Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumors. This time we are looking specifically at the New Jersey Devils as the NHL Draft and Free Agency approaches. The Devils have been a team that has been talked about ever since the regular season ended. New Jersey holds the number-two overall pick at the NHL Draft coming up this Thursday. The Devils also have a ton of cap space heading into free agency with several holes to fill.
“My job is to improve this hockey club,” Fitzgerald said. “Not just in the near future, but for the long term to become a Stanley Cup contending team years after year. So we’re dealt all kinds of assets, whether it’s a player that’s developed in our system, whether it’s a free agent that we signed, whether it’s a draft pick, whether it’s a pick itself. My job is to improve the club as best I possibly can, using the assets the League has given us.”
As Fitzgerald mentioned prior to the trade deadline, he was looking to make a hockey deal to improve the Devils for the future. And that is a similar path he will be taking this summer as well. A lot of the big free agents are tied to signing with the Devils, but the question is, can they close the deal? Not to mention, the number-two overall pick is in play at the NHL Draft.
With the draft and free agency approaching quickly, let’s take a look at some players and trade options available to the Devils in this edition of NHL Rumors.
Number Two Overall Pick
The Devils are in a good situation heading into the draft. They are in a position to draft either Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley. However, this has been the most open Fitzgerald has been to moving the pick since taking over as general manager. It will be interesting to see what the Devils do in this position. There are multiple scenarios.
First, the Devils could select one of the top three players on the board. Add another young player to a group that already includes Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. The second scenario which is new, has been presented by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Friedman says the Devils could trade down in the draft, if they can’t move the pick for an active player, to select one of the defencemen. Either Simon Nemec or David Jiricek. The Devils are known as a more defensive team, so that would make sense. There is talk the Devils could lean that way if Slafkovsky, who they really like is taken at number one.
Friedman also notes that it has been 21 years since a team moved the second overall pick. There are questions if the Devils will actually move it for an active player. There are not too many players out there the Devils could move the pick for. Two players they have been tied to have been Alex DeBrincat and J.T. Miller.
With the Devils wanting controllable assets, you have to wonder if New Jersey is a little shy to pull the trigger on either one of those players considering they will both need extensions after this season. DeBrincat is in the age range the Devils like, as he is 24. While Miller is 29, a little older, but still in his prime. New Jersey’s pick is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
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An area that needs to be addressed is goaltending. There is so much uncertainty surrounding the position. Does the team have faith in MacKenzie Blackwood? Are they looking to move on from him? Or, do they want to bring in a legit backup to challenge Blackwood for the starter’s position? These are all scenarios that are likely as we approach the draft and free agency.
Don’t forget that Jonathan Bernier is still signed for another season at $4.125 million. However, with Bernier needing hip surgery, there is a possibility the Devils put his money on LTIR to open up some cap space. Or, they look to buy him out. If the Devils decide to move on from either Bernier or Blackwood, let’s see what options are out there.
Two names the Devils have been linked to recently in NHL Rumors have been Ville Husso and Jack Campbell. Husso is a player the Devils have liked for a while now. If the Devils decided to stay with Blackwood, Husso is a player that could challenge Blackwood for the starter’s role. As we saw this past season in St. Louis. Husso took the reigns from Jordan Binnington and was the starter for the Blues in the first two games against Minnesota in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Then there is Campbell. He has been rock solid these last couple of seasons as a backup and then taking over the starter’s role in Toronto. It all started back in Los Angeles for Campbell. The key will be for Campbell can he continue this high level of play with a defence that is on par if not worse than what he had in Toronto? Reports suggest the Devils will make a hard push for Campbell.
Then there are the free agents the Devils are linked to. Mainly, Johnny Gaudreau. The New Jersey native will have multiple offers on the table. New Jersey will make a hard push at him to add another dynamic punch to the lineup. However, as David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period noted on Sirius XM NHL Network Radio, “New Jersey is not a definite destination given where they are from a compete level perspective.” The big question for Gaudreau is, does he want to be on a team that will not be good for a few years? Is rebuilding attractive enough to sign a big-money deal or is winning and being on a contender the ultimate end game?
Even with the cap space, Jack Hughes’s new deal kicks in this season. Not to mention, the Devils need to sign restricted free agent Jesper Bratt. Bratt is in need of a new deal. According to several NHL Rumors, talks have continued between the Devils and Bratt. They are just not moving as quickly as fans like. But, they are happening. However, the last time the parties negotiated a new contract it took some time. If the Devils see Bratt as a part of their future, they will try to sign him to the term and the dollar amount they want. Bratt will try to get every dollar he can coming off a career season. It will all come down to term and dollars.
Which direction the Devils go will be key. However, with what Kevin Fiala just got on his extension, you most certainly know that will play a factor in these negotiations.
That does it for this edition of NHL Rumors featuring the New Jersey Devils. Stay tuned for more content with the NHL Draft and Free Agency quickly approaching.
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