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The New Jersey Devils finally return to game action tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
They'll enter play 15 points back of the Pens for the final Wild Card spot. No team in the league has fewer wins than the Devils. And the reigning MVP, Taylor Hall, remains out of the lineup with an injury.
It has become crystal clear the Devils are not going to be a playoff team this season. Far from it, which means they'll be selling when the trade deadline rolls around.
I'd imagine very few players on the pro roster are untouchable, however, the most likely to go are the pending unrestricted free agents: Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle, Ben Lovejoy, and Keith Kinkaid.
While Lovejoy is banged up right now, the other three names surfaced in the rumor mill for the first time on Sunday afternoon.
San Jose's potential interest in Johansson makes sense. They're legitimate Stanley Cup contenders who are always looking to buy and they could use another middle-6 winger. Replace Marcus Sorensen with Johansson and they could trot out a top-9 like this:
Meier - Couture - Pavelski
Kane - Hertl - Donskoi
Johansson - Thornton - Labanc
That's pretty scary. The tricky thing with the Sharks as a potential trade match is they're not going to want to part with roster pieces, they're short on quality picks, and their farm system isn't deep. I doubt they want to move on of the few notable prospects they do have for a couple months of Johansson. Maybe they'll meet New Jersey's ask but they strike me as a team where the Devils might be better served to buy low on their own player (keeping and extending Johansson) as opposed to working out a trade.
I could definitely see Brian Boyle on the Sharks. He is the respected, veteran, depth, power forward teams always covet at the deadline – especially in the West. Even low on picks, the Sharks could get this done if they really wanted to.
Keith Kinkaid is the most interesting part of the equation, though. The Sharks are 3rd in the NHL despite ranking dead last in 5v5 save percentage. Their goaltending has been absolutely horrendous this season. We know how much Kinkaid has struggled for *months* and yet he still has better numbers than each of San Jose's netminders.
I don't know that Kinkaid is the answer but it's hardly surprising the Sharks are sniffing around.
I'm really interested to see what, if anything, comes of the rumors surrounding these two sides. In order of likelihood to be dealt to San Jose, I'd rank the Devils as follows:
1. Brian Boyle
2. Keith Kinkaid
3. Marcus Johansson
We'll see what happens in the coming weeks.
Numbers via Corsica.Hockey
On Taylor Hall's future with the Devils
The Devils don't need to force Marcus Johansson out the door
What about Andre Burakovsky?
The Devils should trade Kinkaid prior to the deadline
On Hynes being extended by the Devils
Zacha's offensive play leaves little room for optimism
Predicting the Metro Division standings in 2018-19