Yesterday was one of the craziest half hours of offseason hockey news possibly ever. It all started when the New Jersey Devils shocked the NHL community by sending defenseman Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers for star forward Taylor Hall. That trade alone brought a huge buzz along with it. Little did we know that it was just a delicious appetizer to what was in store. Minutes later, the Montreal Canadiens sent P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber in a straight up swap of D-men. The hockey world went nu- Tampa Bay is signing Steven Stamkos OH MY GOD! Chaos. Three gigantic transactions in the matter of minutes. What a time to be alive.
— Joey L (@slowhnds) June 29, 2016
It’s pretty funny that my buddy Jason and I were discussing the exact trade the Devils and Oilers made just 24 hours prior. He thought it would be a flat out steal for the Devils, and he might turn out to be right, but I was less enthusiastic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have Taylor Hall and his immense offensive talent in New Jersey. He’s everything the Devils needed and more. That being said, losing Adam Larsson just hurts both emotionally and on the ice.
Ray Shero had to make this trade. The Devils desperately needed offense and when you have the chance to get a superstar forward without selling the farm you do it. What worries me with the trade is how will the Devils replace Larsson in the lineup? Losing him leaves a huge hole on defense and the free agent class of defensemen isn’t that exciting. I trust Shero to fill the hole, but losing Larsson is the only reason I’m not happier than a pig in sh*t about this trade. Once there’s a viable replacement in place, I’ll be much happier.
What’s saddening me is all the hate Adam Larsson is getting from Oilers fans and others around the league. I get it; he’s not a superstar defenseman, he’s not a big name and he’s not a number one D. I understand the anger over trading Hall for him, I do. That being said, Adam Larsson is a helluva hockey player. He certainly can be a top pairing defenseman on the defensive side of the puck. He’s proven that by playing against every team’s top line along with Andy Greene and doing really well. No doubt his offense is a question mark right now, but I believe in his offensive upside. He got swamped with defensive zone starts against top competition and spent all of his special teams minutes on the penalty kill. He never got a chance to show what he could do on the power play because that wasn’t the role the Devils needed out of him. If given solid PP time and a more offensive role overall, I do think he could put up respectable numbers that would put him as a very good number two D-man on the top pairing. Only time will tell.
As far as the Devils are concerned, wow it’s nice to have a superstar winger in Newark again. After Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk left, the Devils have been in dire need of goals and star power up front. Adam Henrique, Taylor Hall’s Junior teammate in Windsor and good friend, has done his part. Kyle Palmieri, Mike Cammalleri (when healthy), and Travis Zajac (at least defensively) have also contributed a lot. But none of them are close to what Hall can bring. The Devils have that dynamic winger that can make everyone around him better and help out scoring at even strength – by far their biggest offensive issue among many. The line of Hall-Henrique-Palmieri could put up some BIG numbers this season if John Hynes decides to put them all together.
All of this, of course, is dependent on what Ray Shero can do for an encore in free agency. After the Devils sign their RFAs, they’ll have room for probably two “big” additions. Adding a right wing like Loui Eriksson, Kyle Okposo or even bringing back Lee Stempniak would round out the top six with Cammalleri and Zajac, making that quite the dynamic group. Another veteran bottom six forward would also be a good addition. As far as defense, bringing back David Schlemko would be nice. He had a pretty good season in NJ, especially considering he was signed at the last minute, and he can help mentor the younger defenders on the team. The last remaining addition would be filling Larsson’s hole, and that’s going to be tough. Does Shero go with an older D on short term to put a bandage on the problem or does he make another splashy trade for a longer solution?
Come noon tomorrow, we shall find out. It’s sure going to be interesting that’s for sure.