After the playoffs were eliminated last season, the New Jersey Devils entered the 2019-20 season with a renewed sense of optimism.
During the off-season, General Manager Ray Shero acquired star defender P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators, signing Wayne Simmonds in two ways and training for Vegas Golden Knight edge Nikita Gusev.
Not only that, but Sero was fortunate to work in his favor as the Devils won the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery. And with the first overall pick, he chose the extremely famous Jack Hughes prospect.
Meanwhile, franchise player Taylor Hall has entered the final year of his contract and coming off of knee surgery, he was hoping to regain the form he won in the 2018 Trophy.
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Shero’s additions and Hall’s improved health have led many experts to predict that New Jersey will become a serious playoff contender this season, as fans hope the expected improvement in the club could persuade Hall to sign an extension of the contract.
Fast forward two months later, and the devils get near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Head coach John Hynes was fired on December 3, being replaced on a temporary basis by Alain Nasreddine. This move did nothing to reverse the decline in their fortunes.
The chamber, meanwhile, is no closer to signing a new contract with New Jersey. Shero says she is listening to the commercial offers, suggesting the 28-year-old wing could move before the December 19th holiday frosts freeze.
According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet that the teams believe it could take “four tracks” to get Hall. He adds that the industry’s belief is that the Colorado Avalanche are the pioneers. Still, Hall couldn’t be the only pending free agent the Devils put on the trade block this season.
Simmonds, 31, signed a $ 5m contract last summer. With 11 points in 29 games, he is no longer his 20-goal, 50-point youth player. However, it could attract interest from one after the period they seek to seek an experienced, natural wing.
Defenders Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen are also eligible for the UFA status next July. Grande, 37, has a career ending, but could still attract some interest from clubs looking for veteran blueline depth.
However, the 28-year-old Vatanen could be more valuable. A specialized back shot that moves with the right shot also plays a responsible defensive game. Despite a history of injuries, his skills around the world would make him a lucrative commercial target. Justin Emerson of the Las Vegas Sun believes Vatanen will be a good addition to the Vegas Golden Knights’ defense piles.
Shero’s asking price for these veterans could be draft picks, prospects and new players ready with the NHL. He will want to build around promising young Devils like Hughes, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher.
A quality soccer player could also be part of the return. Injuries have been attributed to veteran Cory Schneider, while backup Mackenzie Blackwood has yet to prove he is ready for the beginner’s job.
Subban’s future with the devils could also be questioned. The 30-year-old firefighter got off to the worst start of his career, with just five points in 29 games – which puts him at pace for a career – down 15 points. Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post recently underlined that Subban was marketing himself over hockey.
With two years remaining on his $ 9 million AAV contract, it could prove a difficult sell on the commercial market.
However, Subban is a former Norris Trophy winner and a finalist for the 2018 prize. After all, he has no protection under his contract. If the devils are willing to part with their cap hit, they could find a club willing to bet on Subban to recover Norris’s form on a deeper roster.