Devils Should Pursue Jeremy Bracco Trade

The highly talented Jeremy Bracco is continuing to make a name for himself in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. In his second AHL season, the 22-year old Long Island, NY native has more than doubled his stat line from 2017-18, leading his team with 79 points (22 G, 57 A). In 125 total AHL games, the young right-winger has upped his total to 111 points (28 G, 83 A).

Currently in the Eastern Conference Final of the Calder Cup, Bracco is leading the Marlies in playoff points (11) with two goals and nine assists.

While some believe Bracco is NHL-ready, the growing notion out of Toronto is that the Maple Leafs management brass believes Bracco is purely an offensive weapon who lacks defensive responsibility and needs to play in a top-six role in order to thrive.

Jeremy Bracco of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Assuming the Leafs will make a move or two to free up some money and sign RFA Mitchell Marner to a long-term deal and keep the recently extended William Nylander in the fold, a top-six right wing spot will likely never be in play for Bracco. This might lead to a potential trade, and if the Leafs decide to put Bracco on the market, New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero should pick up the phone and look to make a deal.

Can A Trade Works for Both Sides?

New Jersey Devils’ Perspective

Even after winning the first-overall pick for the second time in three years, and the rights to select either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko atop the 2019 Draft, the Devils still need another talented top-six forward upfront.

With his superior vision, Bracco is a legitimate playmaker who uses his edgework and puck control to deceive defenders to create time and space in order to make plays. Here is a preview of what he can do:

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According to Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, Bracco’s 1.05 points per game from the 2018-19 season would have translated to 41 points in the NHL this season, putting him right in the middle of the Devils’ top-six upfront. It’s likely Bracco would be replacing Blake Coleman or Miles Wood, who both, realistically speaking, are not top-six NHL players.

If his style of play can translate at the NHL level, Bracco can bring his unique skillset to New Jersey and can really benefit a pure goalscorer like Taylor Hall.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Perspective

After a shocking first-round exit the same season in which they brought in John Tavares, Maple Leafs general manager Kyler Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock were left looking for answers.

There are two things they almost certainly need to do this off-season. The first is clearing out cap space to create room to sign some of their young core. The second is adding a top-four right-handed defenseman.

The Devils can help in one, if not both of these departments.

With a plethora of cap space, the Devils are able to take on an expiring contract to help create some capital for the Maple Leafs. With leverage, the Devils can look to tack on some of the heftier Maple Leaf cap hits such as Patrick Marleau ($6.25 million through 2020) or Nathan Horton ($3.6 million through 2021). Either would require packaging in a sweetener like Bracco in order for it to work.

Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau #12 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

But at this stage of the rebuild, adding to their cap might be risky business for Shero, especially with some key contract negotiations looming for their core over the course of the next two seasons.

As far as adding a top-four right-handed defenseman, one name that could be enticing for Toronto is Sami Vatanen. While the Jyvaskyla, Finland native will certainly be an upgrade to the Maple Leafs’ blue line, he does carry a significant cap and is owed $4.875 million through 2020.

The Maple Leafs and Devils haven’t really lined up in the past as trade partners, but if there’s a way to make a deal work, Shero should take the gamble and look to add Bracco to the Devils’ lineup. If all pans out, he can provide the talent boost to push the Devils’ forward corps over the top.