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The NHL draft lottery balls bounced in the New Jersey Devils’ favor last month, as they landed rights to the second overall pick in the 2022 draft. It’s the fourth time since 2017 that they’ve secured a pick within the top five, and it’s their highest placement since using the first overall selection in 2019 to select Jack Hughes.
General manager Tom Fitzgerald could use that pick to select a promising prospect who could become a future NHL star. The Devils have had good luck with some of their recent picks, with centers such as Hughes and Nico Hischier quickly becoming core players.
However, he could have other plans. On May 5, Fitzgerald indicated a willingness to trade that selection to acquire an established player to complement his core of young forwards.
The Devils could use some additional scoring punch. Their 2.99 goals-per-game average ranked 19th overall, while their woeful power-play percentage (15.6) was 28th.
The Devils could receive calls from teams lacking a pick in the first round or perhaps from those looking to shed salary or to move up in the draft order. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli had that pick listed at No. 7 on his recent list of this summer’s top trade targets. With a projected $25.3 million in salary-cap space for next season, the Devils can afford to take on a higher-salaried talent.
Which teams could be interested in the second overall pick, and what type of return could it fetch? Here’s our best guess of five potential destinations based on their respective needs.
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A source close to Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak recently told The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa that there was “no chance” he would sign a contract extension if Don Sweeney remained as general manager. The following day, Pastrnak’s agent denied there was a rift between his client and Sweeney, saying they still intended to sit down to discuss a contract extension soon.
Nevertheless, what if Sweeney and the Pastrnak camp fail to agree to an extension before the draft? He’s a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Sweeney could entertain trade offers if Pastrnak shows the slightest interest in testing the market next summer, perhaps to replace the first-rounder he traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Hampus Lindholm.
Co-winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy in 2019-20, Pastrnak reached or exceeded 40 goals twice in the last three seasons. The 26-year-old right winger would not only bring invaluable goal-scoring to the Devils but also plenty of playoff experience. He could take on a leadership role with this young team.
Trading Pastrnak would also signal a rebuild is underway for the Bruins. It could be somewhat shortened by landing the second overall selection in this year’s draft. Perhaps the Devils would also include right winger Jesper Bratt in a larger deal with the Bruins if they can’t reach an agreement on a contract extension with the 23-year-old restricted free agent.
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Upon taking over as the Chicago Blackhawks’ general manager on March 1, Kyle Davidson announced they were set to undergo a rebuild. With the eleven-mighty franchise’s glory days well behind them, I have acknowledged it could take several years before they return to Stanley Cup contention.
Davidson enters this offseason lacking a first-round pick in this year’s draft. His predecessor de el traded it to the Columbus Blue Jackets last summer as part of the return for defenseman Seth Jones. Acquiring the second overall selection would provide the Blackhawks with an important chip to put toward restocking their prospect pool.
Alex DeBrincat has become a hot topic for recent offseason trade speculation. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli has the 24-year-old Blackhawks winger atop his list of this summer’s top trade targets. He pointed out that DeBrincat has a year remaining on his current contract and will have a $9 million qualifying offer next offseason.
A two-time 40-goal scorer, DeBrincat would be a terrific fit skating on the Devils’ top line at left wing. They can also afford their current contract and a long-term extension.
Davidson could request young left wing Yegor Sharangovich as part of the return as well, but it would be worth parting with that return to bring in a bona fide sniper to bolster their offense.
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After a career-best 115-point performance to finish second among this season’s leading scorers, left winger Johnny Gaudreau is set to garner a big raise on his next contract. Fresh off a six-year deal with the Calgary Flames worth $6.75 million annually, the 28-year-old unrestricted free agent could command between $9-10 million on a long-term contract.
Calgary has a projected $26.9 million in salary-cap space for next season, but restricted free agents Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington are also due for new contracts. Gaudreau could prove too expensive to retain.
Flames General manager Brad Treliving might attempt to shop Gaudreau’s rights before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 13 to replace the first-rounder he shipped to the Montreal Canadiens for Tyler Toffoli.
Gaudreau, who is a New Jersey native, would provide the Devils with a local superstar in the prime of his playing career. The gifted playmaker tallied a career-high 40 goals this season and would be a terrific fit on their top line. His experience from him would prove invaluable to their offensive attack.
By acquiring Gaudreau’s rights, the Devils could offer him an eight-year deal rather than the seven years he’d get on the open market. Swapping the No. 2 overall pick straight up for his rights might be all it takes, as the Flames might lack the leverage to request a larger return given his upcoming foray into free agency.
The Devils have the cap room to sign Gaudreau to a lucrative deal, giving him an opportunity to skate with a rising young club that could be a serious playoff contender during the remainder of his playing prime.
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The Minnesota Wild face a big cap crunch for 2022-23.
Last summer’s buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter leave them with $12.7 million in dead cap space for 2022-23, giving them only $7.4 million in projected cap space. Meanwhile, restricted free agent winger Kevin Fiala is due for a big raise coming off a career-best 85-point performance.
The 25-year-old Fiala is coming off a one-year, $5.1 million contract. He has arbitration rights and is also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. He could ask for a long-term extension worth over $7 million annually or seek that cap hit on a one-year deal to take him up to next summer’s UFA market. Wild general manager Bill Guerin might have little choice but to trade him.
The Devils can afford to acquire and sign Fiala. He could slot in well on the left side of Swiss countryman Nico Hischier with Jesper Bratt on the left side. They could ink him to a seven- or eight-year extension.
Seeing as how Fiala’s previous career-best performance was a 54-point effort in 2019-20, the Devils might be reluctant to part with the second overall pick straight up for him. Guerin could also offer up his own 2022 first-rounder (24th overall) or toss in one of his prospects from him.
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Swapping the second overall pick for a player pushing 30 usually isn’t a wise move. However, when that player is Vancouver Canucks forward JT Miller, it might be worth considering.
Miller is a late-blooming NHL star. After spending seven seasons as a versatile checking-line forward with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, he’s turned into a first-line scorer with the Canucks. He tallied 72 points in 69 games in 2019-20, 46 points in 53 games during last season’s COVID-shortened campaign and reached a career-best 99 points in 80 contests this season.
The 29-year-old has one year remaining on his contract worth $5.25 million and could seek to raise that prices him out of the Canucks’ market.
On May 17, The Athletic’s Harman Dayal and Thomas Drance noted the Canucks front office seeks salary-cap flexibility. The Canucks are projected to have only $10.6 million in salary-cap space for 2022-23 and have to re-sign restricted free agent winger Brock Boeser. They also need cap flexibility beyond next season with captain Bo Horvat eligible for unrestricted free agency next July.
The Devils could help the Canucks address that issue by offering the second overall pick and perhaps a young player or prospect for Miller. His intensity, two-way skills and leadership from him could help push them into playoff contention.
Given Miller’s age, the Devils might be reluctant to offer him more than a five-year extension, but they could tempt him with $9 million per season.
Stats via NHL.com and salary info via Cap Friendly.