Over the last 72 hours, Devils GM Ray Shero has certainly spiced things up and enhanced the Devils’ chances of breaking their five-year long playoff drought, first by the historic cross-river trade with the Rangers for Michael Grabner on Friday night, then this afternoon getting yet another deal in under the wire with the Oilers for another winger, Patrick Maroon. Maroon is a rugged forward who put up 49 goals in 154 games as an Oiler, mostly being the protector of Connor McDavid. Certainly before his tenure in Edmonton, Maroon’s career had been a bit undistinguished but he should add another top nine forward to an already crowded forward core and the cost wasn’t really prohibitive as the Oilers only received a 2019 3rd round pick and middling prospect J. D. Dudek, a 6th round pick in 2014 who’s in his third season at Boston College (6-11-17 in 33 GP).
Admittedly I didn’t expect Shero to be anywhere near this active at the deadline considering we’re not in a championship-or-bust mode yet the way teams like Tampa, the Penguins and even the Bruins to a degree are. However, when it’s all said and done I can’t say I have very many issues with Shero’s two moves. Trading a 2nd rounder and KHL prospect Yegor Rykov for Grabner was a bit of a surprise to me and not just cause it involved the Rangers, but because like I said earlier I figured Shero would be looking for depth acquisitions only, or if he did make a big move it would be for a defenseman. If anything Shero’s been greasing the skids for this cold war-ending trade since he first arrived, saying on more than one occasion he’d be willing to trade with anyone in contrast to previous GM Lou Lamoriello who never made a trade with the Rangers and only one minor deal with the Flyers during his three decades here.
Personally I didn’t really get why fans were making a big deal about the cold war…dealing with rivals is tough, especially since you’re likely to have to pay a tax on any trade. Admittedly it looked as if we did that a little Friday for the highly-sought Grabner, until I saw some of the ridiculous rental deals today. A lot of these trades harkened back to the olden days where GM’s routinely lost their minds on deadline day. A 1, 2 AND a 3 for Tomas Tatar?! A 1 plus for rental Paul Stasny? The haul (including another one) the Rangers got for Rick Nash? With the benefit of hindsight I’m fine with the price paid for Grabner, especially if we do re-sign him which is certainly possible given his apparent interest in remaining in the area and the fact the Rangers are clearly in sell mode after dealing off guys like Nash, Grabner and in the biggest deal of all, trading Ryan McDonaugh and J. T. Miller in a blockbuster to Tampa. I’m sure Derek will have more to say on that one later, and the apparent underwhelming – at least to me – return for both players
After dealing for Grabner I didn’t really expect much out of today other than the random minor leaguer for minor leaguer move perhaps but lo and behold after 3 PM in the midst of the chaos around the other big-name deals came word the Devils had traded for Maroon. Twitter was slow to update the details of the trade making me more and more nervous. First it was a 3rd rounder…for now. Then it was a 3rd and NCAA prospect. At that point I was scared Shero had traded one of our real key guys like Joey Anderson or Reilly Walsh but thankfully it wasn’t the case. Perhaps dealing for two wing players is an indication that Marcus Johansson really isn’t an option to return this year, and I said earlier they more or less had to plan as if Johansson wouldn’t be around after getting two major concussions in a short period of time (thanks again, Marchand).
With the two new forwards thankfully the days of Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes clogging up the lineup should be over for the most part. And maybe they’ll be able to give teen Jesper Bratt a couple of games off now that he’s passed out from hitting the rookie wall. It’s hard to even imagine what the lineup looks like now – Grabner said he preferred LW and was put there in his first game as a Devil but with acquiring Maroon (another LW) that makes the lineup configuration pretty interesting. Particularly with PK’er Brian Gibbons another week or so from returning. When healthy coach John Hynes certainly has options up front to go along with having arguably 8 NHL D (including Steven Santini, still in the AHL thanks to roster flexibility). My best guess at a lineup when healthy is this:
Then when Gibbons returns perhaps Bratt gets a couple of nights off or Noesen moves back to the press box. Also because there’s been so much happening in the last 72 hours I originally neglected to post that Hynes did get an extension over the weekend, or rather his fourth-year option got picked up. Ostensibly it was decided earlier in the season, why it was announced only now who knows? I suppose you could have worse timing to announce it when the team’s in good playoff position and everyone’s feeling good after the Patrik Elias number retirement ceremony – which was well done pretty much from start to finish. I won’t recap it much here, but the 90-minute(!) ceremony’s worth watching on YT/MSG/wherever you can find it.
In a sense I’m not so much surprised as intrigued they didn’t move one of their defensemen, especially with this deadline being a seller’s market and John Moore still being an unsigned UFA-to-be. They still talk up Mirco Mueller and are high on him (especially judging by the decent amount of icetime he gets when he does play) but as of now he’s on the outside looking in of the current six-man D. Of course if they had dealt a defenseman they really didn’t have anyone else other than Steven Santini to step in, if injury should strike someone else. One of Lou’s tenets – to my chagrin at times – is you need eight NHL-caliber defensemen in the organization and Shero seems to be following that blueprint this year having Mueller and Santini in reserve.
Although the Devils certainly don’t have the superteam that the Lightning, Penguins or Bruins have (a.k.a. the Warriors, Cavs and Rockets of the NHL now after their recent moves), they do have depth at all positions and are in a good position to make the postseason after their Elias night win over the Islanders on Saturday created a little more distance between them and the bubble. In regards to why he would give up futures for rental players, Shero had this to say after the Grabner trade:
Whatever you may think of this approach as a pragmatist, it’s music to fans’ ears after five seasons in our own Dark Ages, finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel now. And Shero did not give up the farm although this year they won’t have a 2nd or 3rd round pick thanks to the Grabner and Sami Vatanen trades, and next year their third went to the Oilers. Still they kept their first-rounders (unlike many other teams the last couple days) and almost all of their top prospects.