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Devils Fan Mailbag Part 2: Should Devils Trade Toffoli? When Does Fitzgerald Act? & More

In part two of the Devils fan mailbag, fans wonder if they should consider trading Toffoli, Fitzgerald’s timeline to act, & more.



New Jersey Devils

It’s time to answer more of your New Jersey Devils questions.

Let’s dive right in.

How many games past the All-Star Break does (Tom Fitzgerald) give this team for evaluation? @NJDevilGuy1

Putting a hard number of games on a question like this is unwise. However, let’s take a look at the events, both current and past.

Last season, GM Tom Fitzgerlad didn’t hesitate to get ahead of the trade deadline frenzy acquiring Timo Meier on February 26th, 2023, eight days before the March 3rd deadline. Now, the Devils were comfortably in a playoff spot at that point last season. Perhaps their current position changes things a bit.

Regardless, the trade market is hot right now. Elias Lindholm has already been traded, and Sean Monahan is on the move just two days later. Suffice to say, buying GMs are ready to dance.

The difference is Fitzgerald is not likely in the center market. Perhaps that means he has a bit more time to make a move. Yet, he’s going to want to ensure he doesn’t get scooped by another team. For instance, Chris Tanev is a perfect fit for the Devils’ needs. The Vancouver Canucks already tried to include him in the Lindholm trade, and the Ottawa Senators are barking up that tree too. He’s not the only option on the market, but Fitzgerald doesn’t want to see a good option lost because he didn’t act quickly enough.

The trade deadline is five days later this season. Still, although the Devils are potentially getting healthier with Jack Hughes, their blue line is still severely banged up, and their goaltending is barely keeping it’s head above water.

I’d be surprised if Fitzgerald doesn’t make an addition by the end of February.

Do you think (the Devils) acquire a goalie before the (trade deadline)? @nma814, & many others.

The Devils’ playoff aspirations have not waned. Therefore, there’s little doubt that Fitzgerald knows he needs to upgrade somewhere, whether it be the blue line, the goaltending crease, or both.

My inclination is that it will be easier to upgrade on the blue line purely because of the fact that there will be more options to do so.

The goaltending market is far more limited.

The idea is if you strengthen the play in front of Vitek Vanecek, Nico Daws, or even Akira Schmid, whoever is tending the net will perform better once the team in front of them is stronger. That’s how it worked last season. The Devils just came into this season as a defensively weaker team.

That doesn’t excuse the goaltending, however. They’ve never been the strongest netminders. The Devils’ crease just had a stronger presence in front of them last season.

Now, that’s not to say Fitzgerald won’t upgrade his goaltending situation. If the price of a goaltender like Kaapo Kahkonen is reasonable, you do it. However, I tend to believe more complicated deals, such as for someone like Jacob Markstrom, John Gibson, or Juuse Saros, are more for the summer.

It’s a long-winded way of saying, maybe. I tend to believe they’re a lock to acquire a defenseman first.

What does the return look like in trading (Tyler) Toffoli as a rental for another team? @jim49449

For starters, I’m not completely sold that the Devils will trade Tyler Toffoli even if they find themselves out of playoff position.

The fact of the matter is Toffoli found excellent chemistry with Jack Hughes. He’s got brilliant instincts and puts himself in an excellent position to score which makes Hughes’ job that much easier. He’s just a great complimentary player to pair with Hughes and Jesper Bratt should Lindhy Ruff decide to go back to that combination.

Fitzgerald has also been on the record explaining he likes Toffoli for this team and has been in constant contact with his agent, Pat Brisson, regarding an extension.

Regardless, if the Devils do decide to cut ties with their leading goal scorer, they’ll get some good value in return, although not the kind of value the Devils need right now.

I look at the Vladimir Tarasenko trade last season as a similar comparison. The St. Louis Blues retrieved a first and third-round pick, a depth roster player, and a blue-chip prospect. Toffoli is more valuable at this time of year than Tarasenko was last year. Add the price of inflation from trades in recent history, you could see the Devils retrieve a first and second-round pick and a couple of middle-round prospects.

However, I tend to believe we’ll see Toffoli in New Jersey past this season.

What’s going on with Dawson Mercer this season? @CusmanosCrush

I’m going to assume that this question is asking what’s up with the dip in offensive production for Dawson Mercer.

Outside of the obvious 10-game pointless streak Mercer started the 2023-24 season with, I don’t see anything too out of the ordinary with the 22-year-old. Mercer’s always been a bit of a streaky scorer through the first two seasons of his NHL career. He was less streaky in 2022-23 due to the increase in offensive production.

However, as a result of so many injuries this season, he’s had to wear many hats.

Mercer is seemingly best utilized on the wing, notably on Nico Hischier’s wing. However, due to an abundance of necessity this season, Mercer’s been deployed up and down the lineup in different roles. Sometimes he’s in a top six scoring role, other times he’s in a bottom six checking role.

Considering Mercer’s played alongside a plethora of linemates, it’s actually impressive he’s projected to score 23 goals over 82 games this season.

Mercer is a valuable asset for the Devils. He can be deployed on all special teams units and is versatile at 5-on-5. Lindy Ruff is especially appreciative of his defensive responsibility and likes to pair him the Hischier as part of a shutdown line and to recover pucks.

The third year NHLers career is off to a strong start. He didn’t have a sophomore slump and is having a minor set back offensively in 2023-24. Regardless, he’s a promising young forward for the Devils who Fitzgerald should consider locking up long-term.

According to the Devils’ GM, those conversations haven’t happened yet. He’s a restricted free agent this summer.

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