- It has been widely reported that the New Jersey Devils are seeking to upgrade their forward corps by adding a top-six winger this deadline season. One option for the team could be St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman spoke on the 32 Thoughts podcast about this, stating that the Devils have had interest in acquiring Tarasenko in the past. Timo Meier’s name is also in the mix, but now it seems possible that the Devils could be targeting Tarasenko as well.
- Devils assistant GM Dan MacKinnon confirmed to NJ Advance Media’s Ryan Novozinsky that the plan is for defenseman Luke Hughes to turn pro once his season at Michigan comes to an end. The 19-year-old was the fourth-overall pick in 2021 and has 26 points in 25 games so far for the Wolverines. He’d be an intriguing option for New Jersey down the stretch and in the postseason as he’d definitely be another offensive weapon on their back end. MacKinnon also confirmed that 2020 first-rounder Shakir Mukhamadullin will join AHL Utica once his season with Salavat Yulaev of the KHL comes to an end. The 21-year-old has five goals and 15 helpers in 55 games so far.
After being up with New Jersey for more than a month on what started as an emergency loan, Nikita Okhotyuk’s time with the Devils has come to an end for now as the team announced (Twitter link) that the defenseman has been assigned to Utica of the AHL.
The 22-year-old got into ten games with New Jersey and saw action in a particularly limited role as he averaged under 12 minutes a night. Okhotyuk picked up his second career NHL goal earlier this month and also chipped in with 31 hits and nine blocked shots. He has been a bit more productive with the Comets, picking up two goals and four assists in 17 contests at the AHL level.
With this assignment, the Devils are down to just six healthy defenders on their roster. However, John Marino has been skating for a couple of weeks and was upgraded to day-to-day last weekend so it’s possible that he’ll be ready to be activated for their next game after the All-Star break against Vancouver. Otherwise, Okhotyuk or someone else will likely be getting recalled a little more than a week from now.
San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier could be one of the most in-demand names on the trade market as we inch closer to the deadline, and potential suitors for his services are starting to become clearer. On TSN’s Insider Trading program, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun revealed that he had interviewed New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald and that in the interview Fitzgerald confirmed the Devils’ interest in acquiring a top-six winger.
On Insider Trading, LeBrun added that Meier would “fit exactly what the Devils want” in a top-six forward, especially given that there is the potential for any team acquiring Meier to retain him beyond just this season. The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta noted that the Devils have not had any recent contract talks with pending RFA winger Jesper Bratt and his representatives. While Pagnotta did clarify that the Devils and Bratt still have a mutual interest in getting an extension hammered out, it is fair to wonder what kind of implications the team’s interest in Meier could have on Bratt’s future in New Jersey.
The Devils have yet to begin discussions regarding defenseman Ryan Graves, his agent Allain Roy confirmed to James Nichols of The Fourth Period. The 27-year-old is in the final season of a three-year, $9.5MM contract and has 16 points in 42 games for New Jersey so far this year despite seeing his playing time dip by nearly two minutes a night compared to 2021-22. He’s well-positioned to earn at least a small raise that could push him toward the $5MM mark on his next deal. At the moment, the Devils only have four regular blueliners signed for next season with Damon Severson joining Graves among the UFA-eligible defenders this summer. They already have nearly $19MM in commitments to the four they have so they might not want to keep both Graves and Severson in the fold for next season knowing those two could push the combined cost on their back end past the $30MM mark.
According to The Fourth Period, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are two clubs “interested in acquiring” the talented Swiss forward. Given the pending restricted free agencies of Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and K’Andre Miller, it’s possible that the Rangers may only be interested in Meier as a rental acquisition since the qualifying offer to retain his rights in the summer is set at $10MM. For the Devils, they could have the room to make Meier a more long-term part of their core, but one wonders if they have the type of young center to offer San Jose that could raise their bid above the trade offers of other teams.
- Devils breakout defenseman John Marino could be nearing a return to the ice, as head coach Lindy Ruff told the media (including team reporter Amanda Stein) that Marino’s status is now considered day-to-day. The 25-year-old blueliner has been out since the middle of December, but when he was playing he was one of the Devils’ best two-way defensemen. He’s scored nine points in 32 games this season and is averaging over 21 minutes per night.
Bastian, 25, hasn’t played since going down in November with an upper-body injury. The physical forward had eight points in his first 21 games of the year, while seeing regular time as a net-front option on the powerplay. He was averaging just under 10 minutes a night at even-strength but is a beloved part of the dressing room and an important energy player for the Devils. He’s also a key penalty killer, a role he will likely go right back to now that he’s ready to return.
For Foote, it’s the end of a rather uneventful call-up. The 22-year-old played in three games, but failed to record a point and received just five shifts in his most recent appearance. The 2019 first-round pick hasn’t been able to crack the league just yet, suiting up only 16 times in the NHL so far. Things have been rather inconsistent in the minor leagues as well, where he has 13 goals but just five assists through 33 games.
It appears as though Bastian will return to the fourth line with Michael McLeod and Miles Wood, an incredibly fast, physical group that can chip in offensively. After a bit of a slump, the Devils are red-hot again, and have won five straight. That pulls them within one point of the Carolina Hurricanes for the division lead and into a great spot in the Metropolitan playoff race.
- Another lengthy absence could come to a close this week, as New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff told reporters that winger Nathan Bastian is a possibility for Thursday’s matchup against Seattle. Bastian hasn’t played since sustaining an upper-body injury early in a November 26 game against Washington, leading to almost a two-month absence. The 25-year-old has eight points through 21 games after recording a double-digit goal total for the first time last season.
The New Jersey Devils have recalled another one of their young prospects, bringing Nolan Foote to the NHL for the first time this season. The minor league forward will be joining the team today at morning skate, giving them an extra body for tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Foote, 22, was selected 27th overall in 2019 by the Tampa Bay Lightning and joined the Devils organization in the Blake Coleman trade less than a year later. He’s only ever played professional hockey with this organization, and so far it has been an inconsistent ride. The 6’3″ forward burst onto the minor league scene in 2020-21 with 17 points in 24 games for the Binghamton Devils and made his NHL debut, recording two points in six games with New Jersey.
But the next season he wasn’t able to secure a full-time role, and once again spent most of the year in the minor leagues. A season with 32 points in 55 games for Utica followed, and another seven games in the NHL. This time, the stint with New Jersey went pretty well, with three goals and four points. Still, given how many talented forwards the team now has, Foote was unable to crack the roster in training camp and has been back in the AHL all season.
Through 33 games with Utica in 2022-23, Foote has 13 goals and 19 points. Good, but not quite the level of production many had expected of the first-round pick. At the very least he offers some more size, but the Devils are still waiting for Foote to really assert himself as a professional and force his way onto the NHL roster.
The move returns Schmid, 22, to a Comets team where he shares the crease with fellow goalie prospect Nico Daws. The Swiss netminder has had a bit of an odd season, as his numbers are poor at the AHL level but highly impressive in the NHL.
In eight AHL games, Schmid has a 4-1-3 record, a 2.72 goals-against-average, and a grisly .887 save percentage. On the flip side, in nine NHL games Schmid has gone 5-4 with a 2.24 goals-against-average and an impressive .919 save percentage.
One would typically expect a player to post better numbers at the lower level of competition, but that hasn’t been the case for Schmid. It’s highly likely that the state of the Devils, a team overflowing with competent defensive defensemen, played a role in Schmid’s numbers being better at the NHL level.
In any case, Schmid will head back to the AHL level looking to help Utica reach the playoffs. The team sits third in the AHL’s North Division and will hope to increase its lead on the two teams at their heels, the Laval Rocket and Syracuse Crunch.