NHL trade deadline: Why Devils are most interesting team to watch
The NHL trade deadline always sparks rampant speculation and trade offers, but this year seems different for two main reasons: the Eastern Conference powers are in a bloodbath, and the league’s middle class has been a little skewed as teams have bottomed out in an attempt to secure better picks in a busy draft class – this year’s cohort has at least five players who would have taken the top overall pick last year.
Arriving on time is a key dynamic in how the league unfolds, but the New Jersey Devils became a true contender sooner than anyone expected, led by Jack Hughes, Nico Hishir, Doogie Hamilton and a string of veterans who turned the group around. to the most exciting team in the NHL.
Fireworks extend beyond the ice. As the “devils” aim to win the Cup, showing off the profile of a team that might Hard to tank for Bedard In pre-season, they are armed with the necessary prospects and cap space, making them the most interesting and dangerous team ahead of the March 3 deadline.
Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald should reward his current team for exceeding expectations and threatening the rest of the Eastern Conference with his frantic pace. Hughes and Hishir have already signed long-term contracts, while John Marino and Hamilton have signed contracts until 2026-27 and 2027-2028 respectively. Jesper Bratt is a restricted free agent and is sure to be rewarded, while Damon Severson and Ryan Graves also need new contracts this summer. But those fears are somewhat overblown, and conservatism disguised as long-term pragmatism won’t work in this year’s climate where teams are throwing in all their chips.
The biggest danger lies right in front of the Devils, in their own division. The Carolinas are slowly but surely moving forward in the great Met race, and the stylistic differences between both teams on the ice extend beyond it.
While the Devils wowed teams with their pace and forecheck for two, as well as Hughes’ otherworldly flair, the Carolinas completely suffocated teams while still leading the NHL in nearly every metric of ball possession (5-on-5), finishing first. place by percentage of expected goals. , with New Jersey in third place. Both teams dominate possession, but the Devils do it in flamboyant style, while the Hurricanes are methodical and calculating, following the aesthetics of Jordan Staal and Jacob Slavin.
Carolina currently boasts $10 million in reserve after placing Max Pacioretti and his $7 million cap on long-term injury reserve when he suffered an Achilles injury. There is a sense of urgency as Staal, Pacioretti, Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta and Jesper Fast are set to experience unlimited free will this summer. Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon also says he expects his team to be “more aggressive than everand because of these factors, it may cause New Jersey to dig into its unrivaled pool of potential clients.
There are a few legitimate game-changers left on the market: Timo Meyer is a shot-making machine, Eric Karlsson can beat Norris, Jakob Cziczrun can play both sides while still maintaining two years of team control, and depending on what you think. Patrick Kane’s Jekyll-and-Hyde this season, the Devils can’t sit idly by.
Assuming Meyer is the top target for both teams, New Jersey could throw Alexander Holtz, the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft, in any package, a 2023 first-round pick, and that doesn’t include Luke Hughes (who won’t move) . ) or second overall in 2022 by Simon Nemec. Chase Stillman — yes, Corey’s son — is drafted by the Devils in the first round of 2021 and could easily be traded in any trade, and the Devils wouldn’t lose sleep over it. New Jersey has $2 million before the deadline, which is somewhat misleading considering many teams would be willing to keep payroll with the right deal. If the Devils acquired Meyer, they would want to develop an extension, Elliott Friedman of Sportsnet.
The Devils have ways to improve their roster without affecting their current assets. Not to mention the Maple Leafs, but that’s exactly what Kyle Dubas did when he acquired Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Accari from the Blues, and it’s the kind of mindset that can take the Devils to the top. If the Hurricanes acquire Meyer, New Jersey should target Karlsson and one of Kane or Brock Boser to counter any move by their division rival.
Hughes and Nemec are the trade chips that make the Devils the most dangerous team on deadline. Sure, the Hurricanes have more cap space and will likely find a way to include some of their expiring assets – Fast and Paul Stastny could act without too much thought – but the Devils have a fallback option. emergency assets to speed up their timelines. Hughes is 21, Hishir is 24, and the addition of 26-year-old Meyer aligns directly with the timeline of their top stars. Choice generally doesn’t matter to elite teams, and while Luke Hughes is probably untouchable, it’s pretty much the only element that makes the Devils so exciting, standing firmly in their window to contend for titles, while knowledge patience can be a virtue.
It will be a fight to the end, but expect the Devils and Hurricanes to hit hard on the best players available on the market this year. Carolina didn’t expect Pacioretti to get hurt again and would certainly have preferred the 34-year-old veteran to be healthy and playing rather than get into the LTIR pool. And that’s not to mention that Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Rangers are also making subtle moves at the deadline.
Pretty much every NHL fan will be excited about the prospect of a first-round matchup between the Devils and Rangers, but with over 20 games left in the regular season, both teams are battling for first place in the division. New Jersey has the best trading portfolio and can mortgage its future to accelerate a promising present so all options are on the table. The most fun NHL team on the ice has to be the most fun team on the deadline.