The 2019 IIHF World Championship will begin next month, and Hockey Canada has finally announced their roster for the tournament. 22 players were named to the group (that could be increased to 25), including many that have represented the team at international events in the past. The full roster is as follows:
The New Jersey Devils got some good news on the injury front as defenseman Mirco Mueller was recently released from the hospital after taking a scary hit Wednesday against Calgary, which required him to be stretchered off, according to NJ.com’s Chris Ryan.
Mueller stated that the injury won’t keep him out long-term. Head coach John Hynes stated that Mueller didn’t suffer any significant head or neck injuries and Mueller would likely play again this season. Mueller has played a career-high 47 games this year, putting up a goal and 10 points.
- With Jakub Voracek already out, the Philadelphia Flyers lost another forward as Nolan Patrick was hit in the head with a shot and is unlikely to return to the game against the New York Islanders, according to Philly.com’s Sam Donnellon. Patrick has had a rough few days as he was boarded by New Jersey’s Kurtis Gabriel Friday, which cost Gabriel a one-game suspension. No word on how serious the injury is.
- The New York Islanders played without forward Matt Martin today, who is out with an upper-body injury. However, Newsday’s Andrew Gross reports that Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said that the injury isn’t long-term and that he was a real possibility to play today. Martin, a key bottom-six forward, has five goals and 13 points in 52 games this season.
- One downside to the Philadelphia Flyers trading away the physical Wayne Simmonds is that teams are taking advantage of them more on the ice, according to Sam Carchidi of Philly.com. Nolan Patrick was hit hard into the boards by New Jersey’s Kurtis Gabriel, who got a one-game suspension for the hit, but the team knows it has to show that they are physical even without Simmonds around. “But we’re still the same team. We still stick together,” Travis Konecny said. “I think Simmer left a lot of that with us. He taught us young guys to stick up for our teammates.”
- With the impressive play of New Jersey Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood, the team might have an opportunity for him to compete for the Calder Trophy next season. Blackwood has appeared in 15 games for New Jersey, but with just 16 games remaining in the season for the Devils, The Athletic’s Corey Masisak writes that if Blackwood plays in 10 or fewer games, he’d be eligible for the Calder Trophy next year.
With the trade deadline upon us, roster restrictions have now been lifted so there should be an influx of recalls today. On top of that, there should be plenty of “paper transactions” post-deadline as teams send down and then recall players in order to preserve their AHL postseason eligibility. Only players on AHL rosters at 3pm ET are eligible to play in the league’s playoffs. While all eyes are on the deadline, today is also one of, if not the, busiest day of the season for minor transactions. Try to keep up right here:
- The Canadiens announced the recall of winger Dale Weise from Laval (AHL). He was sent down last week to accommodate the return of Paul Byron from IR but this move was expected with the 23-man roster limit now removed. Weise played in three games with the Rocket, scoring twice. He will likely battle for fourth line ice time down the stretch.
- The Devils have shuffled their forward group, announcing that they have sent wingers Joey Anderson and Brett Seney to AHL Binghamton while recalling forwards Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, and John Quenneville. Anderson has just three points in 19 NHL games this season while Seney has spent the bulk of the year in New Jersey, collecting 13 points in 50 NHL contests. McLeod, a 2016 first-rounder, has played just once with the big club this season but sits second on Binghamton in scoring and should now get a longer look to assess his development. Bastian has also played just once in New Jersey but leads Binghamton in goals with 17 in 56 games. They also announced that goalie MacKenzie Blackwood has been recalled from Binghamton following the trade of Keith Kinkaid, as well as defenseman Egor Yakovlev, with Eric Gryba heading back to the AHL.
- For the time being at least, the Senators have re-assigned defenseman Cody Goloubef, centers Logan Brown and Filip Chlapik, and winger Drake Batherson to Belleville of the AHL, per a team announcement. The team also made forward Rudolfs Balcers and defenseman Christian Wolanin paper transactions for the inevitable reality of last-place Ottawa having an early end to their season, but Belleville continuing on to the postseason.
- The Flyers have brought back defenseman Samuel Morin from his conditioning stint with AHL Lehigh Valley. He has been working his way back from ACL surgery from an injury sustained in the minor league playoffs back in May and played in a pair of games with the Phantoms. It’s likely that Morin won’t be thrown into action with Philadelphia right away but with the roster limit gone, they can have him on the active roster from here on out. The team also made defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Corban Knight paper transactions. The young Myers was the top defender for the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantom prior to his recall, while Knight is an experienced AHLer who can lead a team. Their return for the postseason would be a major boost for the Phantoms.
- The Nashville Predators have recalled Matt Donovan from the AHL, placing Dan Hamhuis on injured reserve. Donovan is leading all Milwaukee Admirals defensemen in scoring with 29 points through 55 games, but hasn’t played an NHL game since 2014-15.
- Christian Dvorak has officially been recalled from his conditioning stint with the Tucson Roadrunners, meaning he’ll be back on the ice for the Arizona Coyotes soon. The young forward has missed the entire season up to this point, but could give the Coyotes a much needed offensive boost down the stretch.
- Matt Luff was recalled by the Los Angeles Kings today, only to be returned to the AHL’s Ontario Reign later on alongside Michael Amadio. It’s unclear if this move was intended for AHL postseason means, seeing as the Reign are in last place in the entire league and aren’t going to be heading to the postseason.
- The Vancouver Canucks have returned goaltender Marek Mazanec and forward Zack MacEwen to the AHL’s Utica Comets, the team announced. Mazanec’s demotion is good news for the Canucks; Thatcher Demko has been cleared for action and will dress for the Canucks as the backup tonight.
- Teddy Blueger has been reassigned to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, but could be on his way back up shortly. With Tanner Pearson shipped out of town, Pittsburgh needs another forward and Blueger has been the next man up. He should get a chance at regular minutes down the stretch.
- Collin Delia will return to the minors upon the activation of Corey Crawford, Chicago announced. Delia has performed admirably in net during Crawford’s absence and even earned a contract extension with his play, but needs the starts available in the AHL rather than sitting behind Crawford and Cam Ward.
- With the Toronto Maple Leafs trading away Par Lindholm today, stating their desire to open up regular NHL minutes for Trevor Moore, it is no surprise that Moore was an emergency recall by the team. Moore has been the epitome of consistency through his time with the University of Denver and AHL Marlies and now hopes to bring that same dependable production to the NHL.
- The Arizona Coyotes made a pair of paper transactions, assigning defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin and forward Conor Garland to the AHL’s Tuscon Roadrunners – to ensure their AHL postseason eligibility – and then called them back up.
- The Carolina Hurricanes followed suit, making forwards Saku Maenalanen and Warren Foegele paper transactions, so that they may compete with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers if need be.
- The Dallas Stars are without Mats Zuccarello after just one game with the trade addition. To fill his roster spot for the time being, the team has recalled Denis Gurianov from AHL Texas. Gurianov has shown flashes, but inconsistency in the pros, but now Dallas needs him to be a reliable option over the next four weeks.
- Daniel O’Regan seemed like a likely trade candidate as a young impending free agent who has not been a fit in Buffalo. The Sabres even showcased him this past week, but to no avail. The deadline has come and gone and Regan is still a Sabre, or more accurately a Rochester American after being demoted today. Tage Thompson was a paper transaction for the club.
- Dylan Sikura was made a paper transaction by the Chicago Blackhawks, as well. While the team would like to see what he can do in the NHL over the next month, the Blackhawks are trending away from the postseason, making Sikura’s best bet at postseason play a return to the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. The move today maintains his eligibility to do so.
- The Colorado Avalanche made dependable depth forward Sheldon Dries a paper transaction, but the reassignments of fellow forwards A.J. Greer and Andrew Agozzino were not just formalities. The pair will head back to the AHL’s Colorado Eagles, having presumably lost their roster spots to the healthy Colin Wilson and the acquisition of Derick Brassard.
- Goaltender Harri Sateri, defenseman Filip Hronek, and forward Filip Zadina were all made paper transactions by the Detroit Red Wings. Sateri and Hronek are currently filling in as injury replacements and will likely return to the AHL for real in short time, but Detroit wants to see what top prospect Zadina can do in the NHL down the stretch. The Red Wings surely won’t be making the playoffs though, so they made sure the trio can all still experience a postseason run this year.
- The Edmonton Oilers made veteran minor league forwards Brad Malone and Josh Currie paper transactions. The duo is currently helping out in the NHL, but with the Oilers’ playoff hopes all but dead, their major role the rest of the way will likely be as experienced leaders guiding the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors into the postseason.
- Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, and new addition Ryan Donato were all made paper transactions today by the Minnesota Wild. The trio is very much part of the Wild’s immediate plans this season, as well as their future, but Minnesota may not make the playoffs this year and the forwards could benefit from making a run with AHL Iowa.
- New York Islanders defenseman Devon Toews was another paper transaction. Toews has carved out a role for himself with the club, which currently leads the Metropolitan Division, but should be be available to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers come playoff time, a return to the team at a critical time would only further his development.
- Lukas Radil was a paper transaction for the San Jose Sharks today. The Sharks are hoping to make a deep playoff run this year, but on the off chance that doesn’t materialize, the experienced forward Radil would be of benefit to the AHL Barracuda.
- The Vancouver Canucks currently have defensemen Ashton Sautner and Guillaume Brisebois on the roster as the team battles injuries. However, to make sure the AHL’s Utica Comets were not stripped of two of their top defenders this season, Vancouver made the pair paper transactions today.
- The Winnipeg Jets announced that they have reassigned defenseman Tucker Poolman to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose today. The move was expected after the Jets traded for not one but two defenseman today. The move also serves to ensure Poolman can play in the AHL postseason if need be. The same goes for forward Mason Appleton, who was also sent down.
- Peter Cehlarik and Karson Kuhlman have both been returned to the AHL’s Providence Bruins, but it remains unclear if this is a paper transaction or an actual move by Boston. With the deadline passed and roster restrictions nullified, one would think that Cehlarik and Kulhman – who have both player regular minutes for the Bruins of late – would be back up. However, no such move has been made and perhaps the team simply wants to give the duo some more ice time in the minors now that their NHL roster includes several more veteran members up front.
- The Anaheim Ducks have demoted defenseman Andy Welinski and forward Sam Steel in favor of defenseman Korbinian Holzer and goaltender Angus Redmond. The move may have something to do with AHL playoff eligibility, but more than anything it is about Redmond’s recall. The Ducks, who continue to struggle with injuries in net, will dress Redmond as their backup tonight with Ryan Miller sidelined with a lower-body injury. It is the first NHL experience for a keeper who has played almost exclusively in the ECHL as a pro.
The New Jersey Devils announced they have terminated the conditioning loan of goaltender Cory Schneider and have recalled the veteran netminder. To make room for him, the team has assigned promising goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood to the Binghamton Devils of the AHL.
Schneider returns home after showing improvement in his most recent conditioning stint, as he has allowed just five goals over the past two games with Binghamton this weekend, including picking up a big shutout win Saturday over Belleville in which he made 24 out of 26 saves. Schneider has struggled with injuries and success this season. Even with his improved performance this past weekend, he still has a 3.24 GAA and a .881 save percentage with Binghamton over eight games. His numbers in New Jersey have been even worse with a 4.66 GAA and a .852 save percentage. The hope is that he’s starting to recover from his abdominal strain and might be ready to serve as the team’s backup goaltender. The 32-year-old still has another three years on his contract at $6MM per season.
As for Blackwood, the team’s future might have to wait some time longer. Blackwood’s impressive play with New Jersey this season has given him the title of goaltender of the future. The 22-year-old has a 2.37 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 13 appearances. There is talk that the team may look to trade Keith Kinkaid, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, at the trade deadline, which would allow the team to officially make Blackwood the team’s starter. For now, Blackwood will have to settle for the starting role in Binghamton, where he was recently played at the AHL All-Star game and will bide his time till an opportunity presents itself.
Just one more day of a limited NHL schedule until things get back to normal, but there are still three games to look forward to tonight. Perhaps the most interesting battle will be when the Columbus Blue Jackets travel to frigid Winnipeg to take on the Jets in a battle of Stanley Cup contenders. As always, we’ll keep track of all the minor moves around the league right here.
- As expected, the New Jersey Devils have brought Mackenzie Blackwood back to the NHL. Blackwood has been recalled from the minor leagues while Cam Johnson, who was up over the break, will be sent back down. Blackwood was given the opportunity to play in the AHL All-Star game over the weekend, but will be back up with the Devils down the stretch.
- Devon Toews and Michael Dal Colle are both on their way back up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The pair of top prospects will rejoin the New York Islanders as they attempt to make it back to the playoffs this season. Dal Colle is finally getting his chance to show what he can do at the NHL level after struggling since his fifth-overall selection in 2014.
- Mackenzie MacEachern has been recalled by the St. Louis Blues, but surprising Sammy Blais is not coming with him. That suggests that Robert Thomas is close to returning for the Blues, who take on the Blue Jackets Saturday night.
- The Carolina Hurricanes have recalled Haydn Fleury once again, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re trading a defenseman. Fleury has spent much of the season in the press box for the Hurricanes, sitting as an extra behind their deep blue line. The 22-year old has also dealt with injury, but has now suited up just 25 times between the NHL and AHL this season.
- Michael Amadio has been recalled by the Los Angeles Kings, giving the team 23 players again as they prepare for action against Islanders on Saturday night. Amadio has just four points in 28 games with the Kings this season. The team has also recalled Sean Walker and Austin Wagner once again.
- The Montreal Canadiens have recalled Karl Alzner once again, bringing up the veteran defenseman in time for their weekend action against the Devils and Oilers. Alzner has suited up just nine times for the Canadiens this season, after seeing his eight-season iron man streak end at the beginning of the year.
- Colin Blackwell is back with the Nashville Predators and looking for a chance to get some more NHL action under his belt. The 25-year old has played in three games for the team this season but hasn’t been able to record a single point so far.
- Jake Dotchin has been sent back down to the AHL by the Anaheim Ducks, as the team has recalled Jaycob Megna. Dotchin hasn’t been able to establish himself as a full-time option for Anaheim yet this season, playing just 20 NHL contests.
- The Arizona Coyotes have recalled Kyle Capobianco from the minor leagues, likely as insurance for a banged up Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Capobianco has 32 points in 40 games for the Tucson Roadrunners but has played just a single contest for the Coyotes in his NHL career.
Despite rumors that he might want to sign with the New York Rangers and talk that he loves playing in Columbus, it looks like Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin still hasn’t started negotiating with Columbus. In fact, Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports that the agent for Panarin, Dan Milstein said he wants another meeting with his client before he lets Columbus know whether he’s willing to negotiate a contract extension with the Blue Jackets.
Milstein and Panarin met in Miami over the weekend, but Portzline writes that the two will need a second meeting to discuss their what their next step will be. Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has been unwilling to sign an extension in Columbus with rumors that he wants to move to a city that can give him more exposure. However, Panarin has fit in well with Columbus and has said that he enjoys playing there.
The 27-year-old would be one of the most intriguing free-agent options if he chooses to test the open market as he’s having another strong year with 19 goals and 53 points in 46 games and could even break some of his career-highs if he can keep those numbers up. Even if Panarin opts not to negotiate a deal with Columbus, the rumor is that the Blue Jackets would keep him for their playoff run this year. Columbus is currently in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points.
- NHL.com’s Amanda Stein reports that star forward Taylor Hall practiced on his own today, but it looks unlikely he will join the team on their road trip to face Pittsburgh on Monday. Hall has been out since Dec. 23 with a lower-body injury and missed the All-Star game because of it. However, the team was hoping the Hart Trophy winner would be ready after the break, which he apparently isn’t. Stein adds that head coach John Hynes said that Hall is progressing, but isn’t healing as quickly as originally thought.
- The New Jersey Devils also made several roster moves today, but didn’t recall goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood. NHL.com’s Amanda Stein reports that the Devils had already decided to go with Keith Kinkaid in goal on Monday. So New Jersey decided to recall Cam Johnson instead, so Blackwood could play in the AHL All-Star Game. The team didn’t want Blackwood to miss the opportunity while sitting on the bench as the team’s backup.
- While the New York Rangers recalled goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and forward Boo Nieves from Hartford earlier today, it’s been noted that the team didn’t bring back defenseman Ryan Lindgren, but much of that could be because defenseman Neal Pionk might be ready to return to the lineup. Pionk has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, but the 23-year-old was practicing today with the team along with Kevin Hayes, according to New York Post’s Larry Brooks. Hayes has been out since Jan. 2.
After sending out a letter, telling fans that the team intends to rebuild last February, the New York Rangers rebuilding project is well underway, but The Athletic’s Shayna Goldman (subscription required) writes that there is one problem the team has — they aren’t losing enough.
One key aspect of a rebuilding team is to pick up top prospects and the best way to do that is through the entry draft. However, with the team’s 21-20-7 record this season under new head coach David Quinn, their 49 points would give them the 22nd best record in the league, which would not give them a chance at super prospects Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko next season. While there is never a guarantee to picking up a top pick due to the draft lottery, had the team just five points fewer, 44 points would have put them 30th.
Of course, if New York trades off more players at the deadline such as Kevin Hayes or Chris Kreider, the team may continue to drop in the standings and improve their chances at a top pick. However, it could have a negative effect on the team’s environment that Quinn has developed this season.
- Andrew Gross of Newsday writes that despite the layoff, neither defenseman Thomas Hickey and winger Andrew Ladd of the New York Islanders have a timetable to return and remain on injured reserve. Hickey, who has been out with an upper-body injury since Dec. 17, could be out for some time as head coach Barry Trotz said the defenseman will need four or five practices before being able to play, which could mean he may not be back into the lineup until mid to late February. Ladd, who has been out with a lower-body injury and has been out since Nov. 15, and also may not be back until late February.
- NJ.com’s Chris Ryan analyzes the New Jersey Devils’ roster, looking at what players should stay and go and while even a few months ago, goaltender Keith Kinkaid was considered to be a key piece to the Devils’ success after proving last year that he can handle the full-time job well, it’s likely time to move on from the 29-year-old, who has struggled quite a bit of late. Kinkaid, who is in the final year of a two-year, $2.5MM deal he signed in 2017, has struggled this year with a 13-14-6 record, a 3.10 GAA and a .899 save percentage. Throw in the fact that MacKenzie Blackwood looks like the team’s long-term starter and the fact that the team can’t move Cory Schneider due to his lengthy and expensive contract and Kinkaid is likely to be looking for a new team this summer.
- The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor (subscription required) answers mailbag questions, pointing out that the Philadelphia Flyers are likely to bring up more prospects over the next several months. The team will likely recall defenseman Philippe Myers at some point this season. O’Connor writes that Myers has been playing impressive hockey with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL for the past two months and looks to be a player ready to take over a spot on Philadelphia’s defense next season. To ensure that, the Flyers will need to bring him up and give him some playing time this season.
While the NHL All-Star Game has to deal with players pulling out due to injury, the AHL contest also has to deal with players being recalled at a moment’s notice. That forces the league to replace players regularly, and today they’ve added four new names to the upcoming event.
Jordan Szwarz, Christian Wolanin, Nathan Gerbe and Cooper Marody have all been added, given the lack of availability for Ryan Fitzgerald, Lawrence Pilut, Zac Dalpe and Conor Garland. Wolanin was just sent down by the Ottawa Senators today, just in time to play in the AHL even that takes place on Sunday and Monday. The full rosters now sit as follows:
F Greg Carey, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
F Michael Dal Colle, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
F Colin McDonald, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
F Anthony Greco, Springfield Thunderbirds
F Andrew Poturalski, Charlotte Checkers
F Jordan Szwarz, Providence Bruins
F Drake Batherson, Belleville Senators
F Alex Belzile, Laval Rocket
F Reid Boucher, Utica Comets
F Cory Conacher, Syracuse Crunch
F Nathan Gerbe, Cleveland Monsters
F Trevor Moore, Toronto Marlies
F John Quenneville, Binghamton Devils
F Joel L’Esperance, Texas Stars
F Daniel Carr, Chicago Wolves
F Denis Gurianov, Texas Stars
F Jordan Kyrou, San Antonio Rampage
F Cal O’Reilly, Iowa Wild
F Chris Terry, Grand Rapids Griffins
F Logan Shaw, Manitoba Moose
F Andrew Agozzino, Colorado Eagles
F Joseph Gambardella, Bakersfield Condors
F Cooper Marody, Bakersfield Condors
F Curtis Lazar, Stockton Heat
F Francis Perron, San Jose Barracuda
F Sheldon Rempal, Ontario Reign
F Troy Terry, San Diego Gulls
Today marks the last day of game action for many teams across the NHL before their mandated “bye week”, which runs seven days long this season to include All-Star weekend. Among those getting set for the hiatus are the Central Division-rival Jets and Stars, squaring off in Dallas later, and the Rangers and Bruins, in their first meeting of the season in Boston tonight, as well as the Devils and Lightning, who each host a Western Conference foe before taking time off. Expect several of these teams to make last-minute changes today, while the remainder of the league gets ready for another week of action:
- The New Jersey Devils have made a flurry of moves, highlighted by placing forward Miles Wood on the injured reserve with a lower-body injury. His retroactive placement will allow Wood to return to the lineup in the Devils’ first game back from the break, if he is ready. New Jersey also reassigned Blake Pietila to the AHL’s Binghamton Devils, leaving the team in need of two replacement forwards. They have elected to recall veteran enforcer Kurtis Gabriel and young power forward Nathan Bastian. It is unclear right now which one will suit up for the Devils today in their matinee against the Anaheim Ducks, but it would be Bastian’s NHL debut if he gets the call.
- Following their 3-2 loss to Anaheim today and the fact that the team heads out on their bye week and don’t play again until Jan. 28, the Devils announced another group of roster moves, sending Bastian, Kevin Rooney, defenseman Egor Yakovlev and goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood to the Binghamton Devils of the AHL to get playing time. The team also announced they have activated goaltender Cory Schneider from injured reserve. Bastian played 9:32 in his NHL debut.
- Colin Blackwell has been called up by the Nashville Predators, the team announced. It marks the first career recall for the former Harvard University forward, who was highly productive in the AHL last season with the Rochester Americans and signed with Nashville as a free agent this summer. Blackwell will look to make the most of his first opportunity with the team if given play time in his first call-up.
- The Ducks announced that they’ve recalled center Sam Carrick from San Diego of the AHL. The 26-year-old is tied for the Gulls’ lead in team scoring with 37 points in just 32 games. He suited up in three games with Anaheim earlier in the season, his first NHL action since the 2015-16 campaign. To make room for him on the roster, winger Ondrej Kase was transferred to injured reserve.
- The Hurricanes have sent center Clark Bishop back to Charlotte of the AHL, per a team release. He recently was cleared to return from a lower-body injury suffered early this month but he’ll work his way back into playing shape at the minor league level instead. Bishop has three points in 20 games with Carolina so far this season.
The New Jersey Devils surprised the world last season by fast-forwarding their rebuild and making the playoffs. However, that success was fueled by an MVP effort from Taylor Hall and a surprising takeover in net by Keith Kinkaid. The 2018-19 campaign has been a little different; Hall has battled injuries and is currently on a scoring pace far below his 93 from last year and Kinkaid has struggled greatly in goal. Elsewhere in the lineup, injuries and under-performing players have sunk the Devils season, as a career campaign from Kyle Palmieri and the emergence of now-injured MacKenzie Blackwood have not been enough to keep them in the playoff picture.
The question for GM Ray Shero and company now is whether to chalk the season up to a minor setback or consider last season the outlier and return to their rebuild. During a radio segment on TSN 1290 in Winnipeg yesterday, Darren Dreger stated that he feels the team will opt for the latter and are ready to move out several pieces. Just a year after being one of the more active buyers on the trade deadline market, acquiring both Michael Grabner and Pat Maroon, it appears the Devils could instead be major sellers this season.
Dreger noted that the likes of Hall and Palmieri, signed for one and two more years respectively, are nevertheless untouchables, while Sami Vatanen, considered the team’s No. 1 defenseman, is also part of that group. Of course, the team’s many young roster players are also part of the long-term solution and most likely won’t be dealt away either.
Yet, that still leaves a long list of intriguing trade options, perhaps none more so than the aforementioned Kinkaid. Despite having a down season this year, Kinkaid was already considered a high-end backup prior to his breakout last year and would now certainly have value on the trade market for teams in need of an upgrade to their goaltending depth. An impending free agent making just $1.25MM, Kinkaid is affordable and risk-free to any team willing to acquire him. With 22-year-old Blackwood and the virtually immovable contract of Cory Schneider on the books moving forward, Kinkaid may not have a role with the Devils moving forward and the team is likely to get what they can while they can. The same goes for forward Marcus Johansson, whose injury struggles have kept him from being a difference-maker over two years in New Jersey and have almost certainly ruled him out of the team’s future plans as an impending free agent, barring a discounted contract. Although his health concerns could drive down his price on the trade market, Johansson’s offensive upside is worth more to a contender than it is to the Devils down the stretch and they could seemingly find a taker so long as his current injury is not considered season-ending. Reliable veterans (and prototypical deadline rentals) Brian Boyle and Ben Lovejoy also seem likely to move. Boyle, one of the biggest forwards in the league and a defensive specialist, is also on pace to approach his career high of 35 points this season. While he has been embraced completely by the Devils faithful and plays an important locker room role, Boyle should still be dangled at the deadline if the team is truly committed to adding pieces to their rebuild. Boyle could always re-sign with the team as a free agent. There won’t be a similar attachment to Lovejoy, who is as solid as they come as a stay-at-home defenseman and penalty killer, but merely stands to block New Jersey’s budding defensive depth. Lovejoy will be very valuable to a contender as a depth addition on the blue line and is as good as gone at the approaching deadline.
Where things begin to get interesting is whether or not the Devils would – or could – move long-time teammates and locker room leaders Andy Greene and Travis Zajac. Greene, 36, is signed for one more year and Zajac, 33, is signed for two more years, both with salaries that aren’t great on paper, but look better in the midst of bounce-back season. Both veterans have been around the team since 2006-07 and are entrenched in Devils culture. However, if New Jersey is committed to a rebuild, this is likely their best time to get rid of one or the other and get a substantial return back. Zajac has been more involved in the offense this season than he has in years and could potentially reach 50 points for the first time since 2009-10. He has also been automatic at the face-off dot and plays a smart two-way game. A number of teams might be willing to take on the remainder of his contract this season, but might not be as willing the next time around if he regresses in the second half or next season, well within the realm of possibility. The same goes for Greene, who needs just one point for a new season high over the past four years. Greene continues to play big minutes for the Devils, is an elite shot blocker, and an experienced, intelligent presence in his own zone. His game is not without flaws, but just when it looked like he was really slipping over the past couple of seasons, Greene has bounced back this year. His value at the deadline this season, as a year plus rental, will be far more than next deadline, when he will be months away from a likely retirement. Do the Devils capitalize on the improved status of their two elder statesmen? Or do they preserve the culture of the team at the cost of the rebuild?