The New Jersey Devils had lost faith in Russian center Sergey Kalinin and had not been able to trade him, so they placed him on waivers yesterday. Not long after it was announced he had cleared this afternoon, the trade they were looking for came together. The New Jersey Devils announced that they had found a trade partner in former GM Lou Lamoriello and the Toronto Maple Leafs and that Kalinin had been exchanged for defenseman Viktor Loov.
A new home for Kalinin is very unsurprising, and in fact was predicted in the Devils’ Deadline Primer. After showing some promise in the KHL at a young age and in his rookie year in North America in 2015-16, Kalinin seemingly hit a wall in his development this year. Kalinin has just four points in 42 games this season, and his valuable two-way game has disappeared. Kalinin was providing no value to a struggling New Jersey squad that would be better served to play younger players that actually have some potential. It was predictable that Kalinin would clear waivers, but also a shrewd move by GM Ray Shero to still get something for him.
By trading for Kalinin after he had cleared waivers, the Maple Leafs no longer have to worry about keeping him in the NHL. Kalinin is expected to report to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, and may not even see action with the Leafs before his contract expires at the end of the year. Kalinin gives Toronto a player who can be physical and has some big-league experience, but his numbers in 2016-17 inspire little confidence to give him substantial ice time down the stretch or in the postseason. The Maple Leafs’ fourth-line center Ben Smith hasn’t been much better this season, but he is just six games away from becoming Expansion Draft eligible and will likely hold on to his spot, at least for the time being. Kalinin will be a restricted free agent at year’s end and the Leafs could retain his services if they so choose.
And what of the return? Loov was a seventh-round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2012 and has exceeded his low expectations thus far in his pro career. The 24-year-old Swedish defenseman is having a down season though, after admirable efforts with the AHL’s Marlies in each of the past two years. Loov even skated in four games with Toronto in 2015-16, contributing two assists and a +4 rating. However, any defenseman unable to supplant the likes of Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak, even for just a few games, has a questionable future at best. Loov is a physical player who skates pretty well, but is a ways off from an NHL gig if he doesn’t work on his vision and puck-moving. Loov is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and New Jersey will use his performance from here on out with the AHL’s Albany Devils as a tryout to gauge if he warrants another contract.