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Ross Colton Should be a Devils Trade Target

If the Devils want to play with a bit more edge, GM Tom Fitzgerald should call the Avalanche to facilitate a trade for Ross Colton.

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Colorado Avalanche center Ross Colton puts a shot on Minnesota Wild goalie Jesper Wallstedt in the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Denver. // Photo courtesy of Colorado Hockey Now (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

If the Stanley Cup Playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that speed and skill aren’t the only qualities a team needs to go deep into the postseason. The teams that make it the furthest also play with an edge. Just ask the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers how important it is to have players who have are rough around the edges. Ross Colton — who encapsulates the kind of edge necessary — reportedly might be available and should be a New Jersey Devils trade target.

The plea to acquire Colton in a Devils trade is a lot more than just a fun storyline to bring a New Jersey native to Newark. The 27-year-old forward grew up in Robbinsville, New Jersey — about a 50 minute drive to the Prudential Center. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning and now on payroll for the Colorado Avalanche, Colton is on the record growing up a Devils fan.

“That would obviously be so cool,” Colton told Ryan Novozinsky of NJ Advance Media two summers ago. “I love obviously being in Tampa right now. As I mentioned before, it’s probably one of the better places to play. I just grew up a Devils fan, I love the Devils. I think it was the 2012 Cup run, me and my brother went to every home game. We were such diehard fans.

“I understand it’s a business and what not. But down the road if I could throw on the (Devils) sweater one day, that would be awesome.”

According to DailyFaceoff insider Frank Seravalli, Colton very well could become a casualty of the salary cap and find himself playing in a different sweater next season.

The Avalanche have nine NHL contracts set to expire on July 1st with $16,216,250. Among the expiring deals are players such as Casey Mittelstadt, Jonathan Drouin, and Sean Walker who could all be in for considerable pay raises. All while the Avalanche have Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichuskin’s cap hits swirling with question marks.

And that doesn’t even include Mikko Rantanen who is eligible to sign an extension on July 1st as he’ll have one year remaining on his contract. There’s little reason to believe Rantanen won’t remain the second-highest paid player in Colorado behind Nathan Mackinnon.

In short, there might not be enough money to go around unless Colorado GM Chris MacFarland can pull a rabbit out of a hat.

MacFarland signed Colton to a four-year contract that holds a $4 million average annual value through 2027. The first year of his deal will come to a close in 10 days and a full no-trade clause will initiate in year two. That means the Avalanche have 10 days to deal Colton before they have to ask him permission to waive his pending no-trade.

Enter the Devils who are on the record for wanting to play a heavier game.

Colton is cut from a similar cloth as Panthers forward Sam Bennett. Last season, the New Jersey native scored 17 goals and 40 points in 80 games, while ranking second on the Avalanche with 141 hits. In the two previous seasons playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colton produced similar point totals, however, was even more physical throwing 153 in 2021-22 and 188 hits 2022-23.

What’s even more enticing about Colton is his ability to raise his game in the postseason. En route to claiming the Stanley Cup, Colton scored four goals and two points and threw 46 hits in half the games played (23). Despite losing in the final the following postseason, Colton potted five goals and nine points, throwing 63 hits.

Colton does some of his best work between the whistles, too. Much like the Bennett’s, Tkachuk’s, and Brad Marchand’s of the NHL, Colton can get under the skin of the opposition and draw penalties.

At a $4 million cap hit, Colton doesn’t come with an expensive price tag for the next three seasons, especially with the salary cap going up. He’s a perfect fit to slot in as a third line center behind Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier — sporting a 51.9 career faceoff win percentage.

Colton is a bit of a Swiss-army knife, playing on both special teams units in Colorado, helping out on the power play and killing penalties while shorthanded.

Acquiring Colton will take some maneuvering, especially since adding on the blueline should be the priority. However, GM Tom Fitzgerald shouldn’t walk, but run to the phone and dial MacFarland for a potential Devils trade involving the New Jersey native.

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