Leading up to the trade deadline, there was some uncertainty as to what Ray Shero and the Devils would do. Since they were still in the playoff race, would they hold onto their players and try to make an unlikely run? Would they hold the course and sell off parts for assets? Could it be a mix of both? After doing a tailspin the last few games, it was pretty clear the Devils would be sellers. After the dust settled, Ray Shero made three trades today and I’m a fan of all three.
The first deal came in just before 2 P.M. Eastern. The Devils sent defenseman Eric Gelinas to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2017 3rd round draft pick. It was made clear the Devils would trade at least one defender today after they claimed defenseman David Warsofsky from the Penguins. At first glance, the Devils took a net loss by picking up a third round pick for a former second round pick in Gelinas. That being said, Gelinas’ value is far from what it was. He’s been scratched on and off his entire career and his defensive game is, putting it lightly, not very good.
Day by day it would seem that Gelinas’ value was going down so it was smart for Shero to pull the trigger now and get a very useful pick back before it was too late. The Devils have a ton of prospects on defense including Steve Santini and Joshua Jacobs on the horizon, so it didn’t make sense to hold onto what is essentially their 8th D-man right now. Getting a good draft pick back for a defenseman who seemingly had no future in the organization is smart asset management. It also replaced the third round pick the Devils lost in the Tuomo Ruutu trade, which is an added bonus.
The other two deals by Shero got reported after the 3 P.M. Eastern deadline, which is when most of the action took place. The first of those two “post-deadline” deals was the most obvious move the Devils made today when they sent forward Lee Stempniak to the Boston Bruins for a 2017 2nd round pick and a 4th round selection in 2016. In my heart, I didn’t want to see Stemper go. He seemed to really find a home in New Jersey and fit in so well here, but again, it made too much sense not to trade him. His value would never be higher as he had 16 goals and 25 assists this season.
If you remember, the Devils signed Stempniak off a training camp PTO. Ray Shero turned a tryout into two nice draft picks. That’s the dream for teams on the rebuilding end of things. If the Devils had cemented a more serious playoff push, maybe Stempniak doesn’t get dealt. However, after they fell apart the last few weeks, getting two draft picks for a pending UFA is a necessary move. In a perfect world, Stempniak could decide he loved it so much in NJ that he re-signs back with the Devils in the summer. It’s a definite possibility.
The final trade of the day made by Shero came out of nowhere as he traded forward Stefan Matteau to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Devante Smith-Pelly. Matteau, 22, was a former first round pick of the Devils who, like Gelinas, just never seemed to work out in New Jersey. After being a healthy/”unhealthy” scratch for most of this season, he too didn’t seem like he had much of a future with the organization. Shero again decided to move him before his value crashed and picked up a nice player in Smith-Pelly.
It’s no secret that the Devils’ bottom six is awful, so hopefully Devante Smith-Pelly, 23, can improve that area of the team. This season he has six goals and six assists in 46 games, which may not seem like much, but again have you seen who the Devils have been running out there? Smith-Pelly is an automatic improvement in the bottom six and brings a hard-nosed game which fits in perfectly with what the Devils are trying to do. He’s an RFA after the season so how he performs the last month or so of the season will dictate what the Devils decide to do with him over the summer.
The one player who was likely to get traded but didn’t was defenseman David Schlemko. Ray Shero decided to hold onto Schlemko presumably because he couldn’t get the right value back, which is totally understandable. I’d rather keep Schlemko than just give him away for say a fifth round pick. Hopefully he can re-sign in the summer like Stempniak.
All-in-all, the Devils acquired three very important draft picks and a nice depth forward for two players who had no future with the team and someone who they brought in on a PTO. I’d say Ray Shero deserves a pat on the back for what he was able to accomplish today. The future certainly is looking more bright in New Jersey.