There’s no question that New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald is keeping up to date on the trade market. Here’s the thing. The recent play of Akira Schmid has been encouraging for the Devils’ goaltending. They could probably still use an upgrade, but is one available? And, are there other needs to address? Taking a look at TSN’s first trade-bait list, who can help the Devils? We took a look at the six most intriguing names that realistically fit.
Chirs Tanev — RHD
This is the obvious one. It’s public knowledge that the Calgary Flames are open for business following the Nikita Zadorov trade. The 33-year-old defensive defenseman is on an expiring deal with a $4.5 million cap hit. The Devils might need Calgary to retain some money which could end up being a deal breaker, but there’s no doubt that Chris Tanev would certainly help prevent goals from crossing the Devils’ goal line as often as it does. In 26 games this season, Tanev scored a goal and seven assists. One small wrinkle in this is that Tanev became injured against the Colorado Avalanche last night and didn’t return. Fitzgerald will need to proceed with caution depending on the extent of the injury.
Tyson Barrie — RHD
With Dougie Hamilton shelved long-term, Tyson Barrie is a logical replacement. However, that’s if, and only if, the experiment with Simon Nemc doesn’t work out. Thus far, Nemec has shown himself to be a confident puck handler who is thoroughly engaged in the offense. Nemec does show some rookie defensive deficiencies, however, it’s not like Barrie is known as a defensive stalwart. Perhaps, Barrie’s veteran presence would make fewer mistakes than the rookie, but Nemec has made a real case to remain on the NHL roster. If for any reason Nemec’s prowess begins to fold, Barrie on an expiring $4.5 million deal closer to the trade deadline would be a solid addition.
Sean Walker (RHD) or Nick Seeler (LHD) — Flyers Defensemen
It feels like an obligation to mention Sean Walker or Nick Seeler in this situation. However, the reality is that the Philadelphia Flyers are third in the Metropolitan Division and this “rebuild” is suddenly over. Walker (26) is a reliable two-way defenseman who would certainly help on both ends of the ice while Seeler (30) is a big, physical defenseman who could give the Devils an edge in their game that’s surely lacking. If for any reason the Flyers are willing to trade one of the two defensemen in-division, Fitzgerald should surely be on the phone. However, they’re likely to cost New Jersey more than an out-of-division opponent, and the Devils can probably find similar help for cheaper elsewhere.
Ilya Lyubushkin — RHD
For a moment it seemed like the Anaheim Ducks were going to surprise us all this season. However, they fizzled out and in the standings reside in the NHL’s basement. That makes Ilya Lyubushkin a prime trade target for New Jersey as a cheaper defenseman than the aforementioned who brings a defensive and physical game. He’s on an expiring $2.75 million deal seeing as Fitzgerald typically likes to retain the assets he trades for, you could see a situation where the Devils GM keeps Lyubushkin for another year or two after Brendan Smith’s deal expires. Perhaps, this is a player that can be acquired in a package with goaltender John Gibson.
Pat Maroon — RW
Who doesn’t want to see the Devils bring back Pat Maroon? After Maroon left New Jersey, he went on to win three Stanley Cups between the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. The 35-year-old forward would certainly solidify New Jersey’s bottom six as the 234 lb forward brings size, physicality, and a touch of offense with three goals and 11 points in 26 games this season. The thing is, even though Smith has been deployed in a forward role and has certainly provided, it’s likely more ideal for head coach Lindy Ruff to have a regular forward out there, especially one with Maroon’s winning pedigree. The former Devil forward also comes at a bargain $800K contract on an expiring deal.
Here’s the thing, the only two goaltenders on the TSN trade bait list are Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau of the Montreal Canadiens. Sam Montembeault just extended with Montreal for three years which likely takes him off the availability list. If the Devils are going to trade for a goaltender, it should probably be a surefire upgrade over Schmid and Vitek Vanecek. Both Allen (.901) and Primeau (.902) have SV%’s that are a touch better than Schmid and Vanecek’s. According to MoneyPuck, Allen’s (1.2) and Primeau’s (0.9) goals saved above expected are a touch better than Schmid’s -2.0 and Vanecek’s -7.0. If it doesn’t cost the Devils much to acquire Allen, go for it. However, if the Canadiens ask for anything significant, it’s not enough of an upgrade to make a deal. Primeau doesn’t provide the experience the Devils need en route to their return to the playoffs. It feels like there are better targets to pursue that don’t show up on TSN’s list.