Devils Primary Trade Targets

At the end of the All Star break the Devils sit firmly ensconced in second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 97% chance of making the playoffs. For the first time in at least five years the Devils will be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers. The greatest strength of the organization is its current depth both at the NHL level and in prospects/futures. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and his team have built a team, that when fully healthy, has no glaring holes which will allow him to deal from a position of strength. For more detail on what Fitzgerald has to work with click here for a guide to the Devils assets.

In the past, Fitzgerald had indicated that he wants to build this team for the future, but he is cognizant of the boost to morale in the room that adding to a team at the deadline brings. Fitzgerald has also spoken at length about his preference for players with term and that fit the age range of his current core and will be able to contribute throughout the now open window of contention. Philosophically, it makes sense to seek out the best available players with term, but the Devils should also look to short-term rentals to provide experience and depth.

The one caveat in the equation is the salary cap. The Devils are up against the cap which means Fitzgerald and staff will have to be creative in how they acquire players. Fortunately, after this season the Devils will have several salaries come off the books and have significant cap-flexibility. With that future space, it is likely that the Devils can find ways to make the cap work for the next few months should they choose to acquire players. One other factor is that each team is limited to a total of 50 standard player contracts at a time which impairs some flexibility in movement. For all cap details click here


The biggest need for the Devils is a prototypical power forward. A winger with size, who finishes both scoring chances and checks. The Devils spent the offseason getting heavier and grittier (Palat, Smith, Haula) which has helped make them more difficult to play against. Now they need a power forward to skate alongside either Nico Hischier or, more likely, Jack Hughes to round out the top six. The chatter around the league places the Devils as nominal favorites to acquire Timo Meier. Despite the fact several players are available, the deadline is shaping up to be Meier or bust, similar to the summer sagas of Jonny Gaudreau and Matt Tkachuk.  Fitzgerald proved then, and deserves the benefit of the doubt now, that he is able to pivot and find pieces that fit within his plan (Jon Marino, Vitek Vanecek, Ondrej Palat) without mortgaging the team's future.

Timo Meier is currently the top prize of the trade deadline. Meier is an elite winger whose combination of size and skill make him a perfect fit for every lineup. Meier, a Swiss national and former teammate of Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler, currently has 28 goals in 51 games for the Sharks. He also plays with an edge as shown by his 107 hits on the season, over 20 more than any Devils player. Meier has the speed to keep up with Hughes and the skill to both bury the chances provided by Jack and to clear space to allow for even better opportunities for Hughes. Both Hughes and Meier rank in the top four in shots on goal in the league.

While a partnership could result in less shots for each, with their shooting percentages it would likely mean more goals for both. Meier is the perfect fit and other than the untouchables (Hughes, Hischier, Hughes, Nemec, Hamilton, Vanecek & possibly Mercer) the Devils should spare no expense in acquiring him. Meier is under team-control for this year then becomes a Restricted Free Agent with a qualifying offer based on a 10-million-dollar salary. It's unlikely any suitor would qualify Meier so anyone acquiring him is doing so with the confidence that they can extend him long term. While not ideal, the Devils could absorb the qualifier and still have enough to sign their own RFAs, Bratt, and possibly little else but Fitzgerald has expressed confidence that free agents will want to sign with New Jersey to play with Hischier and Hughes in their prime.

Everyone Else - While for Devils fans anyone not named Timo Meier would be considered a disappointment there are other quality wingers with term that fit the Devils' needs. With the uncertainty in Vancouver Brock Boeser has been linked to the Devils and has the size (6'1" 208 lbs.) and scoring potential to be a top six player for New Jersey. The main benefit to Boeser is term-- he's signed at a reasonable 6.65 million for the next two seasons. Boeser has had a falling out with management in Vancouver and is likely to be dealt. The Devils have to evaluate if his lack of production this season is due to the issues with the Canucks or a sign of a player who has reached his potential.

In the last few days rumors that the Blues may make Pavel Buchnevich available should have piqued the interests of Devils management. Buchnevich fits all the requirements, he has size (6'3" 197 lbs.) and can play top six minutes and produce. He also has playoff experience and success having contributed 11 points in a 12-game run last season. Buchnevich is under contract at 5.8 million for the two years beyond this season and it is not clear that the Blues would move him but it incumbent on the Devils to find out. A player of Buchnevich's caliber and reputation would likely cost significant assets but at his cap charge and with his production not being far away from Meier it would be worth the cost.

The other situation to keep an eye on is in Florida. With the imminent return of Anthony Duclair, the Panthers will need to make a move to clear cap space. The most likely targets to be moved are Duclair, or one of the Sams, Bennett and Reinhart. Any of the three would be a good fit for the Devils and Associate Coach Andrew Brunette should be able to provide New Jersey with vital intel on how each would best fit. The Panthers sit three points out of a playoff spot but have two teams ahead of them all with games in hand. It is unlikely that there will be a mass selloff, but Florida may need to pry loose some space and the Devils should be opportunistic.


Fitzgerald has indicated throughout the season that he is not interested in acquiring rentals. Usually, rentals are reserved for teams going all in for the Cup. While the Devils have been in the top five in the league in points much of the season, they are unlikely to significantly mortgage the future for a player who won't contribute beyond this season and whom they would be unlikely to extend.

Vladimir Tarasenko is an interesting option and has been linked to the Devils in the past. Last season, the 31-year-old winger demanded a trade out of St. Louis, but none materialized largely due to his health. Tarasenko is risky because of persistent shoulder issues but his talent is undeniable. An All Star this season, he has scored at least 30 goals in each of the last six full seasons he has played and would likely be rejuvenated to play alongside the youth of New Jersey. He also brings significant playoff pedigree and the experience of winning a Stanley cup with the Blues. With his no-trade clause Tarasenko holds the cards but such a clause may be a benefit to the Devils as it may drive down the price.

Max Domi has flourished after signing a one year "prove-it" deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Many saw the signing as an investment by Chicago to flip Domi at the deadline to acquire futures in their rebuild as the careers of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews wind down. While the team has not been successful in the standings, Domi has put up impressive numbers to the point where Chicago may decline to move him and instead look to sign him to an extension and build around him. Domi is not a precise fit for the Devils but his snarl, and playoff experience could be attractive at the right price.

New Jersey native, James van Riemsdyk (33) would be a way to bolster the power play and add grit to the middle six. It is unlikely he could play top six minutes alongside Hischier or Hughes for extended periods of time, but van Riemsdyk is a useful player with a knack for scoring around the cage with significant playoff experience (71 games). His size (6'3" 217) is exactly what the Devils are looking to add for a playoff run. Dealing with the Flyers may be difficult and there will need to be salary retention but the Devils have the assets to get this done.

The Devils could also look to bolster their depth through rentals. It is possible that they could look for a depth defenseman but with their cap situation it is unlikely as once John Marino returns they will have Kevin Bahl and Nikita Okhotiuk as depth and by playoff time may have Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec available behind the starters.

Names of interest on the depth rental market include:

  • Gustav Nyquist (33) of the Blue Jackets. A versatile, experienced, (65 playoff games) forward who can play both wings and averages over .5 ppg for his career. A side benefit may be having the elder Swede as a mentor for Holtz, Zetterlund, and Boqvist.
  • Ivan Barbashev (27) news out of St Louis is that the Blues have reached an impasse and are unlikely to resign Barbashev. If so, the pending free agent becomes a very attractive rental with a lower cap hit than many of the similar players available. Barbashev can play all three forward positions and would be able to fill in anywhere in the bottom six. He has been unable to match his career year of last season but does bring 50 games of playoff experience.
  • Zach Parise (38) perhaps a nostalgic reunion is in the cards.  Parise is very familiar to Devils fans and could bring back speed, bottom six scoring, and tenacity at a nominal cost.  With Parise's 105 playoff games including the Devils 2012 run to the Finals, should the Islanders fall out of the race this makes too much sense to not get done.
  • Montreal is in a position to sell at the deadline and take on cap space.  Three players that could be in play for the Devils are Sean Monahan, Jonathan Drouin, and Evgeni Dadonov. Each has at least a limited no-trade and all have had injury issues this year but are worth keeping an eye on.

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