Well the Devils are having a tough go of things so far this year with an innate ability to score goals leading to a minus 33 goal differential. Surprisingly their 2.3 goals per game only ranks 29th in the league, not 30th like I expected. They are slightly better at keeping the puck out of their own net though leading to a 18th ranked goal against average per game. The major deal that the Devils did this off-season has paid some dividends but not as much as they would have hope for. They traded for Taylor Hall, the former first overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers, for top defenseman Adam Larsson. Initially everyone lauded the Devils for the trade but after 60+ games it looks like the Oilers are faring much better, it helps to have Conor McDavid. Larsson is a top defensive defenseman and while the Devils couldn’t score much last year they had great success at keeping the puck out of their own net. Now they have remained an anemic offense while dropping back to average on the goal prevention side of things.
So Taylor Hall, what is the story with him. He is a dynamic offensive goal scorer and play maker but unfortunately doesn’t have the offensive firepower that he had in Edm. He’s only tallied 40 points, albeit in 50 games, with only 14 goals so far this year. He is a young building block for the Devils but they need to put some pieces around him. They have some talented forwards including Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac but their older forwards have not performed. Mike Cammalleri was actually scratched the other night and P.A Parenteau is no more than a 4th liner. PA is 6th in the team in points but has only been playing roughly 15 min per night. Adam Henrique has potential but is getting older (27) and needs to develop fast.
Losing Larsson really depleted the defense. Andy Greene is the top minutes eater and is a solid yet not so special defenseman. Ben Lovejoy and Severson are only playing roughly 20 minutes a night, speaking to their ability to play with these faster teams.The devils are in rebuilding mode and while they have some limited forward assets their defensive assets are even worse. They need to tear it down and build around Hall because he is the best shot they have at making future strides.
In goal is the should have been 2016 Vezina winner Cory Schneider. Schneider is an absolute monster in net and is a steal for only $6MM per year. He has a capable backup in Keith Kinkaid, but the net belongs to Schneider.
Trade Deadline Focus: Sell assets and build around Hall
The devils have 9 draft picks in 2017 including 5 in the first three rounds and they should be drafting pretty high in a below average draft. The quality of the draft hurts the devils here but by my estimation they will be picking in the top five next year as well.
So who do they trade?
PA Parenteau: He could be an asset on the PP or as a fourth line depth guy for a contending club but I doubt he fetch mroe than a 4th round pick
Kyle Quincy: A decent defenseman who is signed for peanuts and about to be a UFA, get as much as you can now because of the market. He is replaceable in the off-season so no reason not to trade him
Cory Schneider: Why trade their best player right now? Because they are not going to content for the next 3 years minimum, he is signed to a great contract, but when the Devils want to compete again he is going to be 33-34.
Schneider would fetch a nice haul from a goalie starved team like Dallas. The devils could take back some of the goalies from Dallas, maybe even both, and then buy them out as they have PLENTY of cap space. Dallas would get a top 5 goalie but have to give up some good assets. I could see them giving up Klingberg as it seems that he’s fallen out of favor with the organization for his lack of defensive awareness.
The Devils need to take the approach that Arizona did and work on taking on bad contracts in exchange for draft picks. Arizona is not a good team but they are young and on the rise. The devils could build around Hall and compete in 3 years or so, and getting as many assets as possible now would be wise. The best asset NJ has right now is cap space and it would be prudent to use up as much as they can now while they aren’t competing so that when they are ready to compete they have a stockpile of assets and by then the cap hits will be off the books, letting them sign top free agents to go along with their young core.