It’s no secret that New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald is scouring the trade market. New Jersey’s defense is awful this season and their goaltending has been even worse. The Devils’ GM is searching for a solution that will help stop the bleeding which is 3.54 goals against per game, ranked 28th in the NHL. As a result, Devils forward Michael McLeod’s name has come up more frequently in trade conversations.
A source confirms to New Jersey Hockey Now that McLeod is an option on the table for the Devils via trade. Recently, trade talks have picked up with McLeod’s name involved and the Devils might be willing to part with their former first-round pick.
The truth of the matter is that McLeod’s value has never been higher. He’s playing in an elevated role on New Jersey’s third line this season. Further, in the absence of New Jersey’s captain, Nico Hischier, and Jack Hughes early in the year, McLeod impressed while skating in the top six. Plus, his low-cost, short-term contract gives buyers flexibility.
The 25-year-old already has three more goals than his total in all of last season. He is just two shy of his career-high (nine) with 47 games remaining in 2023-24. He’s on track to set career highs in goals and points pro-rated over an 82-game season.
However, it’s not just the increased offense that makes McLeod the most valuable he’s ever been. McLeod is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL today. He’s typically on the ice for most of New Jersey’s toughest matchups in their own zone, is their best penalty killer, and no doubt is their best face-off man winning 65.5% of draws thus far.
With the Devils’ desire to upgrade other positions, they have options to make it happen. They own most of their high-value draft capital, their prospect pool is still pretty deep, and they have a plethora of NHL forwards which allows Fitzgerald to include one in a deal.
So, who might want a forward with McLeod’s skillset?
Well, look no further than the Anaheim Ducks who have often been in attendance at the Prudential Center scouting New Jersey. We know Fitzgerald has a twinkle in his eye for goaltender John Gibson. We know the Devils need better-quality goaltending. And we know New Jersey has enough forwards to fill the potential gap in McLeod’s absence.
From the Ducks’ perspective, Anaheim head coach Greg Cronin loves McLeod-type players. McLeod’s toolkit certainly fits in a Cronin system. The Mississauga, Ontario native can slide right into the lineup that’s missing Leo Carlsson and is suspected to move pending unrestricted free agent, Adam Henrique.
Vitek Vanecek got roughed up again against the Boston Bruins on Saturday surrendering five goals. Akira Schmid did the same two nights ago in his return to the American Hockey League. Nico Daws is receiving the opportunity to take the reigns in New Jersey’s crease. However, the Devils might want a more established presence in net after the New Jersey’s blue line lost a ton of experience this summer.
The Devils extended McLeod for one year at $1.4 million last summer. He’s a restricted free agent this summer which certainly has its own appeals, albeit, McLeod does own arbitration rights. Regardless, the Devils’ GM has shown a willingness to move roster players in the past. See Fabian Zetterlund last season. McLeod could be next.