The 2018-2019 season has been one of regression for the New Jersey Devils. With the All-Star break underway, the team is looking at the pieces and trying to figure out what comes next.
The Devils are dead last in the Metropolitan Division, a point behind the Philadelphia Flyers. They’re tied with the Ottawa Senators for the Eastern Conference basement.
Yet somehow, there’s an eerie calm in New Jersey. This is a team without fear, at least at the moment, and that explains the extension offered to head coach John Hynes in January. While most teams in their position have been bailing on coaches like it’s going out of style, the Devils showed their commitment to Hynes as a reward for making the post-season last year.
That’s not going to happen this year, but there are building blocks in place.
“He has cultivated a group of veteran leaders, while helping our young players develop and gain experience,” general manager and executive vice-president Ray Shero said when Hynes was re-upped. “John is to be commended for the progress the team has made under his direction and this commitment shows that we are confident in the role he will play in our future success.”
Unfortunately, an injury to Taylor Hall – he hasn’t played since December 23 – and some bad goaltending has left this team on the outside looking in. We’ve already been over the misery of Cory Schneider, who’s been on a rehab stint with the Binghamton Devils.
Which brings us to the fact that the Devils aren’t quite in the business of having a fire sale when it comes to the trade deadline. Sure, New Jersey has assets to move, a pile of UFAs set for the summer and a good load of cap space. That puts them in a unique position, especially with such a deep group of free agents coming up.
Among the UFAs, the Devils can offer Brian Boyle, goalie Keith Kinkaid, Ben Lovejoy, Drew Stafford, Marcus Johansson, and Egor Yakovlev. At the top of the value list is Johansson, who could fetch a mid-range pick or a prospect from a team looking for scoring depth. The 28-year-old has seen a dip in production, but he could pull up some points on a good line.
Yes, the Devils could spend in the off-season and put together something special to complement their younger players. If they can turn the goaltending situation back around and get Hall in the fold, they can once again find that surprising form from last season. And the trade deadline could give them the opening to do even more this summer, which gives coach Hynes a roster he can work with.