The New Jersey Devils have seen plenty of players come and go over the past few seasons. Some found themselves in the Stanley Cup Final, while others haven’t quite lived up to expectations. In honor of a new calendar year, let’s check in and see how some former players are doing.
A Good Season: Taylor Hall (Boston Bruins)
Taylor Hall will always be remembered as the first Devils player to win the Hart Trophy, which he won at the 2018 NHL Awards. That season he helped New Jersey to their first playoff berth since 2012. The then-26-year-old forward notched a career-high 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games. By the conclusion of the season, he had 41 more points than his next closest teammate, who was Nico Hischier with 52.
On Dec. 16, 2019, The Devils traded Hall along with Blake Speers to the Arizona Coyotes for a first round draft pick in 2020, Kevin Bahl, third round draft pick in 2021 (Ryder Korczak), Nicholas Merkley, and Nate Schnarr. As fans know, Hall only played 35 games in the desert before becoming a free agent. He made the decision to sign with the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 12, 2020. Fans were puzzled at the time citing it was an odd choice for the former league MVP, but the city was on his radar for a while.
“Even before free agency, Buffalo was a place I told my agent, Darren Ferris, that I would think about playing there, it would be something that I think would be enjoyable and I’m really glad that we’re here,” Hall said at the time of the signing. “I think Buffalo is a team, whether guys realize it or not, everyone around the League kind of pulls for them. It’s a good city. They have passionate fans. They have a fan base that is starving for a winning team and hasn’t had that lately. You go in and you know improvement is going to be seen as a positive thing and that’s a good situation to go into. Sometimes if you go to the best team in the league and they don’t do well, maybe it’s seen as a disappointment. There’s a lot of positivity that can come from this and I’m really hoping that that happens.”
As fans know, that hope did not come to fruition, and Hall was traded to the Bruins on April 12, 2021. During his first season in Boston, he had 14 points in 16 games playing alongside David Krejci. This season he appears to be back to his former form with 22 points in 32 games. The key to his recent success is having David Pastrnak as his linemate. Since the two forwards have been placed together the Bruins are 5-1-0.
Struggling: Kyle Palmieri (New York Islanders)
Palmieri was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Devils during the offseason of 2015. He conlcuded his first season in New Jersey with a team leading 57 points, and was a top player for the remainder of his time with the organization. In April of 2021 he along with Travis Zajac were moved to the New York Islanders.
Palmieri played 17 games with the Islanders prior to the 2020-21 postseason. During the team’s impressive run to the Stanley Cup Semifinals, he scored seven goals in 19 games. The team announced the 5-foot-11 forward was re-signed to a four-year, $20 million contract on Sept. 1, 2021.
Not much has gone right for the Islanders or Palmieri this season. He has appeared in 25 games and only has one goal and six assists. If things could not get worse the Smithtown, NY native was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 16. He was cleared to join his team on Jan. 3, but it has been speculated that he could be benched in the near future as he was spotted skating as an extra during the team’s practices. It will be interesting to see what New York decides to do with Palmieri after this season if things don’t turn around.
A Good Season: Adam Henrique (Anaheim Ducks)
Adam Henrique was traded to the Ducks on Nov. 30, 2017. He spent eight seasons with New Jersey and will forever be part of Devils history with his famous overtime goal against the New York Rangers in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final. He was a fan favorite and was a Calder Trophy finalist at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.
Over the span of five seasons, Henrique has appeared in 279 games for the Ducks. He has been one of Anaheim’s’ top goal scorers during his tenure and led the team with 26 goals in the 2019-20 season. Prior to being placed on injured reserve in early December, he was doing well alongside Troy Terry and Ryan Getzlaf. Currently, the 6-foot forward has 16 points in 24 games.
Struggling: Blake Coleman (Calgary Flames)
Fans in New Jersey were devasted when general manager Tom Fitzgerald agreed to a trade that sent Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the end, it worked out well for the Texas native, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups before leaving as an unrestricted free agent and signing with the Calgary Flames.
“They missed playoffs last year, but they’ve been a good team, competitive team the last five years,” Coleman said at the time he signed. “They have high-end skill. They have some depth. They have good goaltending now. I think there’s a lot of good pieces. In this league, the parity is so strong in my opinion that any team that makes the playoffs has a chance to win the whole thing. I think based off my talks with people about Sutter and how he runs things and the way I play, it seemed like a good fit in that aspect as well.”
There is an expectation when a team signs a former Stanley Cup champion and so far Coleman has not quite delivered. As a bias Coleman fan, I reached out to my colleague, Colton Pankiw, for some unbias insight. He shares that while the 5-foot-11 forward has been solid defensively, the Flames desperately need him to score. In 32 games he has 11 points (6G, 5A). He has scored 20 plus goals four times in his career and Calgary will need him to find his scoring touch, especially with a $4.9 million salary per season.
A Good Season: Jon Merrill (Minnesota Wild)
Jon Merrill has had quite the journey around the league since he was selected by the Golden Knights during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. He appeared in the Stanley Cup Final with Vegas, signed with the Detroit Red Wings, who after 36 games traded him to the Montreal Canadiens. The 6-foot-3 defenseman played in the second Stanley Cup Final of his career last season, and as a free agent signed with his current team the Minnesota Wild.
In 33 games this season Merrill has 11 points (3G, 8A). His career-high came during the 2018-19 campaign where he put up 15 points in 57 games. With roughly 50 games left fans can expect him to have the best season of his career. The organization has already rewarded the Oklahoma-born player and signed him to a three-year extension.
Struggling: Will Butcher (Buffalo Sabres)
Once upon a time, Will Butcher won the Hobey Baker Award as the top National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s ice hockey player. He came to New Jersey with high expectations that weren’t exactly met. He finished his rookie campaign with 44 points, but it has been a steady decline since then. During the offseason, New Jersey traded him to the Buffalo Sabres for future considerations.
This season he has played 27 games for the Sabres and has one goal and four points. He is looking to get his career back on track and has had a roller coaster of a season going from a healthy scratch to part of the top defensive pairing. The Wisconsin native will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, and if he is looking to remain in the NHL he will need to improve his game.
The Devils’ 2021-22 season is scheduled to continue today against the New York Islanders, where they will meet former teammates Andy Greene, Zach Parise, and Palmieri. Puck drops at 7:30 PM ET on MSG Network.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and covers both the Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly Youtube show produced by THW. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.