The New Jersey Devils made a huge trade on Sunday in bringing in Timo Meier. As such, the expectations for the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline Day for New Jersey were not high. Maybe they would add some depth players for the roster if anything. They did just that before noon. As initially reported by Darren Dreger, the New Jersey Devils acquired Curtis Lazar from the Vancouver Canucks for a fourth round pick in 2024. Vancouver finally found some cap relief after refusing to deal J.T. Miller and his pending terrible contract extension.
Who is Curtis Lazar?
Curtis Lazar is a depth forward. He is 28, he is listed at 6’0” and 211 pounds, and he is under contract for $1 million per season through to 2024-25 per CapFriendly. According to NHL.com, Lazar has played in 45 games this season, scored two goals, credited for three assists, taken 54 shots on net, and averages 12:10 of ice time per game. The ice time and production match with someone who plays in a bottom six-role. With 258 faceoffs taken, Lazar appears to have played some center for the Canucks but not a lot. He won 134 of them, so he is not bad at it this season, but hardly exceptional like, say, Michael McLeod. He is a right-handed shot so when he is not a center, he can play right wing. The majority of his ice time this season has been at even strength, but with 49:11 of shorthanded ice time this season, he has been used on a secondary penalty killing unit. It is possible that he could be used similarly when shorthanded. A quick look at his career totals show a player who has been a depth forward for pretty much his whole NHL career. Plus, New Jersey is the sixth team he will play for in his career as he was drafted by Ottawa before being a Flame, a Sabre, a Bruin, and a Canuck.
In terms of what he brings to the table in 5-on-5 situations, it does not appear he pushes the play forward. His 5-on-5 on-ice rates at Natural Stat Trick have consistently been below 50% in Corsi%. It has been better for expected goals percentage. However, he has been not good in Vancouver this season with a 43.16% CF% and a 45.6% xGF%. Why? In Dr. Micah Blake McCurdy’s summation of his game, Lazar just does not do offense.
That would hinder the 5-on-5 on-ice rates that are driven by offensive play. Fortunately for Lazar, he goes from a a not-good, not-that-offensive Vancouver team to a much better, much more offensive New Jersey Devils team. Given his usage as a third or fourth liner, the Devils can probably live with him being a guy to fill things out or help settle a game down. Which is what Curtis Lazar is: a depth player.
What Does this Mean for the Devils?
In terms of the cost paid, not a lot. A fourth round pick next year is not worth very much. As Lazar costs $1 million to the cap, this move may be the only one made today as the Devils have just $260,000 left to spend to the cap ceiling. Unless a future move involves the Devils giving someone on the books up.
In terms of the roster, this is a bit more interesting. Head coach Lindy Ruff has not been particularly pleased with his bottom two lines throughout the season, leading to some bench shortenings and a cycle of scratches that have included, at one point or another, Nathan Bastian, Fabian Zetterlund, Jesper Boqvist, and Alexander Holtz. Holtz is in Utica, Zetterlund was traded to San Jose in the Meier trade, and Boqvist and Bastian have seemingly got back into the coaches’ good graces. Bastian in particular has done well after a couple of games in the scratch suite with goals in back-to-back games. Lazar’s arrival will mean one of them will have to sit. Something that was bound to happen anyway with Meier’s eventual on-ice debut. I do not think Tom Fitzgerald makes this deal just for Lazar to sit around. Hopefully, this is a player that Ruff will use regularly when Lazar is in the lineup. That will be up to Lazar meeting whatever is expected of him.
There is also a longer term impact than just the next two months. Lazar is signed for the next two seasons. The Devils have a lot of forwards up for new contracts after this season. Several of whom play on a third or fourth line. Miles Wood and Erik Haula are pending unrestricted free agents. Yegor Sharangovich (he was in the bottom six until recently), Michael McLeod, Boqvist, and Bastian are pending restricted free agents. Should Lazar come in and show he can do a decent job on a third or fourth line, then the Devils would not need to re-sign all of those players. Bastian, in particular, stands out as Lazar basically plays his position and could play his role on the team albeit with four fewer inches in height and maybe ten fewer pounds. I am not saying Lazar is a Bastian replacement, but if anyone has a reason to be concerned, then it would be him. Of course, if Lazar can play on his offhand, then you can expand that worry to Wood. My point is that the Devils trading for Lazar could lead to a later transaction down the line. Provided that Lazar does a decent job.
That is a big if. After all, this is his sixth team and he is not even 30 years old yet. That says to me that he is good enough to be in the league but not good enough to stick around any one organization. Given his cheap salary, the Devils would be able to move him in the future if it does not work out. But for the next 22 games, Lazar will have opportunities to make it work out. We shall see what happens.
The Devils made a small trade for a depth forward in Curtis Lazar. What do you think of the trade? Do you think Lazar will fit in well with the Devils? Will this be the Devils’ only move of the day? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this trade in the comments. Thank you for reading.