After a disastrous 2018-19 season that was supposed to be a season where the New Jersey Devils could build on their success from the previous season, the Devils made significant offseason additions. These additions resulted in the Devils having quite a successful offseason. The New Jersey Devils’ incredible offseason could be a problem for the rest of the NHL, making them a real threat for this upcoming season and later down the road.
The New Jersey Devils’ Incredible Offseason
A New Direction After Years of Turmoil
The New Jersey Devils 2018-19 season was quite awful. The team was the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference and the third-worst team in the entire NHL. The Devils have had their fair share of bad seasons before. But what made last season’s turmoil even more painful was the team looked like they were headed for greener pastures after the 2017-18 season. During the 2017-18 season, the Devils made the playoffs for the first time since they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. However, the Devils did not find much success in the playoffs. The Devils lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lighting were a much better team with a lot more experience. They were a team who had their sights set on the Stanley Cup. This was the Devils’ first time to “the dance” in a long time. So, expectations were not that high for the Devils. And that’s okay. The Devils organization seemed to have made a step in the right direction. And as a fan, even though your team lost, how could you be mad about your squad returning to the postseason for the first time in six seasons? Despite that hope after the 2017-18 season, the Devils returned to their old ways for the 2018-19 season.
It is common, however, for a team to miss the playoffs the following year after qualifying for them after a playoff appearance drought. This trend has been seen with numerous organizations.
A History of Relapse Among NHL Teams
When the New York Islanders made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons during the 2012-13 season, the team did not qualify for the playoffs the season after. Similar to the Islanders, when the Dallas Stars made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons during the 2013-14 season, the team did not qualify the season after. The same goes for the Florida Panthers. The Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons during the 2011-12 season. However, they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the next three seasons after. Continuing this trend, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons during the 2012-13 season. But, the Maple Leafs did not qualify for the playoffs the next three seasons. And finally, the Edmonton Oilers made the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons during the 2016-17 season. Yet the team has not made the playoffs since then.
You get the picture: it is not that unusual for a team in the NHL to miss the playoffs after making it for the first time in a long time. It is sort of like relapse and in the Dallas Stars and New York Islanders’ case, the team ended up going back to the postseason the season after they missed it.
Although we will never know, the Devils maybe would have qualified for the playoffs this upcoming season even if they had made no additions to their roster. But, that happening would have been unlikely, despite other teams’ trend for doing so. Now after their new offseason additions, it is more than likely the 2020 playoffs will have the New Jersey Devils in it.
The New Jersey Devils Incredible Offseason Starts with Jack Hughes
The Devils with their terrible record last season were lucky enough to win the 2019 NHL draft lottery- securing the 1st overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft.
With that pick, the Devils selected sensational talent, Jack Hughes. Hughes is the type of player that can transform your organization. The young star has drawn comparisons to Connor McDavid, as there’s no saying what a talent like Hughes could do for your organization. With Hughes’ addition, the Devils can instantly be transformed into a playoff team. He’s that type of talent. Hughes is a franchise talent, maybe even a once in a generation talent.
Playing with the USA hockey national team development program, Hughes racked up 116 points during the 2017-18 season, which was just one point shy of the record for most points under one season (Auston Mathews of the Toronto Maple Leafs holds the record). And during the 2018-19 season, again with the USA hockey national development program, Hughes put up 112 points in just 50 games played. Also, during his time spent with the USA hockey national team development program, Hughes was able to break the record for most points all-time with 228 points. With his explosiveness, craftiness with the puck, and sensational hands, Hughes will be a top player in the NHL for years to come. Hughes may struggle at first with his lanky five-foot-ten frame, but as he continues to grow older and mature, Hughes will only become better.
Acquiring P.K. Subban For Almost Nothing
The Devils organization also got a lot better by making moves in trades. They made one big trade in particular. Which was acquiring former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. Because the Nashville Predators were looking to clear up cap space, they were forced to move defenseman P.K. Subban. So the Nashville Predators sent Subban to New Jersey in a cap space dumping deal, where they pretty much received nothing in return. Well, nothing close to the talent of all-star defenseman P.K. Subban. The New Jersey Devils pretty much stole him from the Predators.
Santini is a defenseman who has 21 career points in 114 NHL games. Jeremy Davies has yet to play an NHL game. But, last year playing with Northeastern University, he put up 36 points in 37 games. In 111 career games with Northeastern, Davies had 94 points. While Santini and Davies are two decent players, they are not even close to enough for a player like Subban. Even with the draft picks attached. It does not come close. Because the Predators needed to get rid of Subban, the Devils, as it seems, were able to dictate terms.
Adding Depth with Wayne Simmonds
The Devils also added power forward Wayne Simmonds to their roster. Simmonds, just like Subban, came from the Nashville Predators. Before Simmonds was on the Predators he was the Philadelphia Flyers. The Philadelphia Flyers traded Simmonds to the Predators at this past trade deadline, after Simmonds had spent the last eight seasons there. The six-foot-two, 185 pound forward has a knack for scoring goals. In six of the eight seasons he spent with the Flyers, Simmonds has scored over 20 goals. In two of those six seasons, Simmonds has reached the 30 goal plateau. Simmonds is excellent on the power-play. Using his big frame to his advantage, Simmonds usually sets up shop on the power-play in front of the net. 94 of Simmonds 243 career goals have come on the power-play. And last season the Devils power-play percentage was ranked 21st in the league. Such a player like Wayne Simmonds would undoubtedly help them in that category.
Enormous potential in Nikita Gusev
Next, the Devils acquired Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a third-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2021. Nikita Gusev was selected in the expansion draft by the Golden Knights from the Tampa Bay Lighting. The Russian forward has spent his entire career in the KHL. However, during this past offseason, Nikita Gusev was looking to take his talents to the NHL. Gusev either wanted the Golden Knights to pay him or trade him. The Golden Knights organization wasn’t willing to pay Gusev what he was asking for, especially since he had never played an NHL game before in his life. Vegas did not want to risk overpaying Gusev for him to turn out to be a bust, especially since they are going all in to win a Stanley Cup, and they needed to be spending money in other places. And, there are risks with KHL forwards. We have seen KHL success translate to NHL success, but we have also seen it not pan out.
One Instance of KHL Success Translating to NHL Success
For Alexander Radulov, the move from the KHL back to the NHL worked out. Radulov returned to the NHL at the start of the 2016 season. Since then, Radulov has recorded 198 points in 228 games, making him one of the top players in the league. These numbers Radulov put up were way better than the numbers he put up in his first go-around in the NHL. In his last season in the KHL before returning to the NHL, Radulov put up 65 points in 53 games. Last season, Gusev recorded 82 points in 62 games. Do not be surprised if Gusev even has a more significant impact than Radulov’s and also puts up more points.
Despite Gusev’s KHL numbers, Vegas was not willing to pay him the kind of money he was asking for. So The Golden Knights traded Nikita Gusev to the New Jersey Devils for a third-round 2020 pick and a second-round 2021 pick. Thus, making the deal almost risk free for the Devils. Because the assets the Devils gave up were almost nothing. The Devils surrendered two draft picks (in the second and third round) for the former MVP of the KHL or Kontinental hockey league, who led the league in scoring last year with 82 points in 62 games. That’s a huge steal for the Devils. If Gusev turns out to be a bust, the Devils still did not end up giving up a haul for Gusev. A second and third-rounder is even a little light for Gusev.
From Irrelevancy to a Possible Threat
The New Jersey Devils made enormous strides this offseason improving their hockey club. All of these offseason additions will better their hockey club. These additions will allow them to be in the postseason next year, most likely, and possibly even a real threat in the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils incredible Offseason have put the Devils in right direction to start winning again. Not only has the New Jersey Devils incredible offseason put them in the right direction for success, but also, reshaped the entire Metropolitan division. Thus, making the division much tighter and arguably the toughest division in the NHL. Even if the Devils do not make the playoffs next season, these additions will only make them better. And, set them up to achieve in the future.
Embed from Getty Images