It’s time for another edition of New Jersey Devils news and rumors. Direct rumors involving the team have been hard to come by over the last few weeks. But the rumor mill is beginning to churn, and there are a couple of names that have popped up that could be fits for the Devils on the trade market as the expansion draft approaches on July 21, with the entry draft soon after on July 23 and 24.
One of the names to surface this weekend was Adam Henrique, who the Anaheim Ducks appear to be shopping. Devils fans are quite familiar with him, and though he has a pricey contract, a reunion could make sense for both sides.
The San Jose Sharks also appear to be open for business and are dangling players such as Kevin Labanc as trade bait, per Kevin Kurz of The Athletic (From ‘Sources: Sharks ‘open for business’ when it comes to trade talks with teams’, The Athletic – 7/10/2021). While his production has fluctuated over the last few seasons, the Brooklyn, New York native could provide a scoring boost to the Devils up front.
Finally, a look at the Devils re-signing defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler to a two-year deal ahead of the expansion draft on July 21. Let’s get to it.
Henrique Could Use a Change of Scenery
It was a whirlwind 2020-21 season for Henrique. The Ducks placed him on waivers back in February, but he remained with the team after no one bit on the waiver wire. Still, he managed to have a pretty productive season, finishing with 12 goals and 21 points over 45 games. That comes out to a 22-goal, 38-point pace over 82 games, which is about where he produced in his previous two seasons.
It’s a bit puzzling as to why the Ducks placed Henrique on waivers, because he can still contribute in the NHL. He averaged 1.79 points per 60 minutes (points/60) at five-on-five this season and has averaged 1.73 points/60 since the start of 2018-19. His two-way play has slipped some, but he still has value offensively, especially at even strength. His overall game is still well above replacement level as well:
|Season||Goals Above Replacement||Expected Goals Above Replacement|
The problem with Henrique isn’t his play; it’s his contract, which runs for three more seasons at a cap hit of $5.825 million. The Ducks seem to want to get that off their books, at least most of it. I say most of it because there aren’t many teams who can take on his whole deal without the Ducks retaining some salary. Otherwise, they’ll have to give up a sweetener in any trade.
The Devils are of a few teams who could take on Henrique’s entire cap hit — they currently sit $14,377,501 BELOW the cap floor. But even then, the more likely scenario would be the Ducks retaining some percentage of his contract. If they do, then there could be a potential match with the Devils since they need a third-line center. Add Henrique to a group of centers that includes Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Michael McLeod or Mikhail Maltsev, and the team’s center depth would be top-notch. Plus, he has the versatility to play left wing, which would come in handy. And it’s pretty clear he still has something to offer to an NHL team.
The Curious Case of Labanc
With the Sharks looking to revamp their roster, Labanc is among the names they could move in a trade. He finished this season with 12 goals and 28 points in 55 games — a 17-goal, 41-point pace over 82 games. The Sharks just signed him to a four-year extension back in October that came with a cap hit of $4.725 million. But it appears he’s fallen out of favor a bit in San Jose with head coach Bob Boughner.
Labanc has been an enigmatic player of sorts over the last few seasons because the production hasn’t always been there. Still, the underlying statistics have always been quite good. For example, he has a Corsi for percentage of 54.2 percent and expected goals percentage of 52.9 percent since the start of the 2018-19 campaign. Overall, he’s had a strong positive impact at even strength, specifically offensively:
You may notice Labanc’s impact on the power play has been quite positive but hasn’t resulted in goals. One explanation is the Sharks have shot only 10.6 percent with him on the ice on the power play. That number may seem high, but it was the second-lowest on the team, with only Tim Heed having a lower on-ice shooting percentage on the power play. If the Sharks had a better man advantage, I’d guess Labanc’s point totals would be closer to the 56 points he had in 2018-19.
Per Kurz, the Sharks are looking to make a hockey deal for someone like Labanc, perhaps for a third-line center. We just talked about how the Devils need one of those themselves, so how could a trade work? One possibility would be moving Pavel Zacha. He just had the best season of his career, but the Devils might be wise to sell high on him. He shot a career-high 16.5 percent in 2020-21 but is a 10.9 percent shooter for his career. His CF% and xG% were below 50 percent on the season, too, so there’s reason to believe he’ll regress.
On the other hand, the Devils would have to bet on Labanc getting closer to the player he was in 2018-19. And I think there’s reason to believe he can. He has a consistent track record of scoring at five-on-five, which is not the case with Zacha. And his impact at that game state has been much more positive over the last three seasons than Zacha’s has. Add some better luck on the power play, and things point toward Labanc returning closer to a 50-55 point player in a different situation. So he seems like the type of player to gamble on.
Finally, the Devils took care of some housekeeping on Friday by signing Siegenthaler to a two-year deal with an average annual salary of $1.125 million. The Devils acquired him from the Washington Capitals just before this season’s trade deadline. But he only played in eight games with the Devils after coming down with COVID soon after the trade.
Still, Siegenthaler’s numbers were encouraging in his short stint with the team. He finished with an xG% just above 54 percent and was one of the team’s best shot suppressing defensemen when he played. He doesn’t have much offensive upside at all, but he has a steady defensive track record. With things hopefully returning to normal for the 2021-22 season, he should find regular playing time as a third-pair defenseman who gets minutes on the penalty kill.
That wraps up this edition of Devils news & rumors. Expansion draft protection lists are due this Saturday, July 17. Things should begin to heat up as we approach that date, so make sure to stay tuned to The Hockey Writers for the latest Devils and NHL coverage.
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Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017