goal total and he has a chance to match those 47 points as well. Unlike his rookie season, Mercer has also had to play center quite a bit this season (instead of Haula for...reasons...), which is a position where he has not been so successful. Further, Mercer’s 5-on-5 on-ice rates have suffered with all of the roster movement combined with his own performances. Last season seemed like Mercer was blossoming into a DAWGson. Well, the dogs in him are sleeping a bit more in this season. Still, Mercer has a whole lot of value in his favor even if this third season is a bit of a step back from his second. Mercer is 22, he is on the final season of his somewhat cheaper ELC (it was not a max ELC), and he has been a consistent middle-six player even if his role has been changed out of necessity and coaching decision. Mercer may not be a play driver like Bratt, Hischier, or Hughes, but young guys who can play more than one role well and produce quite well in their first three seasons of NHL hockey are not common. They are quite valuable on their own. And they can absolutely be core players for the future. Something I think the organization also thinks of Mercer - which only boosts his value to be outside of the top tier on this list of perceived trade values.
Tier 5: The Near-Untouchables: “I might as well resign now if I even think of moving this guy. And I just signed an extension. No. Goodbye.”
#5. Luke Hughes - Cap Hit: $925,000; 2023-24 Salary: $925,000 - Entry Level Contract
Luke Hughes may have hit some struggles recently between him being a rookie, starting to feel the grind of an 82-game season, and the team now needing to rely on him. Even with recent missteps, when he takes to the ice, the Devils out-attempt, out-chance, out-shoot, and even out-score their opposition. He has taken over Hamilton’s spot on the primary power play unit and the production has followed. Likewise, he has a total of 8 goals, 25 points, and 67 shots in 46 games. All to go with averaging over 20 minutes per game total. Hughes is only 20. The future is really bright for him. Combined with an ELC deal, he is incredibly valuable and should be near-impossible for Fitzgerald to give up. Although I would say he is not the most valuable under-25 defenseman on the team right now.
#4. Simon Nemec - Cap Hit: 918,333; 2023-24 Salary: 950,000 - Entry Level Contract
A conversation that I want to think has happened: “Hey.” “What’s up.” “How’s Nemec?” “Brilliant.” “How so?” “This 19-year old was called up to replace Dougie Hamilton. He has fit in like Cinderella in a glass slipper. He is arguably the Devils’ best defensemen statistically right now.” “Yeah, but...” “No, you do not understand. He averages about 17:30 in 5-on-5 play. He gets special team time. Even Lindy Ruff unleashed him almost immediately and he has been great.” “Uh, sure, but didn’t he make a mistake...” “I know. Welcome to NHL hockey. Even the greats botch plays some times. Don’t let one or two bad moments overshadow the fact that he has been this good, this quickly in just his second season in North America.” “OK, fine. He’s pretty good.” “You wanted Shane Wright, didn’t you?” “Sigh...yeah, I read Fischer. My bad.” “He was wrong. Watch Nemec be the cornerstone of this defense for the next 15 years.” “I see it. I gotta go.” “Later.”
#3. Nico Hischier - Cap Hit: $7.25 million; 2023-24 Salary: $7.75 million
Hischier’s base salary jumped from $4.5 million to $7.75 million for this season. His cap hit is a bit smaller at $7.25 million. Still, moving the captain is always a bigger move than just the hockey part of it. Not to mention the team is currently short on centers as it is. That said, Hischier’s season could be going better. 26 points in 34 games is not bad but pales a bit to last season’s 80 in 81. He’s still quite positive in on-ice play but he is not among the best on the team in CF%, xGF%, and SCF%. Hischier’s been very good although I think the expectations from the People Who Matter are higher because the Devils do need him to be more. I do think he needs some more consistent linemates to do that. Still, Hischier suddenly hitting the market would yield some potentially lucrative deals. Other teams would absolutely want a player still in prime years on a fairly reasonable contract for a first or second line center that plays well in all three zones. Think Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, and Anze Kopitar. By the way, they stayed with their teams for a long, long time and Fitzgerald is aiming to do the same with Hischier. So he’s absolutely in this tier.
#2. Jesper Bratt - Cap Hit: $7.875 million; 2023-24 Salary: $10 million
The team’s leading scorer right now - until Jack Hughes returns - is earning his massive contract from June. I would say putting up 49 points in 46 games even as the team has lost talent due to injury is worth $10 million. I would say being a dominant force in 5-on-5 play along with putting up a rate of 2.32 points per 60 in 5-on-5 is worth $10 million. I would say being a key producer on the power play also adds to that worth. I am prepared to accept Bratt as the Devil of 2023-24 right now. And on top of all of that, his base salary of $5 million plus a cap hit of $7.875 million makes him surprisingly attractive should Fitzgerald lose his mind and want to trade his top scorer before his No-Movement Clause kicks in next year. Which will drop him on this list. But who cares, he’s not going anywhere.
#1. Jack Hughes - Cap Hit: $8 million; 2023-24 Salary: $8.5 million - Injured Reserve
Fun fact: He got paid $500,000 more last season. The Big Deal is sorely missed in New Jersey since his injury. How missed? He has missed the last 9 games, will miss a tenth tomorrow, and he remains third on the team in goals (15), second on the team in assists (30), and second on the team in points (45). While a bunch of Devils can catch his goal total soon, the third-place assister on the Devils right now is Luke Hughes with 17 and third place in points is Tyler Toffoli with 33. The gap between Jack Hughes and just about everyone else on the team this season from purely production is that large. Oh, and he drives play well at 5-on-5 too. Superstar talent and production for a relative bargain and he is the best player on the team. The Big Deal is #1.
I hope you appreciated my perceived trade value rankings of 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 always, I could be quite wrong in how I perceive their value. And also in what I think the Devils could or should 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? Does it make sense to put Hamilton, Mercer, and Meier in a tier below the top guys? What about Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec? Does the contention over the goalie market (and goalies in general this season) help the Devils’ trio or are they so bad that it will not matter? Could anyone on this list improve their trade value before March 8? And who is likely to make it worse? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the trade value of the current Devils players on the team in the comments. Thank you for reading.