Revisiting the Best New Jersey Devils Near-NHL Trade Deadline Deals

The NHL Trade Deadline, set this season for 3PM on March 5th, 2014, is an exciting yet anxious time for players, coaches, and fans alike.  Will teams be sellers and give up on making the postseason in order to be better in upcoming seasons?  Will teams be buyers and make one last attempt at obtaining the final piece of the puzzle in order to chase for the Stanley Cup?  For fans of the New Jersey Devils, they have gotten used to just the latter.  Since 1988, only twice have the Devils been virtually eliminated around the NHL trading deadline, in 1989 and 2011. Looking back at the history of the Devils, The Hockey Writers will revisit some of the most important trades the Devils have made with a week or less to go before the deadline.

Lou Lamoriello
Since 1987 there has been one constant in the New Jersey Devils organization, President/General Manager Lou Lamoriello (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

March 8th, 1988: Lou Lamoriello’s First NHL Trade Deadline Experience

On the day of the deadline, the Devils sent Steve Tsujiura to the Boston Bruins for their #10 pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.  Tsujiura was on the Utica Devils of the AHL at the time of the trade and was sent to the Maine Mariners in the deal.  He would never play a game in the NHL.

As for the draft pick, the Devils selected Ufa, Soviet Union native Alexander Semak.  He would not join the Devils in North America until the 1991-92 season.  In 180 games with New Jersey from the 1991-92 season until 1994-95, he scored 56 goals and had 127 points.  His best season came in 1992-93 when he scored 37 goals and added 42 assists.

However, the importance of this deadline deal did not fully take shape until over seven years had passed.  On March 14th, 1995, the Devils sent Semak and Ben Hankinson to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Shawn Chambers and Danton Cole.  While Cole appeared in a dozen games during the 1994-95 season and just one game in the postseason, Chambers would play a huge role in leading the Devils to their 1995 Stanley Cup Championship.  He appeared in all twenty Stanley Cup Playoff games and chipped in four goals with a total of nine points.  Two of those goals came in none other than Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals when the Devils swept the heavily-favored and Presidents’ Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings.  Chambers would play two more seasons with the Devils and was the first player to hug Martin Brodeur after the goaltender scored his first career goal in Game 1 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens.

Shawn Chambers scores to give the Devils a 5-2 lead over the Red Wings in Game 4 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals:

March 14th, 2000: The Final Piece of the 2000 Championship Puzzle

In arguably the biggest deadline deal up until that point in Devils history, New Jersey acquired star Russian Alexander Mogilny from the Vancouver Canucks for Brendan Morrison and Denis Pederson.  Pederson had a total of 93 points in 271 games with the Devils since he debuted during the 1995-96 season.  Morrison, after scoring nine points in eleven games to open his career, had a solid rookie campaign when he tallied 13 goals and 33 assists in 76 games.  Morrison, however, held out on the Devils to open the 1999-2000 season (along with Patrik Elias).  When Morrison finally did return to the ice, he enjoyed moderate success as a playmaker and had 21 assists, along with 5 goals, in 44 games.

In Mogilny’s first season as a Canuck, he scored 55 goals and added 52 assists for 107 points in 1995-96.  Mogilny’s point totals would keep decreasing each year thereafter and then in need of an offensive boost, the Devils traded for the right-winger.  He totaled six points in twelve games to finish out the season and had seven points (four goals) in the playoffs.  Two of the goals were critical to the Devils playoff run.  In his third postseason game as a Devil his one goal helped lead the Devils to a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.  His third goal of the playoffs was perhaps the biggest goal of his Devils career.  With the Devils trailing the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Final, the Devils were clinging to a 1-0 lead in Game 6 at the Continental Airlines Arena when Mogilny backhanded the puck beyond the reach of goaltender Brian Boucher.  The goal would hold up as the game winner and the Devils would eventually come back from what was once a 3-1 series deficit.  They would go on to defeat the Dallas Stars in six games to win their second Stanley Cup.

Mogilny became the first Devil to score over 40 goals in a regular season since Claude Lemieux scored 41 for New Jersey during the 1991-92 season.  With second-year center Scott Gomez as his primary line mate, Mogilny led the Devils with 43 goals, 7 of which were game winners, and finished with 83 points, second to Elias and his 96 points in the 2000-01 campaign.  He would add five goals and eleven assists in the playoffs to lead the Devils to their second consecutive Eastern Conference Championship.  It would end there for the Devils as they lost in seven games in the Finals to the Colorado Avalanche.  Mogilny left to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in the off-season  but did briefly return to the Devils during the 2005-06 season.

Alexander Mogilny scores arguably his most important goal for the New Jersey Devils:

March 19th, 2002: The Blockbuster

After the Devils fell one game short of defending their title, they struggled during the 2001-02 season.  At the deadline, the Devils record was 30-25-9-4 after 68 games.  Earlier in the season the Devils had fired Head Coach Larry Robinson and replaced him with Kevin Constantine.  The Devils were still in need of a spark and General Manager Lou Lamoriello made a blockbuster deal that would change the future of the franchise.  On the day of the deadline, Lamoriello sent Jason Arnott, Randy McKay, and a draft pick to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner.  Arnott, who totaled 245 points in 364 games with New Jersey, had been a member of the “A-line”, the most prolific line in Devils history alongside Elias and Petr Sykora.  He also scored the Stanley Cup clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2000 Finals against these same Stars.  McKay, a member of both Devils Stanley Cup winning teams, had been with the Devils since coming over from Detroit prior to the 1991-92 season.  He had put up 322 points in 760 games and added 42 points in 116 postseason games with Jersey’s Team before the swap was made.

Related: Jamie Langenbrunner and His Top Ten Moments With the New Jersey Devils

Both Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner, members of the Stars 1999 Stanley Cup winning team, were brought aboard to change the direction of the struggling team and their veteran presence would be heavily leaned upon.  Nieuwendyk scored 45 points during the 2002-03 season while Langenbrunner topped that total with 55 points, a new career high.  The 2003 postseason was a whole different story for the two players.  Langenbrunner would go on to lead the NHL in goals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs with eleven and complied eighteen points, tied for the league lead with teammate Scott Niedermayer.  As for Nieuwendyk, he totaled nine points during the team’s opening three rounds.  After aggravating an injury during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators, Nieuwendyk was found crying in the locker room by Head Coach Pat Burns.  Burns used the tears of his veteran center to inspire his team.  It would work as the Devils defeated the Senators 3-2 and would go on to defeat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Finals as the Devils won their third Stanley Cup title.

Nieuwendyk would leave New Jersey after winning his third Cup with his third different team (1989 Calgary Flames) but Langenbrunner would remain with New Jersey until midway through the 2010-11 season.  He captained the Devils from December 5th, 2007 until he was traded back to the Stars on January 7th, 2011.  He scored 385 points in 564 games and in the playoffs had a phenomenal total of 50 points in 68 games.  He also scored the last game-winning goal for the Devils at the Continental Airlines Arena after the Devils defeated the Senators in Game 2 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinals on April 28th, 2007.

March 10th, 2003: The Unsung Move

A day before the deadline, Lamoriello traded for Grant Marshall of the Columbus Blue Jackets and sent over a Conditional Draft Pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In one of the most unsung acquisitions of Lamoriello’s career, Marshall scored six goals and added two assists during the 2003 run to the Stanley Cup.  He scored the series clinching goal in triple overtime in Game 5 of their second round series against the Lightning.  He added a goal in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals to help the Devils go up three games to the Senators one.  His primary assist through the legs of defenseman Wade Redden directly led to Jeff Friesen’s game-winning goal in Game 7 of that series.  Marshall would score two more goals in the Finals against the Ducks.

Grant Marshall eliminates the Tampa Bay Lightning:

February 26th, 2008: A Future Captain Comes to the Garden State

In a trade with the St. Louis Blues, the Devils traded enforcer Cam Janssen and received defenseman Bryce Salvador.  Janssen had not played at all during the 2007-08 season with the Devils and only had one goal, along with 205 PIM, in 95 games in his career.  Salvador was in his seventh season with the Blues at the time of the trade.  Salvador would establish himself as a reliable shutdown defenseman and played a major role during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the underdog Devils marched all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.  After only notching nine assists on the score sheet during the season, Salvador scored four goals and added ten assists as the Devils went through their two archrivals, the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, to win their fifth Eastern Conference title. Salvador scored two goals against the Flyers and added another in Game 4 against the Rangers.  Salvador also forced a Game 6 in the Final by scoring the game-winning goal in the Devils first Stanley Cup Final victory at the Prudential Center.  The Devils would fall short in the Final as they lost in six games but Salvador re-signed with the Devils following the postseason.  Prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, Salvador became the tenth captain in the history of the Devils.

Bryce Salvador scores in Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings:

February 24th, 2012: Quality Over Quantity

Another key trade that led the Devils on their 2012 run to the Stanley Cup Final was the acquisition of Marek Zidlicky.  In a deal with the Minnesota Wild that signified how “quality” means more than “quantity,” the Devils sent over Kurtis Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux, and a pair of draft picks.  Those three players played in a combined total of 107 games for the Devils.  The most was Palmieri’s 78 games from 2009-10 until 2011-12 and he contributed a total of 25 points, the highest among the three.  Meanwhile Zidlicky became one of the Devils top offensive defensemen along with Andy Greene (and surprisingly Salvador) during the Devils stretch run and ultimately their run to the Final.  Zidlicky chipped in eight points during the remainder of the season as a Devil and notched a goal and eight assists during the postseason.  His two assists in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinal helped give the Devils a series lead over the Flyers.  Zidlicky’s lone goal was also important as it tied Game 4 at two apiece as the Devils won 4-2 to put the Flyers on the brink of elimination.  This season in 59 games Zidlicky has 8 goals and 21 assists for a total of 29 points which is third overall on the Devils and the highest point total among defensemen on the team.

Zidlicky: NHL Trade Deadline
Marek Zidlicky immediately became an important member of the Devils when he was acquired from the Wild near the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline (Jim O’Connor-US PRESSWIRE)

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With the deadline less than a week away, these are the Devils best deadline deals.  They ultimately led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals five times and helped raise three Stanley Cup Championship banners to the rafters.  What deadline deal will Jersey’s Team pull off this season?  Will it lead to a Cup run this spring or will it give the Devils a viable shot at the Cup in an upcoming season? Only “ice” time will tell.