The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching (it comes on March 2 at 3 PM). The Devils have some cards to play. The only question is how will they play those cards? Will they trade off some of the older parts of the roster to make room for a younger group of players who are itching for ice time? Or will they use those parts to pick up a piece to help them make a run at the playoffs?
Some of the main names that have come up in trade discussions have been right wing Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Marek Zidlicky. On a recent Devils MSG+ broadcast, Stan Fischler brought up the possibility of Jagr being traded by the Devils and Zidlicky came up in a Northjersey.com article and was reported on by NHL.com. John MacLean mentioned on the MSG+ telecast that Jagr might be reluctant to move since he has been getting a lot of ice time with the Devils and that, at this point in his career, is really all he wants. The thing is, Jagr has gone through a mini-revitalization of his career with New Jersey and if a team feels he can put them over the top to become a contender, if he is the missing piece for a team looking to win a Stanley Cup, then Jagr will get traded.
Zidlicky is in a similar boat. If he can help a team go over the top and win a championship, then he will be packaged. Zidlicky does have a no-trade clause, but like he said in the Northjersey.com report, “it’s not just about yourself” and he does understand that the Devils will make the deal if they can improve the team.
The question now becomes: what do the Devils want to do at this deadline? How do they want to make the team better? Are they building towards a future, or are they going to make a run for the playoffs this year? The main factor in that, I would assume, would be where they are in the standings at the trade deadline. If they are still in contention for a playoff spot (and not that far out) come deadline time, then they will look to make their run by acquiring a piece that can get them in and get them a lengthy playoff run this season. If they are further out than they are at this point by then, they will look to unload salary and start to get the younger guys some playing time.
The Devils have one of, if not THE oldest rosters in the NHL and they do want to get younger. They can pick up some draft picks with what they have too. In addition to Jagr and Zidlicky, the Devils could look to move a guys like Michael Ryder, who has had difficulty fitting into the Devils system and might benefit from a change of scenery.
New Jersey does have a good core for the future: they are solid in goal, with a very good NHL-caliber goalie (Cory Schneider), a young goaltender with some NHL experience who makes a reliable backup (Keith Kinkaid) and a fine third, should injury arise, waiting in Albany who is young and just needs some time in the NHL to get over the threshold (Scott Wedgewood). From there, the defensive core is good with Andy Greene anchoring things back there and mentoring the youngsters. Trading Zidlicky would lose some of that offensive threat on the blueline and take away their power play quarterback, but once healthy, Damon Severson could fit that role nicely, as he showed signs of it early in the season. The forwards are a little bit long in the tooth, but the amount of proven talent that they have gives the Devils some bargaining power to make a deal.
Some of the moves already made ahead of the deadline, like Evander Kane going to Buffalo for Tyler Myers, who is now a Winnipeg Jet and the major one, the Toronto Maple Leafs starting their rebuilding process by sending Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Predators (thankfully after Nashville had already defeated the Devils 3-1 on Saturday night), have set some precedent already. It seems like the teams like Nashville who are in contention are making a serious killing on the weak teams. But in reality, this happens every year. The real question is how will other contenders and bubble teams respond? Also, where do the Devils fit in in all of this? Are they real playoff contenders or has the season come crashing down they are they just looking to unload and begin rebuilding ala Toronto?
Time will tell in regards to all of these questions. General Manager Lou Lamoriello will make the deals necessary for the team to get better, be it this year or in the coming years. The Devils are at a crossroads. They have not made the playoffs since the 2012 Stanley Cup run and are fading fast this year. How they handle the deals they make this year could decide whether the team continues southward or rises back to glory in the years to come.