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One of the New Jersey Devils' top priorities this summer is addressing the defense by adding another top-4 guy. At least it should be.
The Devils have allowed more goals than all but five teams over the last three seasons, and one of their long-time anchors – Andy Greene – is showing clear signs of decline.
They need help, and fast, if they're serious about a) making the most of all the talent they have playing for pennies on entry-level contracts and; b) showing Taylor Hall they're committed to competing sooner than later.
Unfortunately, the Devils missed out on arguably the best defender on the market in Jacob Trouba. Not only that, their biggest rival was the team lucky enough to scoop him up. Making the pill even tougher to swallow is the low price the Rangers paid to do so.
The 20th overall pick, realistically speaking, is at least two or three years away from playing in the NHL. Though the Winnipeg Jets are one of the stronger teams in terms of drafting, there's no gaurantee the player they choose amounts to anything of worth.
And if they don't hit on that pick...yikes. Neal Pionk has some offensive ability – particularly on the power play – but really struggles defensively and is laughably bad at defending the blueline through the neutral zone which, you know, is kind of important for a defenseman. Pionk turns 24 next month, too, so it's not like he is a spring chicken you can bank on legitimate improvements from.
The return just seems so underwhelming. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but Will Butcher is objectively miles better than Pionk regardless of the data you're looking at (top photo all three zones, bottom photo evolving-hockey's RAPM).
Packaging Butcher with 34th overall would have been a much better offer. Heck, throw in an extra 2nd round pick conditional on Trouba staying.
I don't think signing a big, big extension to stay in New Jersey would have been as far-fetched as some. It sounds like he just wanted to play for an American team (excerpt from Winnipeg Sun
“It’s a great opportunity for myself and my fiancée,” said Trouba, whose partner is about to start her residency in her quest to become a doctor. “Her career is as important as my career. We both are passionate about different things and our goal from a couple of years back was we wanted to make this work. And we decided we wanted to make this work. This is part of it, to be realistic with you.
So it’s not that Trouba has an issue with the Jets or Winnipeg in general, but playing in the United States makes his life easier on a number of fronts.
I know a deal including Butcher would make the Devils even weaker on the left side. I also know they'd be a better team with Trouba in the lineup, and it's not like Sami Vatanen or even Ty Smith (played a lot of RD in junior but spent some time at LD, too, and is left-handed) couldn't shift over to make things work if Ray Shero were unable to find another solution this summer.
It's been speculated some teams made better offers than the one the Jets ultimately accepted. Maybe that's true, and the Devils are among them. But when it comes to a player like Trouba who a) addresses a massive need and; b) is the right age to fit with the team's core long-term, you throw in a little more and erase any doubt your offer is the the top one.
I can't help but feel like the Devils missed the boat on this one.
On the Taylor Hall contract situation
Data tracking Hughes and Kakko at the Worlds
On the Devils' potential interest in Nikita Zaitsev
Four potential targets on TSN's trade bait board
Five pieces the Devils could use as trade bait this summer
Another word on Jordan Eberle
The Kaapo Kakko blog™
The Jack Hughes blog™