No, the Devils don’t have centremen I would consider available, but they do have a couple of solid players that play wing that could become good trade chips for a young team that should look to the future. The Devils are a very young team with more help incoming. This and it is going to become a bit crowded in the lineup once they are a little bit healthier.
This is where the Oilers come in. Sources have mentioned needing an upgrade at the third centre position, but another face in the organization, Bob Stauffer, has brought up the idea of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shifting to centre on the third line and spreading out the wingers to create a dangerous three-headed monster.
With this idea, which is at least worth a try before trading for an upgrade at wing or disregarding completely, there are two players from the Devils that make sense contract-wise and money-wise if the right piece is sent back. One of two names from the Oilers would be likely headed to the Devils if either deal is pulled off: Zack Kassian or Kyle Turris. This could free up a spot on the roster at forward, and in Kassian’s case, give the Devils a bit more grit for a couple of seasons. This physicality is something they’re sorely lacking and head coach Lindy Ruff would love to work with.
The situation that the Devils are in reminds me a lot of the trade they made with the Tampa Bay Lightning a couple seasons ago sending Blake Coleman over to a Stanley Cup contender with another year remaining on his contract. This, of course, will bring back a better return, most likely a first-round pick to the Devils, especially with the season Andreas Johnsson is having, and possibly a prospect.
Johnsson doesn’t bring the same type of defensive game that Coleman does, so that may allow some wiggle room in negotiating down from a first-round pick. Johnsson can play both wings, so it wouldn’t be too hard to fit him into the Oilers’ lineup. But another key is that he has produced well offensively and has been a very effective middle-six option.
Johnsson makes a little bit more per season than Kassian, so it could make real sense for both parties to swap those two players with a sweetener in the deal on Edmonton’s side, possibly a higher draft pick. That would make the most sense since in the coming two seasons, even this season, Kassian is going to become nothing more than a third liner at best with the young forward depth arriving.
As I mentioned above, Devils’ head coach Lindy Ruff would definitely be enticed by the idea of coaching someone that embodies the type of player he loves to coach. Maybe Ruff would have a bit of say in the decision.
As the Oilers, why not add another former Toronto Maple Leafs player? It seems to work out great for the first year to this point. The Devils are liking Johnsson’s production this season with 19 points in 30 games, but will they look to re-sign him after next season or will they be happier with an early return? The Metropolitan Division doesn’t seem to be getting much easier next season, so the Devils may have to trust in the development of their young players.
The Devils have seemingly replaced Miles Wood at this point with more young players stepping in the lineup due to his injury that has kept him out the entire season. This doesn’t mean they don’t miss what he brings to the team. He is a restricted free agent in the last year of his contract at $2.75 million. This is even more workable into the Oilers cap, as they would be able to consider sending Turris back to the Devils and make the money work.
Wood plays a very physical game, but can put up goals in a middle to bottom-six role, as he has done for the Devils over the past four seasons. Wood has gotten a lot better at limiting the penalties he takes, which is huge for any team — even the Oilers who have a top-10 penalty kill.
Wood would bring with him a true makeup of a power forward that has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer deeper in the lineup. He hits and re-established his scoring touch last season, giving him another prime opportunity to do so upon returning.
I mentioned Ruff likes his physical players, and it hasn’t been easy replacing Wood’s physicality in the lineup, so sending Kassian back if they deal for Wood is also an option.
Both players carry health concerns, but the Oilers have a number of players who don’t miss very many games if it’s not COVID related. I believe either could be worth the risk, as the Devils appear to be sellers this season. It would take a lot for them to climb out of the basement of a very tough Metropolitan Division. Even though adding a forward probably isn’t the top priority for the Oilers, it may be the easiest deal to pull off if a trade for a defenceman or goaltender doesn’t present itself.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.