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 http://ownthepuck.blogspot.com/
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: http://thehockeywriters.com/hero-charts/) 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.)
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: