The New Jersey Devils: Why the team has underachieved this season and who might be moved

Photo credit:© David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
1 month ago
The New Jersey Devils were supposed to be a contender this season, yet they find themselves six points out of a playoff spot with an additional game played. Goaltending has been the sore spot for the team, but losing an important defenceman in Dougie Hamilton to a long-term injury certainly hasn’t helped.
This is a series called Meet the Sellers. As the Edmonton Oilers are in a “Stanley Cup or Bust” year, we’re going to look at the teams who have no other aspirations this season other than adding some prospects and picks and jockeying for a better position in the 2024 Draft Lottery.
Before looking at the New Jersey Devils, let’s take a look at the needs of the Edmonton Oilers.
Second-pairing right-shot defenceman: Cody Ceci is a fine defender who has played significant minutes against elite competition but is the weakest line on the Oilers’ defence. If defence is an area that the Oilers wish to improve, the clear upgrade would be finding a different partner for Darnell Nurse.
Second-line winger: Finding a scoring winger for Leon Draisaitl is arguably just as important as upgrading the second pair. This season, the centreman has played alongside Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod, Evander Kane, and even Connor Brown, but hasn’t had a consistent duo on his side.
Right-shot defenceman depth: Last season, the Oilers had Jason Demers in the American Hockey League as a backup plan if a right-shot defenceman got injured. Thankfully, the Oilers remained relatively healthy that season and have barely missed any games from their defence this season, but they don’t have a veteran right-shot defenceman in the minors this year. It doesn’t help that Philip Broberg has missed time with an injury and could be out for two to three more weeks.
A “1B” goaltender: When I started this series, Stuart Skinner was in the midst of a fantastic stretch of games during the 16-game win streak. Since the loss against the Vegas Golden Knights, the netminder has an .858 save percentage in six games played. He needs a backup that can play as many games as him.
Third-line centre: The Oilers have a third line centre they’ve developed in Ryan McLeod, but if they wish to play him alongside Leon Draisaitl, there a few options available that can slot in as Edmonton’s new 3C, such as Adam Henrique of the Anaheim Ducks or Scott Laughton of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Who could the New Jersey Devils sell:

Although they trail the Detroit Red Wings by six points while playing an extra game, the Devils’ expectations heading into the season was that they would contend. They’re still in the race and if they trade for a goaltender (they’ve been linked to Jacob Markström and Juuse Saros), they could catch the Wings. If not, here are some assets they may be willing to move at the deadline.
Tyler Toffoli makes the most sense for the Devils to trade, as the 31-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent with a $4.25 million cap hit. This season, he has 25 goals and 42 points and is on pace for 35 goals and 59 points, with the former being a career-high if he hits it. Toffoli also has postseason experience, scoring 18 goals and 44 points in 88 games, with more than half of those games coming in two Stanley Cup runs with the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings and the 2020-21 Montréal Canadiens.
Curtis Lazar is a former Edmonton Oil King and was selected with the 17th overall pick in the 2013 draft. His career hasn’t transpired in a way you’d expect from a player around a lottery pick, scoring just 44 goals and 114 points in 506 games. Moreover, he’s never hit the double-digit goal plateau and has hit the 20-point mark just once. However, Lazar is a good two-way right-shot centre and is on pace to have a career year, scoring six goals and 19 points in 53 games. He’s on pace for 8 goals and 27 points. Lazar has a cap hit of $1 million until the end of the 2024-25 season.
Tomáš Nosek has only played 16 games this season and has been held pointless. However, he scored seven goals and 18 points in 66 games with the Boston Bruins during the 2022-23 season and is usually good for 15 or more points playing around 70 games a season. Moreover, only one team he’s played for (2016-17 Detroit Red Wings) have failed to make the postseason in his nine-year career. In the playoffs, he has six goals and 14 points in 52 games. Nosek is a pending unrestricted free agent with a $1 million cap hit.
Chris Tierney isn’t the player he used to be, scoring one goal and five points in 29 games this season. During the 2017-18 season, he scored 17 goals and followed it up the next season with 48 points, but he hasn’t hit double-digit goals since 2019-20, the same season he hit the 20-point plateau. Still, Tierney would be an inexpensive depth forward, as he’s a pending unrestricted free agent with a $775,000 cap hit.
Colin Miller could be a depth option for defence, as he has two goals and six points in 37 games this season, but he has numerous 20-point seasons and is good for over 10 points a season in his career. The right-shot defenceman plays on New Jersey’s third pair and has played 130.4 minutes against elite competition at five-on-five, along with a 76.9% goal share (10 goals for, three allowed.) Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent with a $1.85 million cap and has experience playing in the Stanley Cup final, having made it with the Golden Knights alongside Nosek.
Brendan Smith is a left-shot defenceman who is New Jersey’s seventh defenceman. This season, he has two goals and eight points in 40 games and plays similar minutes as Miller against elite competition. Depending on how long Broberg is out, Smith could be a solid option as a depth defender as he has a cap hit of $1.1 million with a contract that’s ending when the season is over.

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