The Devils made two very important deals this past week. One happened a few days before the official end of the National Hockey League trading period and another the day of the trade deadline. Both should help ensure the Devils future and help the team in the long run.
On Thursday, February 26th, Jaromir Jagr was traded to the Florida Panthers for a second round pick in 2015 and a third rounder in 2016. This deal was a great move for all parties. The Devils were able to get a great haul for a 43 year-old who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Panthers get a player that they hope can help put them over the top and get them into the playoffs for just the third time since 2000 (they are currently chasing the Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference). For Jagr, the issue was ice time. Since Pete DeBoer was fired as Devils coach the day after Christmas, Jagr’s ice time had dropped to about 17 minutes a game on average according to the Devils official website. Jagr feels that he can still contribute and wants the ice time to prove it and he can get it by leading a young team like Florida.
Jagr had made some controversial remarks to the media recently regarding his ice time situation and making veiled comments towards General Manager and coach Lou Lamoriello about wanting a trade. He said that he was taken aback a little bit by the trade but understood because of what Lou was able to get back in return for him that the Devils almost had to pull the trigger on the deal. Overall, the Jagr deal helped everyone involved in the short term and time will tell how it helps the Panthers over the long term (making the playoffs). As for the Devils, getting good picks like they did for a player who was most likely going to walk or retire following the season is a great move.
The only real red flag from this deal was that the Devils traded Jagr to a team that they would need to leap frog in order to get into the playoffs. Are the Devils blowing up their season? Lamoriello says no and that this was a deal that was just too good to pass up. Getting what they could for Jagr, especially a package this good was a priority if they were going to move the veteran.
The second move, made on Monday, March 2nd, the day of the deadline, was a little bit more complicated. Marek Zidlicky, the Devils mobile offensive defenseman and power play specialist was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional third round pick in 2016. The conditions were as follows: the Devils get Detroit’s third round pick in 2016 should the Wings fail to make the Eastern Conference Final or the Stanley Cup Final. Should Detroit make the 2015 Eastern Conference Final, the Devils get their third round pick in 2016 and fifth round pick in 2015. Should Detroit advance to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, New Jersey gets the Red Wings’ second round pick in 2016.
While this deal was a little less favorable to the Devils as the Jagr deal, what complicated matters was Zidlicky’s no trade clause. Zidlicky basically had veto power over where the Devils were to send him. He most likely wanted to go to a Stanley Cup contender and Detroit fit the bill. Unfortunately, his no trade clause severely handcuffed the Devils in where they could move him. Further making things difficult for the Devils was that Detroit does not have a second round pick in 2015 and that the market for right-handed shooting defensemen went somewhat downhill following the Oilers trading Jeff Petry to Montreal. Zidlicky was likely a second choice for Detroit due to his age (38).
But overall for the Devils, getting something in return for Zidlicky, who is also an unrestricted free agent following the season is great. What Detroit gets is a player that makes their power play even better. They already have the top power play in the league, having a veteran presence like Zidlicky there to help their youngsters can only make them more potent. Zidlicky is prone to defensive mistakes from time to time, but his risks often outweigh his errors and he will be a great addition for the Wings over the remaining season and the playoffs. There has been some speculation that the Devils will end up re-signing Zidlicky this July anyway, so he is the epitome of a rental player for the Red Wings. Should Detroit find success in the playoffs, the Devils could end up getting more out of this deal than meets the eye.
One thing for Devils fans to really take from these two deals is that the Devils are serious about getting younger and are trying to get what they can for their UFAs instead of just letting them walk and getting nothing in return. They still have a bit of housekeeping to do in order to get back to where they can be a playoff team again. But having fresh, young skaters out there can only help. They are also stock piling draft picks, which will obviously help in the long run.
The Jagr trade was a windfall for the Devils. Lou really got the most out of this deal that he could. While the Zidlicky deal, on the surface, seems like it could be deemed a failure, it is anything but. Given the circumstances, the Devils got what they could out of this deal and could stand to come out even better should the Red Wings find success this spring. The Jagr deal may have also clouded many fans’ views on the Zidlicky trade. But, again, they got what they could given the circumstances and, should the Wings advance, the Devils will find themselves in a very good position.