NHL.com: Fitzgerald, Devils Not Adverse to Trading 2022 First Round Pick

An article appeared on NHL.com this evening by Wes Crosby stating that according to Devils’ General Manager Tom Fitzgerald, the “Devils could trade their first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.”

While this is not a strange thing to report, since, really, the Devils can do anything with their own pick, it is an interesting look into where the Devils want to go this offseason.

Fitzgerald told Crosby that the pick could be traded to “allow the Devils to acquire an established player to complement a core of young forwards.”

As Fitzgerald noted: “I said this two drafts ago (2020), when we had the three first-round picks, I’m open to whatever can help our team improve. If that is using a pick like that, wherever it may be, to help bring in a player that we know, and feel, will help impact the results that we are looking for, absolutely.”

Fitz continued by saying, “That’s my job is to improve our hockey club thorough all the assets that we have.”

Crosby brought up the team’s goaltending situation over the last two seasons.

In 2021-22 in particular, the Devils “used a team-record seven goalies” with Mackenzie Blackwood – the projected Devils’ “one-A” goalie – finishing with a 9-10-4 record and a 3.39 goals against average and .892 save percentage over 24 starts and 25 appearances.

Jonathan Bernier, who was signed to be the team’s latest “one-B” goalie, played just ten games total with eight of those starts and had a 4-4-1 record (3.08 GAA and .902 save percentage) prior to having his season end on December 3 with a hip injury and surgery.

Fitzgerald, according to Crosby, said: “I’ve never hid from it. I’ve never dodged any bullets on where we need to improve. I’m still on that path. Both these goalies know where I stand. Competition will be part of that department going forward, whether Jonathan Bernier is 100 percent come that time. I’m not sure that’s going to be real.

“There will be competition in goal. I owe that, not only to the players and coaching staff, our fanbase, our ownership, everybody who’s invested in our team. … We need another NHL goalie to challenge and be able to play lots of games for us. I don’t know who that is.”

Crosby also talked about Lindy Ruff returning as Devils coach next season.

Ruff, who owns a 46-76-16 record with the Devils, is expected to come back behind the bench for 2022-23. Fitzgerald, however, said that “[t]here are areas that have to grow and develop. That’s something that Lindy and I had a very frank conversation about. Supporting him at this moment is something I believe is important because of the snapshot of all the positives I’ve seen from our players, how they respond to him. It’s something I can’t ignore.”

Crosby then segued that into a discussion of Jesper Bratt’s contract situation. Bratt is set to be a restricted free agent this summer and Fitzgerald sees signing him as a “priority.”

Fitzgerald said “Jesper Bratt is a big part of our future. We want Jesper Bratt here long-term. That’s my job is to work out a deal with his agent at some point. Offer sheets, I can’t control that. He has arbitration rights. We know that. So again, the goal is to get Jesper Bratt under contract and be part of the puzzle that we’re building here.

“Realistically, prices are also part of the puzzle. That’s where we have to figure out where we’re at with him. But absolutely, we need Jesper Bratt in our lineup. We know what kind of player he is. He makes us better.”

Where Fitzgerald said that the Devils need to switch things up is at forward. He acknowledged that with smallish skill players like Bratt, Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, the Devils have “a lot of the same up front.”

Crosby mentioned that the aim for New Jersey would be “to surround the young talent with a heavier lineup, one that could consistently reach the playoffs and compete once there.”

Fitzgerald told him: “No more excuses, ‘Oh, we’re the youngest team in the League. Guys know how ot play. Guys know what the standards are and the expectations of what we’re trying to build here and the culture we want to build. We all have to be pulling the same way.

“You may not like like certain things, but you have to be good teammates. You have to challenge each other. We need to take that step.”

The NHL Draft Lottery takes place on May 10 at 6:30 PM ET on ESPN and ESPN+ in the United States and SN, SN NOW and TVA Sports in Canada. According to Crosby, the “Devils have the fifth-best odds (8.5 percent) for the first Lottery Draw.”

Hurricanes Finish Playoff Jockeying with 6-3 Victory Over Devils

Well, I’m still a game behind here, but here is the recap of the game from Thursday. As mentioned, I was at the New York Giants Draft viewing at MetLife Stadium on April 28 and, thus had to record the Devils’ visit to Raleigh.

I put this off for as long as I could (and got to see the Mets’ combined no-hitter on TV on Friday to boot!) but now is my reckoning: the final two games of the Devils’ 2021-22 season.

The Devils roster shuffles continued as the season wound down. Alexander Holtz was recalled from the Utica Comets and played tonight mainly on the top line with Jesper Boqvist centering and Jesper Bratt on the left side of an all-Swedish line.

Holtz had played seven games at the NHL level already this season in his callup earlier in the year.

Another player returning to the lineup was Jimmy Vesey, who had not played since suffering a bone bruise in his leg against the Rangers back on April 5. He was a game-time decision as per Erika Wachter was was out due to Andreas Johnsson coming out of the lineup due to injury.

Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Reilly Walsh were the healthy scratches (Nikita Okhotiuk slotted back in on defense in his place – Walsh was simply given the night off) while Johnsson, PK Subban, Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar were all out with the flu bug that has been rampaging again throughout the Devils locker room.

The Devils started Andrew Hammond tonight and he played 47:32 before being pulled in favor of Jon Gillies after giving up Carolina’s sixth goal. Mackenzie Blackwood, who got the start the prior game at Ottawa, should start the final game of the season versus Detroit, so Hammond and Gillies were the tandem for this game.

Hammond made 24 saves on 30 total Hurricanes shots for an .800 save percentage in the game. He did not let in Carolina’s lone shorthanded shot against him and was equal to all five of their power play chances. At even strength, he stopped 18 of 24.

Gillies came in and played the final 12:28 of the game and pitched a shutout, stopping all six shots he faced, including a shorthanded shot and all five at five-against-five.

Carolina finished the game with five power play shots and two shorthanded shots and were 0-for-3 on the man advantage. They ended the game with 36 shots on Devils goaltending.

The Canes countered with Antti Raanta as they are dealing with some goalie problems of their own heading into the playoffs. Frederik Andersen has been injured which means that Raanta has been pretty much auditioning for the starting goalie position.

Raanta stopped 27 of the Devils total of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900 in the game. He stopped the Devils’ lone power play shot and 26 of the 29 he was peppered with at even strength.

The Devils finished the game 0-for-2 on the power play team-wise.

The Hurricanes were playing their final game of the season: number 82 before they begin the playoffs this coming Monday. Thus, they were sitting and resting some key players like Andrei Svechnikov and Jaccob Slavin.

The Canes had already clinched the Metro Division with a win over the Rangers earlier in the week at Madison Square Garden and are looking to do some damage once the postseason begins.

For the Devils, this was their final road game of the year as they will close out with one more game (already played on Friday) against the Red Wings at Prudential Center.

This was also Dougie Hamilton’s first game back in Carolina since signing as a free agent with the Devils last offseason.

The Canes, even while sitting some of their best, wasted no time in getting on the board and piling on against New Jersey.

They notched their first 4:44 into the game when Damon Severson was taken down hard on Carolina’s hard forecheck. No penalty was called on the play (which could have borderline been a trip) and the puck was turned over to Jepser Kotkaniemi. He got it back to Brendan Smith at the near point. Smith went D-to-D with Ethan Bear and Bear shot from the far point. His shot deflected in off of a Devils player and by Hammond to make it 1-0 Carolina.

The Hurricanes made it 2-0 less than a minute later with 5:33 gone by with a nearly mirror image of the first goal.

The Canes came in on a hard forecheck and the Devils were not able to clear. Kotkaniemi forced the puck on a turnover and got it to Ian Cole at the far point. He then gave it to Martin Necas at the near point. Necas’ shot then deflected in off of Dougie Hamilton’s stick and by Hammond to double up the Carolina lead.

Almost the exact same goal as the first one, just flipped around.

The Canes were not done in the first period either.

They continued their onslaught with 12:53 gone by in the first when Ty Smith turned the puck over to Necas in front of the Devils net. Necas just waited and passed to Kotkaniemi at the far post. Kotkaniemi dunked it in to make it 3-0 Carolina.

Things were already looking dire for the Devils. But Fabian Zetterlund made sure they would at least end the first period on a somewhat positive note.

A little over a minute after the Kotkaniemi goal, at 13:55 gone by, Pavel Zacha cut through the middle of the ice and dished off to Zetterlund on the right-wing side as they entered the Carolina zone.

Zetterlund cut back towards the middle to use Zacha as a screen and scored. Damon Severson had the secondary assist.

The Devils actually continued their assault at the midpoint of the second period. Zetterlund hit the crossbar on a breakaway where he had Raanta beaten. This had come just after Hammond had come up with a big right pad save on Brett Pesce at the other end.

A few moments after Zetterlund hit iron, Vesey clanged one off the post following a faceoff win by the Devils in the Carolina zone.

But it was still the Hurricanes who would get the only marker of the second period.

At the 17:27 mark, the Canes won a faceoff in the Devils zone with Vincent Trocheck winning the draw and the Devils’ Yegor Sharangovich inadvertently pushing the puck to Teuvo Teravainen after he tied Trocheck up.

Teravainen simply walked to the middle of the ice all alone, picked a spot and beat Hammond to make it 4-1 and take us into the third period.

The first half of the third period was completely dominated by the Canes.

Just 3:14 into the frame, Sebastian Aho gave to Seth Jarvis, who walked into the Devils zone, briefly losing the puck at the blue line, but beating Kevin Bahl to the puck in a foot race.

He then skated up the right side and deked Severson out of his skates before passing to Steven Lorentz, who finished for the Hurricanes to make it 5-1.

Jordan Martinook make it 6-1 at 7:32 gone by in the third when Derek Stepan wound the puck around the wall to Brady Skjei at the near half wall. He just threw the puck towards Hammond’s net and Martinook was there to tip it by the beleaguered Devils goalie.

It was following that goal that Hammond’s night was done and Gillies came in for what would likely by his last action of the season.

That might have sparked the Devils a bit, as Jesper Bratt scored at the 14:17 mark to make it 6-2.

It came Zacha gained the Carolina zone and dished to Nolan Foote. Foote then fed Bratt for a one-timer off the rush. The primary assist was Foote’s first NHL assist and the goal was Bratt’s 26th of the year – tying him with Jack Hughes for the team lead for 2021-22.

The Devils still had one more in them at the 15:44 mark of the third when the puck came down low to Nathan Bastian behind the Canes’ net. He came out from behind and centered to Vesey on the doorstep. Vesey was able to chip the puck over Raanta’s shoulder and score in his first game back for the Devils.

A too many men on the ice bench minor called on the Devils at 19:25 meant that New Jersey was going to finish the game killing a penalty. Time then ran out and that was that.

The Devils were outshot 36 to 30 and won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Zacha won 75-percent of his faceoffs to lead Devils skaters in the faceoffs won category.

The Devils wound up with six penalty minutes in the game while the Hurricanes accumulated four PIMs. The Devils outhit Carolina 19-11 and the Hurricanes had 14 blocked shots to the Devils’ ten.

Team giveaways saw the Devils end up with four while the Canes had eight.

Hamilton led in total ice time by one second with 21:28 logged (including 2:05 on the power play and 1:46 on the penalty kill). Severson had 21:27 of total ice time (including 1:48 of PP time and 2:37 of PK time) while Ryan Graves led in PK time with 2:44 out of his 19:30 of total TOI (he also had six seconds on the power play).

Among the forwards, Zacha led in total ice time with 18:25 logged (including 2:09 on the power play and 1:50 shorthanded). Janne Kuokkanen had more shorthanded time with 2:17 out of his 15:09 of total TOI while Bratt had more power play time at 2:12 out of his 15:51 of total ice time.

Zacha – with his two assists – was the only Devils with a multi-point night. Vesey, Sharangovich, Bratt and Boqvist all had three shots on goal to lead there. Hits were led by Michael McLeod with four. Bahl led in blocks with three. Personal turnovers were led by Severson and Bratt with two each while personal takeaways were dominated by Dawson Mercer with five.

Next up, the final game of the 2021-22 season for the Devils (which was played last night) as the Devils hosted the Detroit Red Wings in Newark.

As I am again behind, I did record that game and should have it up sometime later today or so.