Devils’ Trade Options After Fiala Dealt to the Kings

One of the New Jersey Devils’ top trade targets this offseason, Kevin Fiala, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday afternoon. But just because they didn’t end up with Fiala doesn’t mean they won’t be able to add another winger through a trade this offseason.  

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We know adding a scorer or two is a top priority for the Devils and general manager Tom Fitzgerald, especially if it’s someone who can add hard skill to the lineup. Who could they turn to next after missing out on Fiala? Here are four players on trade boards who could be on the move over the next week or two that could help add a scoring boost to the Devils. 

Jake DeBrusk

After a career-worst year in 2020-21, in which he totaled five goals and 14 points in 41 games, Jake DeBrusk bounced back in 2021-22 and looked more like the player he was in previous seasons. He finished this season with 25 goals and 42 points in 77 games, more in line with how he produced in 2018-19 and 2019-20. 

The signs of a bounce back this season were always there for DeBrusk. He finished the 2020-21 campaign shooting a career-worst 5.4 percent but saw that rebound to 13.6 percent this season, a touch above his 12.5 career percentage. He’s averaged 24 goals per 82 games for his career, so while he might not be an elite scorer, he’s a perfectly capable middle-six winger. 

DeBrusk requested a trade from the Boston Bruins back in November. He signed a two-year extension ahead of the trade deadline at a cap hit of $4 million, but as of now, his request still stands. The Bruins will have a new look with Jim Montgomery taking over as head coach for the recently fired Bruce Cassidy, so perhaps he’ll change rescind his request.

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

But if DeBrusk is still intent on departing from the Bruins, I’d imagine Fitzgerald inquires. When word first got out about his trade request, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that he expected Fitzgerald to check in with the Bruins about DeBrusk, so there was likely previous interest. He may not be the elite scorer the Devils need, but adding another 20- to 25-goal scorer who now has a manageable contract could never hurt.

DeBrusk would likely cost a couple of draft picks and a player on an entry-level contract or an affordable deal who can play in the NHL right away since the Bruins only have $2.3 million in cap space. And since he has a manageable cap hit, the Devils could still pursue a top free-agent scorer like Johnny Gaudreau or Andre Burakovsky.

Martin Necas

Martin Necas is one of the more interesting players who might be available this offseason. There’s no denying the talent is there, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t entirely clicked for him with the Carolina Hurricanes. His production hasn’t been terrible; he’s averaged 49 points per 82 games over the last three seasons. But his impacts at five-on-five have been less than desirable. 

Related: Devils Could Use Jesse Puljujärvi on Their Roster

The Hurricanes have been one of the best regular-season teams over the last three seasons, so it’s not a surprise to see Necas have decent Corsi (CF%) and expected goal percentages (xG%). His scoring rates have been respectable, too, as he’s averaged 1.81 points per 60 minutes. But he’s had trouble scoring consistently and has been a defensive liability. 

It’s hard to figure out why Necas has yet to break out, but it is important to remember he’s only 23 years old and doesn’t turn 24 until January. One theory I have is that he’s simply on the wrong team. The Hurricanes’ system relies heavily on playing dump and chase and forechecking, but Necas is not that type of player. He’s a high-end skater, and when he has the puck on his stick in the neutral zone, he excels on the rush and gaining the zone with possession or through clean passes:

Martin Necas
Martin Necas’ micro stats for the 2021-22 season

Generally, when a player like Necas has micro stats (the chart above) as he does, there’s good breakout potential. The Devils are a team that likes to play off the rush, so he’d probably be a good fit in New Jersey. There’s no doubt he has things to improve, but he might be worth the gamble, as he only projects to land a two-year bridge deal at a cap hit of $4.144 million as a restricted free agent this offseason. If the Devils part with a young defenseman in their system, the Hurricanes might listen to an offer for Necas. 

Travis Konecny

It looks like it will be a summer of change for the Philadelphia Flyers. James van Riemsdyk is on the trade block, and it appears Travis Konecny could be as well. With just over $5.1 million in cap space, one or both of them could become cap casualties. 

If that’s the case, the Devils should have interest in Konecny. Though he finished with 16 goals and 52 points this season, it was an up and down year. He finished with a 49.75 CF% and 49.73 xG%, but that was likely more the product of being on a poor team. Still, he was an efficient five-on-five scorer, averaging 2.27 points/60. So what went wrong?

Konecny’s struggles this past season largely came on the power play. He averaged 2.64 points/60 on the man advantage and had a shooting percentage of just 5.56 percent. In each of his three previous seasons, his power play SH% was above 20 percent. And at five-on-five, he averaged a 53.5 CF% and 51.1 xG%, so there probably will be some positive regression for him next season.

Travis Konecny Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers winger Travis Konecny (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Flyers and Devils have never linked up for a trade, so the chances of the Devils acquiring Konecny seem slim. But if there is a path to trading for him, he is the exact type of player Fitzgerald is looking for this offseason. He can score, plays with some edge, and isn’t afraid to go to high-danger scoring areas. Though he’s only 5-foot-10, 187 pounds, he’s the type of hard skill that the Devils want and need. 

It’s hard to say what it’d cost the Devils to acquire Konecny. Both teams have been division rivals for as long as one can remember, so the price would likely be higher for the Devils than other clubs. Given the Flyers’ cap situation, they’d probably want affordable young players on ELCs or cheap second contracts. Since the Devils have over $25.3 million in cap space, they can afford to take on the entire $5.5 million cap hit Konecny has for the next three years. And given he’s due to rebound, the Devils would be wise to at least inquire. 

Conor Garland

The Devils’ interest in Conor Garland dates back to last offseason when the Arizona Coyotes were looking to trade him. They’d end up moving him to the Canucks, but it appears they’re listening to offers on him in addition to J.T. Miller. The 2021-22 season was Garland’s first in Vancouver, and despite a slow start, it was productive as he finished with 19 goals and 52 points in 77 games. 

Though Garland might not be an elite point producer, he’s a great all-around player. He’s averaged a 52.01 CF% and 53.5 xG% at five-on-five over the last three seasons and has been one of the most efficient five-on-five scorers in the league, averaging 2.36 points/60. That’s a better rate than other top-tier wingers such as Filip Forsberg, William Nylander and Kyle Connor. Overall, he’s had a strong positive impact two ways at even strength: 

Conor Garland
Conor Garland’s impact at even strength and on the power play

Though Garland is only 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, he plays bigger than his size. Remember when Nathan MacKinnon chucked his helmet at a Coyotes player in 2020-21? The player on the receiving end of MacKinnon’s helmet was Garland. He’s a pest and is not afraid to start trouble but is also a more than capable top-six forward. 

Garland would be an ideal addition for the Devils for a couple of reasons. One) he has four years left on his contract but only at a cap hit of $4.95 million. They’d be getting a top-six winger for below $5 million a year, which would allow them to chase the other needs they have, like goaltending. And it would still give them a chance to pursue a big-name free agent like Gaudreau. 

Related: Devils’ 2022 Free Agent Targets: Wingers

The Canucks gave up a high pick to acquire Garland last season; the ninth overall selection went to the Coyotes. He doesn’t have that kind of value now, so the Devils would probably be able to pull off a deal without giving up a first-round pick if they include NHL talent. A 2022 second-round pick (37th overall) and a couple of NHL-ready players could be along the lines of a possible package. For what his contract pays him, he might be one of the better value acquisitions the Devils could make on the trade market. 

Devils Entering Height of Offseason

There’s less than a week to go until the draft and less than two weeks until free agency opens up. Things will kick into high gear soon, especially in the trade market. The Devils may not land any players listed here, but they’ll have plenty of other options. And if it isn’t through a trade, there’ll be no shortage of players to choose from when free agency begins. Buckle up. It should be a busy next couple of weeks. 

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Advanced stats from Natural Stat Trick, contract projections from Evolving-Hockey