The Devils are in a three-way tie for the second-fewest points this season. The Devils have eight players on the roster eligible for free agency and another two on the taxi squad and in the AHL with 100+ games on their NHL career resumes. You do the math.
New Jersey does indeed appear to be a seller with the NHL’s trade deadline less than a month away. And on TSN’s latest edition of Insider Trading, that was confirmed.
“I’m told the Devils have heard from pretty much every playoff or bubble team in the last couple weeks,” TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said. “They are the action team heading into the trade deadline. Kyle Palmieri is the big name–a pending UFA winger, who would be a catch for any team trying to add some offense.
“But, first order of primary is some point in the near future for the Devils to go to Palmieri’s camp and see if there’s a fit to sign an extension. Obviously, we know what happens if there isn’t.”
Palmieri, who as of the first period of Thursday’s contest with the Penguins, has had a slower season than the 30-year-old and six-year Devil is used to. In 25 games this season, he’s netted four goals and eight assists. He’s been the team’s leading scorer for four of the last five seasons. His cap, which would have a reduction in amount by around the time of the deadline, is currently $4.65 million, which may prove to be a pretty manageable number for contending teams. If the return is good enough, the Devils would be likely to retain some salary as well. General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald had to sell off Andy Greene and Blake Coleman a year ago–it’ll be interesting to see if he opts to go that way again.
Even with the youth movement going on with the Devils, there was reluctance in trading Palmieri at last year’s deadline when he might have fetched an even larger return due to having term left. So it would make sense that both sides remain open to a deal.
Other free agents on the club include forward, Nikita Gusev, who has struggled with his game this season after having a strong showing in his first season after playing nine seasons in the KHL. Travis Zajac, a veteran of 1,014 games, has played his entire career with the Devils and did not want to waive at last February’s deadline. You could wonder about the Islanders, who have cap space to accommodate part of Zajac’s $5.75 million in the wake of Anders Lee being shut down for the rest of the year after a torn ACL. It seems like it would have to be a near perfect fit to get him to waive his full No-Trade Clause, though teams will still be calling on the UFA center.
Ryan Murray, Sami Vatanen and Dmitri Kulikov are all on expiring deals as well and could be nice depth pieces for a team heading into the final stretch of the season and playoffs. Murray came to New Jersey in a then-Columbus cap dump trade, costing them a fifth round pick. Vatanen, who was dealt at last year’s deadline for a return package that included a young bright spot on the season, Janne Kuokkanen, opted to return to the team via free agency. Kulikov was signed in free agency as well and has developed some chemistry on a defense pair with P.K. Subban.
In net, Scott Wedgewood and Aaron Dell could be had at affordable prices and both carry cap dollars that won’t be too cumbersome. The goalie market has been somewhat competitive on waivers as of late and just might mean the longer the Devils wait to potentially sell in that area, the better it might be in getting a strong return.
More on this to come as the trade deadline is set for Monday, April 12.