As the New Jersey Devils explore their options to add more scoring this offseason, the trade market seems like a route the team will have to take. There are several players on the team that general manager Ray Shero could consider moving. However, the return value will greatly differentiate between current players on the team’s roster and that could be a big deciding factor on who is moved. Other than defenseman Andy Greene, forward Mike Cammalleri, and the goaltending tandem of Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid no one is technically safe.
Shero needs to bring in more offensive skill next season but he has to be careful that he does not eliminate key young stars from the team’s current and future core. Players like Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias would definitely get attention on the market. Although, the Devils young players are the ones that many teams may be the most interested in and yield the biggest return. All are still developing and have limitless potential. While New Jersey must get younger, it is not naïve to think that one of the team’s current young players could be dealt. But just because Shero receives interest over a someone, does not mean he should move him.
The Untouchable Adams
Two years ago it seemed as if defenseman Adam Larsson’s development had stalled. He was in and out of the lineup, and even spent time in Albany. Fast-forward to the end of last season and Larsson proved his worth. As a member of the team’s top defensive pairing, he looked confident and well on his way to being the defenseman fans were hoping to see. Many would consider him to be untouchable. However besides Greene, Shero would receive the biggest return on Larsson out of the entire defensive unit, which may at least force him to listen to an offer. Either way Shero should not move the young Swedish star. Larsson’s development took too big of a step last year to part ways now. There are other options the team can take rather than moving a player who proved to be a bright spot during a difficult season.
Forward Adam Henrique is the team’s young offensive player that would garner the most attention by interested trade partners. Henrique would have considerable value on the market and he is one of the only top forwards without a no-trade-clause on the team. But trading Henrique could be disastrous for the Devils because of his value in New Jersey. Henrique is a strong two-way forward that plays in all on ice situations. He had back-to-back 43-point seasons. It is understandable that 43-points may not be the most eye-popping stat. Nevertheless, it is important to consider that since his rookie season ended, Henrique has been playing on a goal-starved team. Yet he is still producing at a nice rate.
His assist numbers throughout the year remained strong while his goal scoring dropped off after Christmas, which happens to coincide with the same time he tore two ligaments in his left wrist. Henrique has not hit his ceiling. As the offense improves as a whole, Henrique’s numbers will go up too. Shero should not move one of the only unquestioned top-six forwards New Jersey has. Additionally, it is significant that Henrique and Larsson were both a part of the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. Both players have a wealth of experience. While all of the young players want the to team succeed, Larsson and Henrique have already tasted success. They will have the extra motivation to help get it back.
Shero’s Potential Candidates
Of course Shero has the option of packaging forward Jacob Josefson in a deal or grouping together prospects not currently on the big club’s roster. The only prospect that is safe from being traded is assumingly Boston College defenseman Steve Santini. Considering his scouting report and the buildup surrounding his name, his debut with the Devils will be a big day. Fans will have to wait at least another season for that though. Realistically the defensive depth on the team is one of their strongest assets when gauging the market. New Jersey has a logjam on defense. Many defensive prospects like Albany’s Seth Helgeson, who already played a bit with New Jersey last year, are going to be vying for a spot.
Defenseman Damon Severson surprised a lot of people when he made the opening day roster. Even though he was a rookie, fans rarely saw the 20-year-old make a mistake. His composure was strikingly impressive. He made a name for himself and received notoriety throughout the league even though he missed 31-games due to an injury. For Shero to move Severson the offer would have to surpass expectations because it is hard to imagine a scenario where he is not a Devil next season.
Odd Man Out
The fact that the Devils will not move Greene and the odds of Larsson or Severson being traded are very slim, could hurt defensemen Jon Merrill or Eric Gelinas. The defensemen struggled a bit at various points last year. Both players at times displayed soft zone exits and were too light on their passes. Merrill frequently preferred to dump the puck in the corner rather than shoot it on net and Gelinas looked lackadaisical on certain plays. This is not a knock on their playing skills because they did have great games last season too and were difference makers. Both are still learning and will be elite defensemen with tremendous talent.
Some can argue that Gelinas’ slap shot could help his chances at remaining on the team and their arguments would be valid. As his shot becomes more accurate, it will only become more lethal and terrifying for the opposition. However, his shot adds to his market value. Merrill is a little more of the prototypical Devils defenseman than Gelinas is. He often finds himself staying back and has proven that he is quick thinking, particularly on oppositional odd man rushes.
If either Merrill or Gelinas is traded, it is not a representation that the Devils think negatively of them or that they do not have value in New Jersey. They would be nothing more than a roster casualty because of the team’s impressive defensive talent and need for a scoring forward. If either one is moved, it could come down to simply the new head coach’s preference or which player brings in the better offer.
Looking at the team’s roster, Gelinas or Merrill very well could be the odd man out. New Jersey probably does not want to move any of their young players but Shero may not have a choice. Nevertheless, if Devils fans have learned anything since 2012, it is to expect the unexpected. And as this offseason has already shown it is no different than previous years.