Devils Should Be Willing to Move 2nd-Overall Pick for Bruins’ Pastrnak

The New Jersey Devils have the second overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, and general manager (GM) Tom Fitzgerald may use it in a trade to acquire a forward who can end their playoff drought next year. The urgency to take the next step in their rebuild is real, as the team has not won a playoff series since 2012 and has not qualified for the postseason in nine of the last ten seasons. They have a plethora of young talent that will interest GMs of rebuilding franchises, such as Kyle Davidson of the Chicago Blackhawks or Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins.

Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat or Bruins winger David Pastrnak are two offensive threats that can help transform the Devils into a contender. Both are dynamic goal scorers coming off 40-goal seasons – DeBrincat tallied 41 goals and 37 assists, and Pastrnak finished with 40 goals and 37 assists. Either player would elevate his line on the Devils, whether it is with Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier centering the top two lines. Here’s a look at why Fitzgerald should be willing to move their second-overall pick for the Bruins’ star player.

Pastrnak Provides More Offensive Consistency for Devils

The young Devils team has shown glimpses of the offensive talent, but they need to be more dependable to become a playoff contender. Pastrnak, who has a modified no-trade clause (M-NTC) in his contract (he can submit a 10-team no-trade list), has become one of the better forwards for the Bruins and has provided a reliable attack since the 2016-17 season. Over the last six years, he has averaged 35 goals and will finish within the 15-20 top players in goals over 82 regular-season games.

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hughes missed 33 games in 2021-22, and the Devils lost their best player at the beginning and the end of the season. Hischier has also struggled with injuries since playing all 82 games in 2017-18. If Pastrnak is acquired during the offseason, he would provide more stability should either of the Devils’ top centers miss time with an injury.

Bruins Could Aim to Improve Their Center Depth

With the uncertainty of whether unrestricted free agent (UFA) Patrice Bergeron will continue to play, the Bruins are at a crossroads with many of their pending free agents in the next one or two offseasons. Charlie Coyle is the top center if their captain decides to retire, and they do not have proper depth in their system. If Sweeney can acquire the Devils’ second overall draft pick in a trade involving Pastrnak, he would be able to select a top prospect like Logan Cooley (USA U18), Jonathan Lekkerimaki (Djurgardens IF), Brad Lambert (JYP), or Matthew Savoie (Winnipeg Ice).

Related: Bruins: 3 Potential Landing Spots for David Pastrnak

Given the young talent on the Devils and what Pastrnak would command in return, the Bruins GM could also inquire about the availability of Dawson Mercer, who was decent during his rookie season. He had 17 goals, and 25 assists in 82 games played and showed flashes that he can be an effective player within a club’s top six throughout his career. Given that he was a rookie on a struggling franchise, he experienced his share of ups and downs but has the potential to improve next year. If he were to be included in a trade, he would be part of a rebuilding Bruins team with other young players and a young head coach, which the front office is expected to hire.

Does Pastrnak Want to Re-Sign with the Bruins?

Regarding his approach to offering his star player an extension, Sweeney said, “I’ve said all along I will attack that one, as I have with all of our players that we’ve looked to go longer-term on, right away and see where it goes. David has a decision in the same vein. He might be sitting back and balancing the same way, whether it’s Patrice (Bergeron) or anybody else we’re adding. Those conversations will come to light. We’ll have to make a decision based on the information that I get,” (from ‘A David Pastrnak trade and full rebuild loom as a possible next step for Bruins,’ The Athletic, 6/7/22).

Is Pastrnak concerned that Sweeney may not offer him the amount of money he thinks he will receive from other franchises? The Bruins’ leading goal scorer may be hesitant to commit long-term to a club that is entering a period of uncertainty, with Bergeron’s pending decision, who the head coach will be, and that Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk will not be ready to play for the start of 2022-23. The Havirov, Czechia native has one more year on his contract before he becomes a UFA and could become a trade candidate if he remains with the Bruins and they end up being sellers at the deadline next season.

The Devils have a commodity in the second overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft that they can offer in a trade to acquire an elite goal scorer such as Pastrnak or DeBrincat. Depending on Sweeney’s agenda to improve his club, he may decide to trade the winger if he deems it is in their best interest long-term to undergo a rebuild, especially if they hire a young head coach.

The Bruins are expected to offer Pastrnak an extension that lasts beyond 2022-23 as he has the potential to be the team’s best player, and he should be paid as such especially with the potential retirement of Bergeron. However, the young players on New Jersey’s roster and their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Utica Comets, could entice GMs of rebuilding organizations into a trade for an elite top-six forward. The Devils need to qualify for the postseason next season in their long rebuild and acquiring a top goal scorer will increase their chances significantly.

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