The New Jersey Devils took another step towards deconstructing their veteran roster on Sunday.
Just hours after shipping captain Andy Greene to the New York Islanders for defenseman David Quenneville and their 2021 second-round pick, the team traded energetic winger Blake Coleman to the Stanley Cup-contending Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for top-rated prospect Nolan Foote and Vancouver’s 2020 first-round pick (conditional).
NHL trade tracker 2020: List of deals completed before the deadline
Below is a breakdown of each component of Sunday’s trade between the Lightning and Devils.
New Jersey Devils get:
Nolan Foote, LW, 27th overall in 2019
A dual-threat power winger who was critical to Canada’s march to gold at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, Foote was one of Tampa’s top prospects heading into this season after playing well at multiple development or training camps. The son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote and younger brother of Tampa’s 2017 first-round pick Cal, Nolan has always been regarded as a top prospect dating back to his bantam days. A mature, level-headed forward with a sharp hockey IQ, he also possesses a toughness that helps him intimidate on or off the puck.
Looking at New Jersey’s farm system reveals a significant void in the toughness department, but don’t think for one second that Foote’s ceiling is limited to a crash-and-bang role player. He boasts a plus-plus shot, elite puck protection, and his deceptive speed and agility gets him into those prime scoring areas with regularity.
The only issue with Foote is his health — he’s missed a chunk of time in three of his four seasons with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets; a recent lower-body injury has limited him to just 26 games this season. Although Foote is physically mature enough to play in the NHL right away, his injuries likely keep him in junior hockey for the remainder of the season. Keep in mind that having a late-2000 birthday (Nov. 29) makes Foote eligible to begin next season with New Jersey’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
First-round conditional pick (from Vancouver)
Tampa Bay previously acquired this draft pick from Vancouver in the J.T. Miller deal last offseason. As it stands, both clubs are expected to not only make the playoffs but are also in contention to win their respective divisions. If that happens for the Canucks, the Devils are looking at a late first-round selection in addition to their own first and the top-three protected first-round pick they received from Arizona in the Taylor Hall trade.
If a scenario plays out where Vancouver makes the playoffs as a wild card and the Coyotes are a lottery team, it’s conceivable that New Jersey could end up with three picks in the top-20 of this year’s draft.
Should the Canucks fail to make the postseason, the first-round pick shifts to the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Tampa Bay Lighting get:
Blake Coleman, LW
A speedy two-way winger who is a high-volume shooter, Coleman has been one of the few bright spots for the Devils this season after quickly becoming a fan favorite. Of his 275 shot attempts, over 66 percent are on net and he’s had 16 games where he’s had five shots or more. Coleman also has scored 20-plus goals for the second consecutive year (22 last season, 21 this season) and seems to develop chemistry with whomever his linemates are.
New Jersey’s penalty kill is one of its few bright spots during its season of misery, and Coleman and center Travis Zajac were the key cogs in that regard. Tampa’s special teams have been excellent thus far, so it’s not as if Coleman fills some sort of critical need heading; however, the Bolts had the league’s top-rated penalty kill leading up to last season’s first-round matchup and Columbus scored five power-play goals in its shocking four-game sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
Tampa Bay and its high-powered attack don’t necessarily need Coleman to provide offense, but he’s a good contingency if the top-six are blanked. His only playoff experience came in New Jersey first-round loss to the Lightning in 2018, when he scored twice in five games.
This was a steep price for Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois to pay, even with Coleman locked up until July 1, 2021, with a manageable annual cap hit of $1.8 million.
The Bolts obviously are in win-now mode and need to erase the pain of last year’s disastrous postseason. Unless Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup, the trading of essentially two first-round picks for a winger who’ll be lucky to play more than 10-12 minutes a game at 5v5 is hard to justify — regardless of Coleman’s shot proclivity or how well their AHL prospects are progressing.
It’s crazy to think that it was less than eight months ago when ownership broke the bank to acquire high-priced talent for another playoff run. However, for the Devils and their fans, today was another step towards altering a roster that is only two years removed from a playoff berth. They had 11 picks in last year’s draft and now sit at eight (and, likely climbing) for 2020, and it’s doubtful interim general manager Tom Fitzgerland is anywhere close to being done wheeling and dealing.
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