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Devils Free Agency: 5 Wingers New Jersey Should Target

Whether it be top-six or bottom-six forwards, the Devils will need to add a winger this summer. Here are five free agents New Jersey should target.

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New Jersey Devils
Vegas Golden Knights left wing William Carrier (28) skates up the ice against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)

The Devils are heading into one of the most crucial off-seasons in recent history and have holes on the roster to fill. After a 31-point drop-off between the 2022-23 season and the 2023-24 season, it’s clear that changes are coming to the roster.

Goaltending has been the topic of discussion recently, as has the availability of the 10th overall pick in the draft. However, some of the most important work done to improve the roster will occur on July 1st, the start of free agency. We’ve taken a look at who General Manager Tom Fitzgerald could target to fill the team’s center depth, and today we’ll look at who the best options are on the wing.

Using AFPAnalytics contract projections, we’ll look at five wingers the Devils should target in free agency.

Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights – Projection: 3 Years x $6.285 Million

It looks unlikely that the Devils will opt to go big-game hunting to fill their top-six winger hole. Big money, long-term contracts to free agents like Jake Guentzel or Sam Reinhart don’t make a ton of sense financially for the Devils. However, if they do decide to splash a little cash on anyone, 2023 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault would be a brilliant pick-up.

Given Vegas’s dire cap situation, Marchessault looks increasingly likely to hit the free agent market. The Devils, or any contending team for that matter, should be rushing to the front of the queue for the 33-year-old. Marchessault enters the open market coming off his best goal-scoring season of his career (42) and his second-highest point total (69). He’s been a consistent play-driver and producer of offense since his first full season with the Florida Panthers back in 2016-17, while also bringing an edge and ability to get under the opponent’s skin.

Fitzgerald is no stranger to bringing in veterans and playoff performers, and Marchessault fits the bill. At just a projected $6.285 million for three years, the Devils would be injecting a multi-time 30-goal scorer and someone who’s racked up 76 points in 102 career playoff games.

Daniel Sprong, Detroit Red Wings – Projection: 3 Years x $4 Million

After unsuccessful stints with three different teams, Daniel Sprong found his game in the 2022-23 season with the Seattle Kraken. He followed up a breakout 21-goal, 46-point season in Seattle with an 18-goal, 43-point 2023-24 season with Detroit. Sprong is stoutly built with a powerful stride and quick release. Still, at just 27 years old, Sprong was a bit of a late bloomer but has blossomed into a great middle-six winger.

If the Devils decide to go shopping in the secondary forward market, Sprong may be at the top of the list. Unfortunately, he may also be at the top of the list for a lot of teams looking to do the same. The price tag is a little hefty for a player with a smaller track record, but the Devils would be banking on him entering his prime over the life of the contract. What the Devils would also offer him is the chance to possibly play with Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes, furthering his likelihood of improving on his career-high 21 goals.

While his body of work over the past two years has been solid, Sprong is the type of boom-or-bust signing that looks unlikely for the Fitzgerald. Cap space is becoming increasingly scarce, and the Devils will need to be certain of what they’re getting in whoever they sign. That being said, Sprong has put up back-to-back 40-point seasons playing with centers who aren’t the same caliber of player as Hischier or Hughes. There’s an argument to be made that there’s still room to grow for Sprong.

William Carrier, Vegas Golden Knights – Projection: 2 Years x $2.5 Million

Back to Vegas we go, only this time to fortify the bottom-six. The Devils depth was an issue this past season, highlighting the importance of filling out the bottom of the lineup. William Carrier should arguably be the Devils top free-agent target this summer. The 29-year-old brings the size that Fitzgerald covets (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), and plays a heavy and physical game, while also boasting above-average speed.

Carrier doesn’t have incredible production, but he has the skill and speed to transport the puck up the ice and keep it in the offensive zone. His 22.97 mph put him in the 84th percentile in terms of top speed this season, per NHL EDGE. What the Devils will love about Carrier though is the toughness and snarl that he plays with. In 81 career playoff games, Carrier has 337 hits, demonstrating his willingness to play physically during the most important time of the year.

Why Carrier is such a great fit for the Devils because he combines a bit of the old-school toughness with the new-school speed and skill. His 107 points in 413 games don’t pop out, but he did have a career-high 16 goals in the 2022-23 season. The biggest knock on him is his ability to stay healthy. He has yet to play a full season and is coming off a year in which he played in only 39 regular-season games. However, at that projected contract, the Devils should be all over adding a fast and physical bottom-six winger with championship pedigree.

Yakov Trenin, Colorado Avalanche – Projection: 3 Years x $2.5 Million

Sticking with the trend of big and physical bottom-six forwards, the Devils should also look at Avalanche forward Yakov Trenin. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound winger would be a great addition if the Devils want to be a tougher team to play against. He doesn’t have the same speed as Carrier, but he does have a bit more offense to go with his physicality. Despite a drop-off in production following his trade from Nashville to Colorado, Trenin still managed to put together a 12-goal season. He’s now scored 12 or more goals over the past three years, including a career-high 17 goals in 2021-22.

The Devils were towards the bottom of the league in hits per MoneyPuck, and Trenin would go a long way in changing that. He has over 700 career hits in 299 games, including a career-high 207 this season. For reference, the Devils hit leader this season was Curtis Lazar with 179 hits, and the next highest was Kevin Bahl with 151. A physical style of game is a trademark of Trenin’s game, but it’s not the only one. He’s one of the best bottom-six defensive forwards and penalty killers in the NHL, two things the Devils need drastic improvements on.

In an ideal world, the Devils sign both Carrier and Trenin to reshape their bottom six. However, that’s rather unlikely to happen, but either player would be a great addition. As for Trenin, he has shown more durability over his career, as well as an ability to score goals. If the Devils can get a 10-15 goal scorer, in addition to a great defender and penalty killer, then Trenin at just $2.5 million per season would be a great addition.

Brandon Duhaime, Colorado Avalanche – Projection: 3 Years x $1.8 Million

For those who may not know, Brandon Duhaime is an electric player to watch. If Fitzgerald is looking to add a player with speed and an edge, then Duhaime is the guy.  Duhaime flies around the ice and isn’t afraid to make a hit or mix it up. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Duhaime has a similar stature to Trenin but plays with much more speed. He was in the 77th percentile in top skating speed, as well as in the 82nd percentile in speed bursts over 20 mph, per NHL EDGE. Not to mention he also ended the season with 207 hits, the same as Trenin.

What Duhaime brings is similar to what Ryan Lomberg of the Florida Panthers brings, just with a bigger frame; physicality and aggressiveness at a high speed. What Duhaime doesn’t bring, however, is offense. He’s collected only 40 points in 211 games, with his career-high of 17 points coming back in 2021-22. Although, as a penalty killer and fourth-liner, Duhaime would be a great fit playing alongside guys like Lazar and Nathan Bastian.

If Fitzgerald decides he wants to use free agency on filling out the bottom-six, Duhaime should be one of his top targets for the fourth line. His projected $1.8 million AAV won’t make too big of a dent in the team’s cap space. He was a fan favorite in his previous stops because of the energy and heart he plays with, and I suspect that would continue in New Jersey.

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