The New Jersey Devils outlook for their future shot upwards a few weeks ago during the draft lottery after they won for the second time in three years, and now have the opportunity to add top prospects Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko. However, one thing that is missing from a potential playoff roster in the future is a dominant defenseman.
The Athletic’s Corey Masisak (subscription required) divides up the current roster, but makes it clear on many occasions that what the team truly needs is a dominant defenseman who can run the defense. Even with 2018 first-rounder Ty Smith likely to join the team next season, the team could very well be on the lookout for a dominant blueliner via trade (if one can be found), suggesting the team may have to move one of their current top three to make a deal like that work in either Damon Severson, Will Butcher or Sami Vatanen.
Both Severson and Butcher are listed as unlikely to be traded unless a blockbuster deal can be found are both considered to be top-four defenseman along with Vatanen, but both blueliners would have significant value in return for an elite defenseman. Vatanen would unlikely have much trade value due to his age, but more importantly due to his injury history.
- Sticking with the Devils defense, the team hopes they have found a regular to their defensive core as defenseman Steven Santini seemed to have found his niche in the final six weeks of the season. The 24-year-old had dealt with injuries and time in the minors, but looks to have a good chance to establish himself as an everyday defenseman next season for New Jersey, according to NJ.com’s Chris Ryan. After missing a large chunk of the season after breaking his jaw on the first game of the season last year, Santini came back in December, but needed time to find his game. His opportunity came at the trade deadline when the team traded Ben Lovejoy to Dallas, giving Santini a shot at Lovejoy’s minutes. He took advantage of them. “He’s got to be difficult to play against. Tight gaps on line-rush defense. He needs to be hard at the net front. He needs to be able to end plays defensively down low,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “We’d like to see him take a step on a penalty kill, missing a guy like Ben Lovejoy where he could fill into that type of role. And understanding that his puck skills need to improve.”
- With Game 2 lineups out, the Carolina Hurricanes still don’t have injured forward Andrei Svechnikov back in the lineup. The 2018 second-overall pick has been in concussion protocol after suffering a head injury in a fight with fellow-Russian Alex Ovechkin in the first round of the playoffs. News & Observer’s Chip Alexander reports that a Game 3 return would be perfect timing for the Hurricanes and would get the home crowd even more hyped up, regardless of Carolina’s Game 2 performance.