The Devils are going to be consumers on the NHL commerce deadline for the primary time shortly this yr.
But they’re not approaching it like drunken sailors in port on a break day.
There’s a measured need so as to add, and if there’s an vital caveat, it’s that if the Devils add in a significant method, they need it to be a participant who’s not simply being rented out for a couple of months.
“My job is to improve the team. But my window is not one year,” Devils basic supervisor Tom Fitzgerald instructed The Athletic on Thursday. “We’re a year ahead of where I think everyone thought we would be, but here we are. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to do my job and try to improve the club long-term.”
Fitzgerald is scouring the market, getting a good suggestion of what’s on the market. But paying premium belongings for a pending unrestricted free agent rental participant is unlikely. Renting a depth piece? That’s doable. But for an even bigger acquisition, the right situation is including a participant who’ll be with the Devils previous this season.
“That would be great if I could do something like that, but other teams want to do the same thing,” Fitzgerald stated. “In an ideal world, you’re giving up assets and bringing on a player that will grow with our core group in that age bracket.”
If the Devils make an even bigger splash, there’s a particular space in thoughts.
“If it’s possible, I’d like to add a top-six winger,” Fitzgerald stated candidly. “And I’d like to be able to control the player (past this season) and grow. I’d be willing to give up assets to do that, and I’ve got to know, ‘What does that look like?’”
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The balancing act in that train, if it’s doable to get carried out, is the Devils nonetheless hope to signal winger Jesper Bratt to an extension as properly. They must plan for his place within the puzzle, too. That stays a prime precedence regardless of struggling in talks concerning a long-term extension final summer season.
“There has to be buy-in, too, from players,” Fitzgerald stated of constructing the wage cap work over the subsequent few seasons. “I think we’re building something pretty good here. I’ve talked to Jesper Bratt. He’s excited.
“I really believe he wants to be part of it. But there has to be buy-in from everybody. But what does that look like?”
That’s the multimillion greenback query relating to the gifted Bratt, 24, who’s making $5.45 million this season earlier than turning into a restricted free agent July. 1.
What Fitzgerald needs to create in New Jersey is a wholesome salary-cap tradition that enables the Devils to construct a workforce that has a long-term, sustainable capacity to compete and contend. He’s off to a great begin with the Nico Hischier ($7.25 million common annual worth) and Jack Hughes ($8 million AAV) long-term offers, each contracts already presenting terrific worth.
Fitzgerald wouldn’t say, however I’m guessing he hopes to get Bratt signed long-term someplace in between Hughes and Hischier, AAV-wise.
It’ll be a juggling act between that and attempting so as to add one other top-six winger on the commerce deadline.
Though Fitzgerald wasn’t able to call names — that’s towards NHL guidelines — if there’s an obtainable participant who suits that top-six winger standards, particularly relating to the opportunity of protecting him previous this season, it’s Timo Meier of the Sharks.
Meier is 26 and a match for the age group of the Devils’ core. The tough half is he carries a $10 million qualifying provide this summer season to retain his rights. Considering the Bratt state of affairs and the cap tradition the Devils need to create, may a Meier extension match into that?
One factor’s for certain: The Devils have the form of prospects and draft picks that might match the invoice so far as the kind of bundle the Sharks probably could be in search of.
But the place there’s a possible difficulty, apart from the variety of groups that might be competing with the Devils for Meier, is with the extension quantity itself.
Where would possibly Timo Meier be enjoying hockey come March 4 and past? One doable vacation spot is New Jersey.
– Short/long-term match for the Devils?
– Who/what would possibly the Sharks ask for in return?
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There’s no query in my thoughts that Fitzgerald, if he hasn’t already, might be speaking to Sharks GM Mike Grier repeatedly between now and March 3. He’ll be kicking tires with almost each vendor. But Fitzgerald received’t lose sight of the larger image. They have youthful gamers nonetheless creating, some who aren’t even in New Jersey but. It’s been a enjoyable season, but it surely’s only the start of issues, the Devils hope.
“I love where we’re at, I really do,” Fitzgerald stated. “Now the fun times start, where you’re trying to put the right pieces in the locker room.
“If that means going out and trading assets for a player who can grow and be part of this, hell yeah, sign me up.”
He’s enthusiastic about the place 21-year-olds Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz are headed as they develop. There’s additionally Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, who haven’t arrived on the NHL scene but.
“We do have good talent. We have more good talent coming,” Fitzgerald stated. “It’s an exciting time for New Jersey Devils fans, I’m sure.”
It was additionally vital for the Devils so as to add veterans like Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula and Brendan Smith final summer season to assist set an instance for that youth.
“There were opportunities in the summer to add to our team not only on the ice but in our locker room, bringing in people who had been to the playoffs — Palat, Smith, Haula,” Fitzgerald stated. “That was important to me. Because we felt these kids were on the verge of busting out.”
The Devils have busted out, all proper. And it may need earned them a lift on the commerce deadline. If there’s a sensible transfer to make.
(Top photograph of Timo Meier and Jack Hughes: Kavin Mistry / NHLI through Getty Images)