The New Jersey Devils may be sellers at the trade deadline (again), but that doesn’t mean they can’t be looking to the future. Early yesterday afternoon, the organization announced they had acquired defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick.
Siegenthaler has only played in seven games this season, but the potential is there. He’s 23 years old and has played well in the past for the Capitals. Let’s take a look at what the Devils are getting in him and where he’ll slot in on their blue line.
Plus, it appears Dmitry Kulikov’s time with the Devils is coming to a close. Finally, Sami Vatanen heads to waivers and why that’s significant heading into this afternoon’s trade deadline. Let’s get into this Deadline Day news and rumors roundup.
Siegenthaler Gives Devils Defensive Depth
The Devils’ defense is probably going to have a much different look next season. Ryan Murray, Kulikov, and Vatanen are all pending unrestricted free agents and could be gone by the time this afternoon rolls around.
Fortunately, Siegenthaler should be able to step into one of their roles once he arrives in New Jersey. He only has 13 points in 97 career games, but offense is not exactly his forte. Instead, he’s a defensive defenseman and a good one at that.
Siegenthaler’s even strength defense has been worth a goals above replacement (GAR) of 7.9 over the last three seasons, this one included. That ties him with Matt Grzelcyk and puts him just ahead of Jake Muzzin. Both of them are much better all-around defenders than Siegenthaler, but he gets the job done in the defensive zone.
It’s unlikely Siegenthaler plays high up the Devils’ lineup. The safe bet is he ends up in a third-pair role, which is suitable for him. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he should also add a much-needed physical presence on the back end. He won’t move the needle that much, but he should improve the team’s defensive depth moving forward.
Kulikov Held Out Before Trade Deadline
In the least surprising news of the weekend, the Devils held Kulikov out of last night’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins as a precaution before today’s deadline.
Kulikov is a pending unrestricted free agent and carries a cap hit of $1.15 million. He’s played well beyond expectations this season and has been one of the better defensive defensemen in the league. For reference, his even strength defense has been worth a GAR of 4, nearly equivalent to David Savard, who the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired on Saturday.
Since the Devils held Kulikov out yesterday, it’s safe to assume trade talks have picked up. Prices for defensemen have been pretty high so far, which should benefit a seller like the Devils. If general manager Tom Fitzgerald manages to pick up a first for Kulikov, as the Blue Jackets did for Savard, it’ll be a win no matter how you slice it.
But the more realistic return for Kulikov is likely a second or third-round pick, perhaps with a lesser asset attached. With his cap being barely over $1 million, it should make him an attractive target for many contenders tight on cap space.
As for where Kulikov ends up, the Winnipeg Jets seem like the obvious fit. They’re familiar with him, and he’d provide an upgrade to their top four. They own their second and third-round picks and have two thirds in the 2022 Draft as well.
I also wouldn’t rule out the Carolina Hurricanes. Though they’re rumored to be looking for a right-handed, top-four blueliner, Kulikov has experience playing on the right side. They may be the most analytically savvy organization in the NHL, so they probably have a good idea of the season Kulikov is having. If they think he can fit in their lineup, they may look to cut a deal with the Devils as they did with Vatanen last year.
Vatanen On Waivers
In a bit of a surprise move, the Devils placed Vatanen on waivers yesterday at noon. He has just six points in 30 games this season, but his going on waivers is less likely due to his play and has more to do with today’s trade deadline.
By placing Vatanen on waivers, the Devils are likely trying to increase his value, hoping they’ll get a trade offer they deem worthy of accepting. At last season’s deadline, Vatanen brought the Devils back a third-round pick and prospect Janne Kuokkanen from the Hurricanes. That third-round pick turned into goaltender Nico Daws at the 2020 Draft. Meanwhile, Kuokkanen has 20 points in 35 games this season, a 47-point pace over 82 games.
Hoping for that kind of return for Vatanen this year would be wishful thinking. But the Devils are doing what they can to up his value. Perhaps he can bring them back a mid-round pick, but I wouldn’t expect much more.
It also wouldn’t be a surprise if the Devils hung on to Vatanen. He’s well-liked by his teammates, and the team does need bodies to finish out the season. There are worse players to have around to guide a young squad too. This is assuming he clears waiver, which seems to be the expectation.
That wraps up this edition of Devils news and rumors. Enjoy today’s deadline, and make sure to keep it here at The Hockey Writers, and our social media pages, for all the latest trade deadline coverage.
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