A pair of savvy trades over the weekend for the New Jersey Devils have kicked off a rebuilding phase that’s already starting to take shape.
It was hard to say what form the New Jersey Devils rebuild would take this season, but after this weekend, we have a better idea of what it will look like when all is said and done.
Over the weekend, the Devils made two separate trades in three hours. The first sent five-year captain Andy Greene to the New York Islanders for 21-year-old defensive prospect David Quenneville and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. New Jersey’s second deal of the day saw forward Blake Coleman traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for 19-year-old forward Nolan Foote and Tampa Bay’s conditional 2020 first-round draft pick.
The Sunday trades sent a pair of fan-favorites to two different locations, bringing about what is likely just the start of a fire sale in New Jersey. Taylor Hall‘s departure in December was the beginning of the process, and in less than a week, New Jersey’s roster may look drastically different than what had excited fans at the start of the season.
The 2019-20 NHL season is a lost cause for the Devils. New Jersey is nearly mathematically eliminated from postseason contention and is in the race for a lottery pick in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft. Trading away Greene opens up a roster spot for a young defenseman for the remainder of the season, while New Jersey also adds Quenneville to the mix as a depth blueliner.
As for the other trade the Devils made on Sunday, Foote was considered the No. 2 prospect in the Lightning’s talent pool coming into 2020. Though he has yet to see NHL time, Foote has the upside of a second-line scorer, adding the depth the Devils need to make a competitive roster.
The Devils will not see the fruits of interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald‘s labor for some time as the team continues its path to a years-long rebuild, but the start is everything you could ever want if you are a Devils fan. Hope is a hard thing to sell, and the Devils have tried to sell it to fans in years past in the form of No. 1 overall picks Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, alongside the addition of P.K. Subban.
That plan backfired this season as the Devils quickly fell out of contention after winning just two games in October. Things fell apart rapidly in New Jersey, from the firing of head coach John Hynes to the trading of Hall to the falloff of previous starting goaltender Cory Schneider. Where the Devils believed they had won the offseason and were contenders before the start of the season, now stood a pile of rubble.
The loss of Greene and Coleman are tough, but necessary departures. After swinging for the fences this season, the Devils had to regroup and reassess their standing in a competitive Metropolitan Division. Greene was likely in his last season as a 37-year-old who was set to test free agency this summer. Coleman is a 28-year-old on a great contract who would have provided value to the Devils, but by the time the team hit contention in a few years down the line, he would have likely been past his prime as a 30-point forward.
In return, New Jersey snagged a pair of under-21 players at key positions and added two top-end draft picks over the next two seasons. Fitzgerald is likely set to abdicate the interim general manager tag at the end of the season but he has put the Devils on a solid starting course with these two moves.
The hard part is still to come for the Devils. Their next few seasons will likely be spent toiling away in the basement of the NHL due to their rebuild status. However, the start of their rebuild this season has netted them some solid assets and valuable draft picks, giving them an extremely workable foundation to build upon in the seasons to come.
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