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Are the New Jersey Devils involved in Erik Karlsson trade talks? They just might be.
No, not as a potential destination for the two-time Norris Trophy winner – rather as a facilitator to help him land with the conference winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning and Ottawa Senators are actively looking for a third party to take on a contract in order to make things work. There's talk the Devils could be that.
The Devils have more than $23 million in cap space with 19 players already signed to NHL contracts. There isn't much to spend on in free agency so it makes sense for them to try and weaponize their abundance of space via trade.
It's no secret Tampa Bay wants to win now. They'll try to rid themselves of an expensive player of lesser importance such as Ryan Callahan, who has two more years remaining at $5.8 million. I don't think the Devils would take that on without a really good asset coming back.
I think the more likely scenario is the Devils using their financial flexibility to land a useful player they actually want at a lesser cost. Think Tyler Johnson, who has six(!) more years left at $5 million per.
The 27-year-old forward has averaged 55 points per 82 games played throughout his career. He'd add some more secondary scoring, which the Devils need, and would right in with the team's style of play given his skating ability.
He's not a good defensive player but the Devils have enough defensive prowess up front to help insulate him.
Like most high priced Lightning players, Johnson does have no-trade protection and the right to block any deal. He'd need to be sold on coming to New Jersey. Perhaps an expanded role and joining a team with the 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner would be enough to do just that.
Now, the Lightning wouldn't hand Johnson over for nothing. The Devils would have to give them something. Whether that's a prospect, draft pick, and/or taking on additional money – such as Braydon Coburn, who has one year left at $3.7 million – I don't know. But the Lightning are not going to hand out a useful player for nothing like candy to kids on Halloween.
Ray Shero has made a habit of using financial flexibility to acquire top-6 forwards from cap strapped teams. He did it with Kyle Palmieri in Anaheim. He did it with Marcus Johansson in Washington. It'll be interesting to see if he can do it again.
Reviewing the Devils' 2018 draft class
Devils get excellent value at 17 with Ty Smith
Miles Wood drastically improved in 2017-18