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The New Jersey Devils have played once since January 19th, they're well out of the playoff race, and the trade deadline is just a few weeks away.
With that in mind, I figured now would be as good of a time as any to take your questions about the biggest stories surrounding the team and answer to the best of my abilities.
Let's get to it.
It's really hard to say. Hall does seem to enjoy playing in New Jersey and he comes off as the kind of guy who likes to see things through. In saying that, this season could make him think twice about sticking around long-term. The Devils clearly have a lot of work to do before they can be considered anything close to a Stanley Cup contender and you can't blame Hall if he doesn't want to sit around waiting for that. He is 27 years old. This is his 9th season in the NHL. And he's made the playoffs once. His only sniff of a Cup run he played on a massive, massive underdog that realistically never had much of a shot of accomplishing anything.
If I had to guess, I lean (slightly) towards him staying and taking the boatload of money Ray Shero and co. will offer him. It's far from a guarantee, though.
I look at the Max Pacioretty trade as a bare-minimum baseline of what the Devils could expect.
Pacioretty was a 29-year-old who produced 104 points in 145 games the final two seasons prior to being traded to Vegas. An extension came in short order, which surely helped, but he fetched a top-6 forward in Tomas Tatar, albeit at a low point, a marquee prospect in Nick Suzuki, and a 2nd round pick.
Hall is 27, he has 130 points in 109 games since the beginning of 2017-18, and he picked up a Hart Trophy along the way. If the Devils have to trade him, I'd think they'll be able to get a good roster player, a top end prospect, and a 1st round pick.
I'm sure a ton of teams would express interest but a few that stick out to me are Boston, Nashville, Vegas, Colorado, and (yikes) Edmonton.
Boston has been looking for more team speed and offense for a while. Nashville is seemingly in on every big name forward under David Poile. Vegas still has plenty of assets they can use on a big fish (I think they'll take a big run at Mark Stone if he becomes available) and Colorado is much the same. They're building up a war chest they haven't really dipped into yet. I don't know how likely the latter would be, or if it'd go over well with Hall, but I do know the Oilers are desperate for a player like him and they have assets (1st round picks, Evan Bouchard, Jesse Puljujarvi, etc.) that could entice the Devils if they do have to make a move.
Marcus Johansson – 2nd round pick + perhaps something small. If Shero can't get that, it's probably best to try and re-sign him while his value is lower than usual.
Brian Boyle – a 3rd round pick? Brings experience, leadership, size, all the jazz teams gearing up for a playoff run love. Will pop a goal once in a while and can play special teams.
Drew Stafford – late round pick. If he's traded, it'll be to a contender looking for a little insurance on the wing. Maybe someone like Calgary.
Ben Lovejoy – 3rd/4th round pick. More likely the latter, I think, but his underlying numbers are pretty good and veteran, right-handed defenders always have value at the deadline.
Keith Kinkaid – mid-round pick. The last couple months have been rocky but some team looking for help between the pipes will probably take a chance and hope he can rekindle last year's stretch-run magic.
That is probably aiming too high. People forget how good Travis Zajac is and was. He put up 42 points as a rookie. He has a couple 60+ point seasons to his credit. Even in decline, he's likely going to put up 40+ again this year for the third time in four years. I just don't know that Pavel Zacha can get there offensively. He is very good defensively and has really excelled on the PK but there's a lot of work to do at the other end. He is only 21 so it's too early to completely write him off but I think he might top out as a 3C, whereas Zajac was a fringe 1C/good 2C for a long, long time.
I very much doubt it. Not to say that they could never be traded, but young players under team control are not usually the kind of players retooling teams move – especially mid-season.
Will Butcher leads the defense in almost every important on-ice metric at 5v5 and is finally being given legitimate run in the top-4. Miles Wood is playing some of his best hockey right now alongside Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman.
If a great offer comes along, you consider it. But I don't think Ray Shero is shopping those guys, nor do I believe he should be.
I don't think we'll see Schneider at his best ever again. He was showing clear signs of decline before all the injury problems, which are only making things worse. I'd say it's much more likely he tops out as an average backup than it is he reaches a level similar to what Pekka Rinne returned to after his hip surgery.
Honestly, I don't see any way Panarin ends up playing for the Devils. It makes no sense to trade assets for him when he clearly wants to test the open market come July. If and when that happens, I'm sure the Devils will make a call but I don't think they're a team he will seriously consider. They're not a big market team, which is rumored to be important to him, they're not a warm weather team, and they're not a playoff team. There will be much more enticing options.
I touched on this one the other day
. I'd love to buy low on Andre Burakovsky. Has speed, size, skill and really encouraging underlying numbers. I think a change of scenery, and more consistent ice time, could do him wonders.
I think so. Even if they feel the ship has sailed and want to move on, I think they could re-up Mueller on the cheap and get some sort of asset for him. Nothing close to what they paid, of course, but acquiring a mid-to-late pick is better than letting him walk for nothing.
The hope is Boqvist develops into a top-6 forward. I certainly think he can. He has all the skill in the world and his production in the SHL is very encouraging. In my opinion, Boqvist has the highest ceiling in the system among forwards.
Unfortunately, I don't think any of the big fish – Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Artemi Panarin, etc. – are going to put much consideration into signing with the Devils.
It's price dependent, of course, but I think middle-tier wingers like Jakob Silfverberg or Gustav Nyquist could make sense and are much more realistic targets.
Swimming with the Sharks
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