Let’s face facts, our deadline more or less ended with the Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac trade to the Islanders last weekend. All that was left to do was shift some deck chairs on the Titanic. Sami Vatanen was waived, then claimed by the Stars. Good for him I guess, at least now he’s on a team with a theoretical chance of making the playoffs – presuming he’s actually a part of the team enough to play. Nikita Gusev had his contract terminated and caught on with the Panthers on a one year, $1 million deal. What a fall from the guy who was ‘the best player outside of North America’ last offseason, but at least like Vatanen he might get a chance to play meaningful games now. So will Dmitry Kulikov, sent to Edmonton for the laughable price of a conditional fourth rounder, which bumps up to a third if Edmonton wins their first-round series (against Winnipeg that might be less than 50-50).
At least the Devils made an acquisition to replace one of the outgoing bodies on defense, dealing a third rounder they initially got in the Taylor Hall trade last year to the Caps to get defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler. It’s a bit of an easy, lazy comparison to bring up Mirco Mueller, another young Swiss defenseman passed over on his initial team and acquired as a bit of a reclamation project here. Mostly because we paid a lot more for Mueller – a 2nd rounder, 4th rounder and Jon Merrill (left unprotected in the expansion draft due to trading for Mueller). Not that Merrill’s great but at least he’s still in the league, and getting dealt at the deadline to the Canadiens to improve their depth for the playoffs. Still it’s kind of embarrassing that we didn’t get anything at all other than Siegenthaler’s RFA rights to make our defense worse for the rest of this year – dealing a third for him and maybe getting back a third for Kulikov is at best a wash for 2021.
Ironically the best thing from a Devil perspective that happened all day was the trade of Jakub Vrana from the Caps to the Red Wings in the interesting Anthony Mantha deal. Vrana’s always been a Devils killer so I’m not sorry to see him get exiled out of the division. Not that this deadline was ever going to be about this year for us, but at a certain point it’s just giving guys away for the sake of giving them away, as much as GM Tom Fitzgerald pushed back against this characterization when meeting the media and explaining why Ryan Murray (among others) was not dealt:
Well sorry Tom but you gave a couple of guys away as it was. I know a fourth rounder is ‘better than nothing’ for a pending UFA but come on now, it’s just a lottery ticket at best. Not that I have a huge problem with any of his moves specifically other than the way he handled Palmieri – if he was going to lowball him on a contract offer then he should have been dealt along with Blake Coleman (also a FA after this year) at last year’s deadline. If you were going to keep Palm, then it was foolish to think some lowball offer was going to sign him before FA. If you’re committed to keeping him, then you’re committed to offering market value. There was no reason to keep him on a clearly rebuilding team this year if he wasn’t going to be a part of the future and there’s no reason to think he was going to be part of the future if you weren’t going to offer him pretty much what he and his agent think he’s worth.
It’s almost anyone’s guess what our lineup will look like once all the dust settles tomorrow and we start our week-long four-game(!) series with the Rangers. Will Nico Hischier finally get back in the lineup? Probably. Will Pavel Zacha play? Far less likely. It would be nice to see a lineup where Zacha can finally go back on the wing but…that’s 2021 for you. I’d almost forgotten about this four-game series, it’s interesting timing with it being smack after the deadline. While the Rangers aren’t quite in the playoff chase they also aren’t totally out of it either, four points back of the last spot, though Boston has two games in hand and just fortified its roster by
finally getting someone to take one of their lowball offers for a forward acquiring the ghost of Taylor Hall.
So maybe if we pull ourselves together and rise up (chuckle) for a game or two we can play spoiler, that’s about all we have left to hang our hat on results-wise. I have to admit the prospect of sticking it to the Rangers and Nico’s likely return may actually get me to watch a couple of games this week. A still Nico-less Devils didn’t really do enough on their own to get me fired up with two dud losses to the Penguins. It will be interesting to see some of the newer guys play and eventually make their debuts. Even first-rounder Alexander Holtz might come over – probably for AHL action – now that his team’s season is over with in Sweden. Hopefully there will be something to enjoy out of this week though, since our next date of import is as usual draft lottery day.