The New Jersey Devils do not have many unrestricted free agents (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 season. P.K. Subban and Jimmy Vesey are two players who will be UFAs at the end of the year, and it’s possible that they are the only players made available via trade by general manager (GM) Tom Fitzgerald.
New Jersey has one of the youngest rosters in the NHL, and will look to maintain its youth past the deadline. If Subban is traded by March 21, Fitzgerald will look to acquire a mid-round pick in 2022, or a future NHL draft selection. It is possible that a return could include a depth player from a team that trades for one of the Devils players. Here are four trade destinations for Subban.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have one defenseman on injured reserve (IR) in Zach Whitecloud (broken bone in foot). Alec Martinez (facial laceration) and Jake Bischoff (undisclosed injury) are on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Depending upon how long Whitecloud and Martinez remain out, Vegas’ GM Kelly McCrimmon may look to acquire another blueliner.
Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb are the top defensemen for Vegas, and Subban could be a good addition to round out the team’s top four blueliners. He would be a depth option once Whitecloud and Martinez return from IR. The New Jersey defenseman is not one of the leading defensemen on the power play (PP) and penalty kill (PK) in time on ice (TOI) for the Devils, but provides good value for them at five on five.
The Golden Knights do not have any cap space, and would likely need the Devils to absorb some of Subban’s $9 million average annual value (AAV) if Vegas was interested in acquiring the veteran defenseman. New Jersey could acquire a mid-round draft selection such as a fourth-round pick or a player to help Vegas create cap space such as William Carrier. Vegas could use defensive depth currently, and the Devils’ defenseman could be a worthwhile acquisition if the Golden Knights can create some cap space.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been rumored as a trade destination for Subban. The Leafs, like the Golden Knights, are a team that does not have much cap space. Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl are two defensemen that have underachieved for Toronto in 2021-22. If the defense is underperforming by the deadline, GM Kyle Dubas could seek to make additions at the blueline.
Holl has dealt with inconsistencies during his time with Toronto, and Muzzin has not lived up to the expectations of being a top defenseman for the Maple Leafs (from ‘ SIMMONS: What do the Maple Leafs do about Justin Holl?,’ Toronto Sun, 2/15/22). Toronto has a good chance of finishing among the top three teams in the Atlantic Division or as one of the two wild-card teams in the Eastern Conference. GM Kyle Dubas will be open to adding to the defense in order to create depth at the position in preparation for the playoff push.
The Maple Leafs could offer a mid-round draft pick or a depth player in exchange for Subban. Due to the struggles of Holl and Muzzin, the addition of the Devils defenseman could provide Toronto with another experienced player at the position. New Jersey’s veteran blueliner would provide competition for ice time on the Leafs.
Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles has two defensemen in Alexander Edler (lower-body injury) and Sean Walker (torn ACL and MCL) on LTIR. The former’s return is unknown, and the latter is out for the season. The Kings have four defensemen in Michael Anderson (22), Tobias Bjornfot (20), Sean Durzi (23), and Jacob Moverare (23) who are young, so GM Rob Blake may look to acquire a veteran defenseman by the trading deadline to add more experience at the position.
The Kings are in the process of becoming a relatively younger team than it has been in recent seasons. However, the they could still use veteran pieces. Drew Doughty is the oldest defenseman on the team at 32, while Olli Maatta (27) and Matt Roy (26) are in the prime of their careers.
Aside from a draft pick, the Kings do not have too many players they would be willing to trade. Trevor Moore has a $1.875 million AAV this year and in 2022-23 before he becomes a UFA. Moore could contribute some offense for New Jersey if he were to be acquired.
The Bruins have had some concerns with defensive depth due to injuries, considering Jakub Zboril is out for the year with a knee injury, and Urho Vaakanainen sustained an upper-body ailment a few weeks ago. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy commented the latter may return for the team’s game on Feb. 17 against the New York Islanders, “Vaak may go in. That’s a decision that we’ll mull over [Wednesday], and decide [Thursday]. He’s ready now” (from ‘Bruins will have decision to make on the backend vs. Islanders,’ 98.5 The Sports Hub, 2/17/22).
Cassidy described the game of the 23-year-old defenseman, “He was drafted to be a good first pass, shutdown guy with a good stick, good feet, and you hoped maybe he’d grow into his body and become more physical or what’s needed at this level. We knew he wasn’t going to be a guy who throws some checks like Charlie McAvoy, but be able to win his battles and he was starting to trend that way. He was doing a good job making plays out of our zone, defending well, positionally he was solid, then he got injured.”
Vaakanainen’s play may determine what GM Don Sweeney does between now and March 21 in terms of trading for another defenseman. Acquiring a veteran defenseman such as Subban would give Boston another experienced player on the blue line. The Bruins would trade a draft pick in return for the Devils player or a forward with a low AAV such as Tomas Nosek.
Subban is one of the few players for New Jersey who may be traded by March 21. If he is dealt by Fitzgerald, a playoff-contending team would make the most sense to acquire the veteran player. The Devils would like to acquire a draft pick or player in exchange for the pending UFA, who will likely not return to New Jersey in 2022-23.