New Jersey Devils face complicated trade deadline situation

This article was contributed to the site by Drew, a lifelong Devils fan. You can find him on Twitter at @DWNJD. Charts via

The New Jersey Devils are in a tough spot after winning 5-2 Tuesday night at home against the New York Rangers, which would typically be a good thing. Although winning is always a good thing and the Devils currently sit one point behind Pittsburgh for a playoff spot, this leaves the Devils in a “limbo”, as they try to decide to sell or not at the NHL Trade Deadline, which is Monday at 3:00PM.

The two most valuable assets the Devils do have if they decide to sell are Lee Stempniak and David Schlemko. Stempniak, a 33-year old winger, has been surprisingly productive as a signing that came just before the season started. He is on a one-year deal that expires at the end of this season and being at a $850K cap hit makes him an extremely attractive option for teams that are close to the cap ceiling, like the Chicago Blackhawks. Stempniak has 41 points (16G, 25A) in 61 games played for New Jersey, which includes his goal last night against the Rangers.

Schlemko is valuable in a thin rental market for defensemen. The 28-year old defenseman has 17 points (6G, 11A) in 53 games played, which is a career high for him. Schlemko, like Stempniak, was also signed shortly before the season in training camp. He is also on a one-year deal that comes at a $650K cap hit. He has spent much of the season with the Devils in a “power play quarterback” role and some time on the penalty kill as well, making him an all-around solid defenseman.

It’s important to remember that the rental market for defensemen is extremely thin. Two deals have occurred in the last few days, with the Toronto Maple Leafs sending a package of Roman Polak and forward Nick Spaling to San Jose for a second-round pick in both 2017 and 2018 along with (a cap dump of) forward Raffi Torres, and the Capitals acquiring defenseman Mike Weber retained at 50% for a 2016 third-round pick. Polak was considered one of, if not the, best rental defenseman on the market, and he was able to draw in a haul of not one, but TWO second-round picks. Mike Weber, whose WARRIOR chart had him ranked in essentially every category as a bottom-pair or only top-six defenseman, still was able to get a third-round pick (although retained at 50%). Roman Polak, who averages time on ice as a top-four defenseman, only ranked favorably to Schlemko in playmaking and production per 60 minutes, as Schlemko ranked higher in goals, shot generation and suppression, goal differential, useful possession, and goal generation and suppression on a 60 minute scale, despite having on average only a top-six time on ice. (You can see the charts below)


This all considered, Schlemko should have no problem fetching just as much as Polak, and certainly more than Weber, if Ray Shero decides to deal him.

Comparable: If Tyler Kennedy is packaged with Schlemko and the Devils take back a small cap dump, the trade can be extremely similar to the Polak to San Jose trade.

Stempniak will likely be the first option teams that fall of the race for Andrew Ladd and Mikkel Boedker go for. Stempniak’s offensive numbers, mentioned earlier, still are favorable to Ladd’s (17G, 17A) and Boedker’s (13G, 25A). Stempniak’s HERO chart (explanation of HERO chart here: shows overall better capability than Boedker, but Ladd takes the cake. Stempniak should not be overlooked in this crop of rental forwards though, as he provides a great all-around game, especially for his next-to-nothing cap hit. He should be able to fetch at least a second-round pick and a prospect or third-round pick, as he is one of the top rental forwards on the market with the lowest cap hit of them all.

Comparable: New Jersey trades Jaromir Jagr to the Florida Panthers for Florida’s second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in 2016. (Yes, this is from 2015, but it is certainly fresh in the minds of Devils fans, since these picks were used to acquire Kyle Palmieri.)

Dashboard 1 (2).png

Overall View: The Devils need to keep the long-term goal in mind. Ray Shero has done an excellent job clearing out was considered “dead weight” and filling in the open spots with younger, faster, hungrier players. This trade deadline is crucial to the future of the organization, due to the lack of prospects in the pipeline for the Devils. Attaining as many high draft picks as possible should be the goal regardless of where the Devils stand and how close to the playoffs they are.

That being said, the playoffs are still a possibility for the Devils. With the call-ups and emergence of forwards Joe Blandisi and Reid Boucher, the team in the red and black are still capable of a playoff berth. Paired with the return of the currently injured Michael Cammalleri, the Devils would have at least a competitive offense. Here’s a look at the likely lines without Stempniak or Schlemko:











Things to keep in mind approaching Monday’s trade deadline:

– Eric Gelinas could be in play. His quotes from Rich Chere’s interview with him showed frustration with his situation, which led to a talk with coach John Hynes. According to Chere, Gelinas has not asked for a trade yet.


– In Elliotte Friedman’s Reddit Hockey AMA, the Devils were mentioned a few times. He mentioned the Devils as a “dark horse” in the mix for disgruntled Tampa Bay forward Jonathan Drouin. Bob McKenzie also named New Jersey when talking about the Drouin situation this morning on TSN 1050 radio. He also stated the Devils were trying to decide whether to sell or not.


– The Devils have been scouting heavy lately. According to James Mirtle (@mirtle), New Jersey was one of the teams scouting the Maple Leafs vs. Predators game last night, which had 20 scouts in attendance. I tweeted Tom Gulitti yesterday and he responded that Philadelphia, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Dallas, and Los Angeles were scouting the Devils-Rangers game last night. Dallas and Los Angeles (in my own speculation) are teams that I could see being heavily interested in Schlemko. Tampa Bay makes me wonder if the Devils are in talks about Drouin, which would make sense since McKenzie and Friedman confirmed New Jersey’s interest.


– Other players that could be moved due to expiring contracts (although unlikely): Jordin Tootoo, Stephen Gionta, Tyler Kennedy, and Tuomo Ruutu. Keep an eye on Stefan Matteau too if the Devils make some sort of package deal.


– Ilya Kovalchuk was “dismissed” from SKA St. Petersburg’s practice the other day and made a healthy scratch for their second playoff game. It was reported today that SKA coach Sergei Zubov removed the captaincy from Kovalchuk, as well as scratched him for games three and four against Lokomitiv. Although there is nothing confirmed yet, there is heavy speculation that he could return to the NHL after this incident, or sign with another KHL team.


 -Drew, @DWNJD


About The NHL Files

The NHL Files was created as an interactive blog for twitter on August 1st, 2013. Since then we have garnered over 5,700 twitter followers and many more blog followers. We intend to keep you up to date with articles & tweets.

Posted on February 24, 2016, in NHL, NJ Devils and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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