The trade deadline is approaching fast, and it’s clear the New Jersey Devils should be sellers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be looking to make long-term investments. General manager Ray Shero has his work cut out for him to retool his team’s roster, and he’ll have to make some trades to do so. Here are five players he could target to help improve the Devils.
Andre Burakovsky (Left Wing)
It’s been a down year for the Swedish winger. He has 12 points in 44 games and has seen his ice time drop to 11:25 minutes per game, a two-minute difference from a season ago. He’s fallen out of favor with the Washington Capitals, and it looks like he could be on the move. Should he interest the Devils?
Burakovsky has averaged 1.83 points per 60 minutes (P/60) at 5-on-5 since the start of 2016, the same as Jonathan Toews and Ondrej Palat. The Capitals have also averaged 28.07 scoring chances per 60 minutes (SCF/60) with him on the ice. That puts him right between Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Burakovsky has a lot of talent but hasn’t been able to crack a top-six role in Washington. His numbers suggest he could break out if he gets better minutes, and the Devils have a spot for him in their top six. Elliotte Friedman reported the Capitals could be looking for second and third-round picks for Burakovsky. If that’s the case, then the Devils should inquire about a trade.
Micheal Ferland (Left Wing)
Ferland may not be the hottest name available, but don’t let that fool you – he has what the Devils are looking for up front. He has 25 points through 41 games this season, a 50-point pace over 82 games. This is coming off the heels of a 45-point season with the Calgary Flames in 2017-18.
Ferland has averaged 1.80 P/60 since the start of 2016, which is better than Max Pacioretty, Teuvo Teravainen, and Anze Kopitar. He’s also averaged 11.90 high danger chances per 60 minutes (HDCF/60) when on the ice, the same as Taylor Hall and Corey Perry. That doesn’t mean he’s better than those players, but it proves he can create offense.
Pierre Lebrun reported the Carolina Hurricanes are very likely to move Ferland (from ‘LeBrun Notebook: What’s wrong with the Leafs, Andre Burakovsky draws interest and Hurricanes remain active,’ The Athletic – 1/22/19). I’m not sure what he’d cost, but he should interest the Devils. He’s proven top-six scorer, and he’s only 26 years old, so he’s about to enter his prime.
Ferland would also be less of a risk than Burakovsky, so that should make him more enticing to the Devils’ brass. The only catch is that he is a pending UFA. The Devils aren’t in a position to acquire rentals, so they’d have to agree to an extension to make a trade work.
Cam Talbot (Goalie)
Goaltending has been a significant problem for the Devils this season, so something needs to be done. Mackenzie Blackwood has shown promise, but it’s still too early to call him the future. Even if he pans out, he’ll still need a backup. Keith Kinkaid is a pending UFA and isn’t likely to be around much longer, while Cory Schneider is a shell of his former self.
Enter Cam Talbot, who’s had some struggles of his own the last two seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. He finished 2017-18 with a .908 save percentage (SV%) and is sitting with a .894 SV% at the All-Star break. Over the last two seasons, he has a goals saved above average (GSAA) of minus-4.71.
The fact Talbot’s play has declined the last two seasons is concerning, but he’s on a bad Oilers team. He’s also 31 years old, so it’s possible father time is starting to catch up to him. If it is because he’s on a bad team, then he could be due to bounce-back in 2019-20.
There are some complications in trading for Talbot. He has a modified no-trade clause, so even if the Devils are interested, it’s his right to veto a move. If Talbot is willing to play for the Devils, I suspect they’d be able to acquire him for cheap (maybe a mid or late-round pick). He’s having a down year as a pending UFA, and they’d be doing nothing more than taking a flyer on him.
If Talbot comes to New Jersey and performs the way he did in his first season with the Oilers, it could change their goaltending outlook for the best. There’s no guarantee that’ll be the case, but it’s a risk worth taking given the uncertainty in between the Devils’ pipes.
Dougie Hamilton (Defenseman)
The Hurricanes have been active in the trade market and could look to move Hamilton to upgrade their team. Why any team would want to remains a mystery because Hamilton has been a beast at 5-on-5 since the start of 2016. He’s averaged 1.20 P/60, ranked eighth in the NHL for a defenseman (min. 500 minutes played). He also has an expected goals for (xGF%) of 56.76 percent when on the ice, which is better than Mark Giordano, Kris Letang, and Brent Burns.
Among the Devils’ needs are two top-four defensemen, and Hamilton would fill one of those spots. He’s under contract through 2020-21, with a cap hit of $5.75 million, so the Devils can afford that. But he won’t come cheap in a trade, given what the Hurricanes gave up to acquire him.
My guess is it would take a top forward to acquire Hamilton. The Devils aren’t exactly gushing with top-six talent, so I can’t see them wanting to trade Kyle Palmieri or Jesper Bratt. Marcus Johansson could be a starting piece, but it would take much more than him to sweeten the pot. That could be a price too high to pay.
Ondrej Kase (Right Wing)
Kase isn’t a household name, but he’s one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL. He had 20 points in 30 games — a 54-point pace over 82 games — before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. That may not seem too impressive, but he’s been a force at 5-on-5.
Since the start of 2016, Kase has averaged 1.97 P/60, which is better than Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski, and Alex Radulov. The Ducks have a 54.02 percent xGF% and have averaged 28.47 SCF/60 when Kase is on the ice. His offensive prowess is apparent and would be a big lift to the Devils.
Kase’s name hasn’t been in the rumor mill, and he isn’t even on TSN’s trade bait list, but there are a few reasons why I bring him up. The first has to do with his ice time, where he’s averaged less than 16 minutes a game the last two seasons. In an expanded role — which the Devils can give him — he could break out with his 5-on-5 production.
Another reason to inquire about Kase has to do with his contract. His deal runs through 2020-21 with a cap hit of $2.6 million, and he’ll be an RFA when it expires. The Devils could also use another top-six right wing, and Kase fills that positional need. He won’t come cheap, and it may be best to wait until he returns to health. But Shero has a history with Ducks general manager Bob Murray, so there could be a deal to be had down the road.
Devils Need to be Thinking Long Term
Shero can’t get involved in the business of acquiring rentals because it’d set the team back. If he can find a trade that works out for them beyond this and next season, then he needs to take action. He doesn’t want to mortgage the future, but there are things to consider.
Taylor Hall is eligible for an extension starting July 1, so Shero needs to make some moves to show him it’s worth sticking around. The Devils also have a lot of holes to fill, and free agency alone won’t do it. They’ll have to get creative and try to fix some of their issues through a trade or two, or else, they’ll be stuck at the bottom of the league. And the trade deadline presents the first opportunity to do so.
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Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017