Who’s Actually Untouchable On New Jersey Devils? – Pucks and Pitchforks
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The New Jersey Devils are going to be sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline, that much is obvious. So, when teams come calling, which players should they unequivocally say is not available for anything?
This could be one of the worst seasons of New Jersey Devils hockey in recent memory. I’m not sure if you are aware of recent memory, but outside of last season it’s been pretty bad. The difference is there was at least hope in other seasons thanks to either an elite goaltender or something fun happening.
This article is being written with the Devils down 3-0 after the first period against the New York Islanders. It was one of, if not the worst period of the season for this team. After head coach John Hynes called his team out for lack of effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets, they came back with an even worse effort tonight.
With how bad the Devils are playing, and with how many teams are looking to make deals early, it’s time for the Devils to delve into the trade market. They are sellers, and there’s nothing short of a miracle that can change that.
When looking at this roster, who is a player the Devils can consider untouchable? I’ll tell you what, it’s not a lot.
Before we get into this, we are only talking about players in the NHL and AHL. It’s obvious the Devils aren’t going to trade away prospects like Ty Smith and Reilly Walsh when they are plummeting towards the bottom of the standings. It’s also obvious they aren’t trading picks away.
To start, Taylor Hall is untouchable. They are not going to trade him this season. It just doesn’t make sense. Seeing how this team plays over the last few weeks with him out of the lineup, putting a team on the ice with him in another uniform will get everyone fired. Hall is the league MVP, a center piece for the future, and a guy they should sign to a massive contract extension the second he says yes.
Hall is the only obvious untouchable player on this roster. Outside of him, is there anyone else? We’re not talking about players who they should sell to the highest bidder, we’re talking about fair compensation.
Nico Hischier falls into that category. He’s growing as a player every month, and looks to be this team’s number one center for a decade. He continues to learn his positioning better, and finally learned when to shoot and when to pass. There are aspects of his game he needs to work on, but he’s a player that no team is giving fair compensation to replace.
Two players who come to mind are Blake Coleman and Kyle Palmieri. They are both signed to extremely fair contracts for multiple years after this one. A team might be willing to overpay for them right now because they are both having career years. They’re both on pace to break 30 goals. They could get nice packages. However, this isn’t the place you trade them. If the Devils are going to ever move them, it would be in the offseason and it would need to be for in a package for a star, or it’s just not worth it.
When looking at the defense, there is not one player that’s untouchable. Sami Vatanen is clearly feeling the pain of trying to carry this team for a full year. His play as of late isn’t good enough for a team’s second-line defenseman. He shouldn’t be available, but he’s also not untouchable. Damon Severson is having a really good season and is signed to a great contract, but again he’s not untouchable. He still has serious flaws that may never get fixed. Even Will Butcher can be available. He’s under a pretty serious sophomore slump and his contract is up at the end of the season.
There’s a plethora of players that the Devils shouldn’t trade unless the right deal comes. They include Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha. These are extremely young players who could continue to grow into something special, but they all have some flaws that haven’t been fixed. We’re nowhere near giving up on them, but if a team offers up something impressive it may be worth taking.
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So, how about Travis Zajac? Just one year ago, this would sound crazy. Some Devils fans would be willing to lose him for nothing as long as his contract went off the books, but he’s been worlds better this season. He’s fourth on the team in points with 27, has been remarkable healthy this year, sits on the team’s top penalty kill unit (the only thing worth celebrating this season), and goes up against the other team’s top competition and stops them with decent consistency. For $5.75 million, that’s not too bad. Still, he’s not untouchable. If a team throws a first-round pick at Ray Shero, I don’t know if he’s saying no.
The final piece we need to talk about is Mackenzie Blackwood. He’s been stellar in most performances, but has not been great in three straight starts. Is the magic gone, and is this a Scott Clemmensen situation? His is a little different, as he was well into his career when he came in for an injured Martin Brodeur, but some say the Devils would have been in a much better position if they traded him at his height.
Again, this is a different situation. The Devils don’t have the best of all time in net anymore. They have two players who likely aren’t the starter of the future. Blackwood is the Devils best chance at a starter for the foreseeable future. They can’t trade him, no matter what the price.
That about does it. There’s nobody in Binghamton who’s untouchable. Michael McLeod and Marian Studenic could be had for the right price, albeit a high one. John Quenneville might need a change of scenery.
That’s it. Hall, Palmieri, Coleman, Blackwood and Hischier are the Devils untouchables. That is it. It’s a far fall from the team we saw last season, but everyone can be had. It’s time to make some moves, Shero. This team needs a change, especially after the poor effort we’ve seen the last two games.
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