The final stretch of the season will be up to the players who've largely been in the organization all year after a relatively quiet Deadline Day.
It was a relatively quiet day for the Devils as the trade deadline came and went, with GM Chris Baker announcing shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday that the organization had for the most part “stood pat.”
That means the last 19 games of the season, which will determine the team’s playoff fortunes, will be decided by the players who have been within the organization all year – save for Mattias Janmark; New Jersey’s lone pick up.
Reports surfaced over the last week that the Devils had shown interest in Joey Anderson (Buffalo), Nick Bjugstad (Washington), and Craig Smith (Columbus). All three of those players despite their limited cache would have helped to supplement the bottom of New Jersey’s lineup in some way.
Unfortunately, all three players stayed put with their respective clubs, leaving Baker and the Devils no choice but to look elsewhere.
In the final hour, a deal was struck with the Arizona Coyotes for Mattias Janmark. The cost – NYI 5th round pick in this summer’s entry draft.
In Janmark, the Devils get a responsible 200-foot player who can slide up and down the lineup. His positional flexibility allows coach John Tortorella the option of playing him at any of the three forward positions and at 29 years old, he appears to be in the middle of his prime.
The result of such a quiet deadline is the Devils must now move forward with what they have. Whether they were unable or uninterested to strike a more significant deal with other teams for any other player is unknown, but what is clear is the approach they took was a calculated one.
There’s something to be said for that. Despite their lead in the Metro division, many reference the Devils as a “fringe contender.” In other words, in terms of probability, a lot would have to go right for the team to win the Stanley Cup this season. Weighing the asset cost of getting a more impactful player against those probabilities, which is inherently what a general manager should be thinking about, put Baker in somewhat of an unenviable spot.
With a hungry fanbase and a team that’s earned themselves a chance for improvement, strategically passing on an upgrade might be a tough sell. However, if the idea is to build a longer-term foundation, standing pat might not be the worst decision.
Deadline decisions, whether moves are made or not, come with perceptive risk. That’s what Baker and his staff are now facing — time will tell how their decision to not go “all-in or bust” plays out.
Completed literally at the 11th hour, the Devils acquired veteran Michael Raffl from the Washington Capitals in exchange for defender Trevor Carrick, prospect Tarmo Reunanen, and NJD 7th in 2022.
Raffl, 33, will report to the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Utica to join the likes of newcomers Jordan Szwarz (FA signing) and Justin Dowling - another former Capital farmhand - as they push forward on their quest for the Calder Cup.
Winners of two in a row and 10 of their last 15, the Comets find themselves atop the AHL’s North Division with a 36-20-8 record.