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New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero will likely, if not certainly, make a serious effort to add another top-6 winger this off-season – be it via trade, free agency, or any other avenue.
One possibility I've seen tossed around a lot, especially of late, is targeting pending UFA Jordan Eberle. On the surface, it makes sense.
His production was disappointing this season – at least prior to the playoffs – but he has consistently produced 20+ goals and 50+ points throughout his career.
He'd help address a lack of depth on the right side, he has a great relationship with Taylor Hall, and now has experience playing/living in the Metro area. He's also not a truly marquee free agent (like Artemi Panarin, Erik Karlsson, etc.) who is going to completely break the bank.
While I would not be surprised if the Devils made a pitch for Eberle, and do think he'd help (for a few years, anyway), he is not my preferred target.
On the trade market, Jason Zucker is the realistic name that stands out the most. He's productive, he's a couple of years younger, and his cap hit ($5.5M) will almost certainly be lower than whatever Eberle signs for.
In the upper-mid free agency market, I'm more enticed by someone like Gustav Nyquist.
He might not bring as much name-brand recognition to the table, or be a natural right winger (keep Jesper Bratt there if necessary) but there's an argument to be made he's the better player.
Over the last three seasons, Nyquist has averaged 1.93 points per 60 at 5v5. That ranks him 80th among more than 400 forwards to play 1,000+ minutes in that span – and ahead of notables like Mikko Rantanen, Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews, Dylan Larkin and, yes, Eberle.
If raw production is more your thing, Nyquist is tied with Alexander Radulov and Filip Forsberg for 38th in 5v5 points. The guy consistently produces in the game state where it is most difficult to do so.
Nyquist's analytical profile is also very strong. He's posted positive relative numbers across the board in four consecutive seasons. His impact on expected goals (and actual goals), in particular, has been impressive. He's posted better numbers than Eberle in those two areas three of the last four years.
Evolving-Hockey's Goals Above Replacement (GAR) numbers also paint Nyquist in a more positive light. Nyquist sits at +33.3 over the last four years, while Eberle comes in at +14.3.
If we shrink the sample size to two seasons for a more accurate representation of their current worth, Nyquist's GAR total (+17.2) is still much higher than Eberle's (+8.5).
They will probably come at a similar cost in July. I actually think Eberle will get a little more (perhaps in dollars and term).
If that's remotely true, and Shero wishes to do his shopping in free agency, I think Nyquist is the better bet.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com, Corsica.Hockey, and Evolving-Hockey.com.
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