In the almost 10 months I’ve been writing weekly Devils articles, there haven’t been too many optimistic ones.
In what might be my final article as a writer for New York Sports Nation, I figured there’s no better way to go out than with an optimistic to-do list for general manager Tom Fitzgerald.
The Devils are on the cusp of breaking out of the rebuild, and it can happen this offseason as long as Fitzgerald follows my simple guide. (No order).
Do whatever it takes to get Matthew Tkachuk
It’ll take a lot for the Devils to pry Tkachuk away from the Flames, and for good reason, the 24-year-old finished with 102 points this regular season. So, while it’s very likely the Flames will do everything in their power to retain Tkachuk, they’re also in salary cap hell. At the moment, the Flames have nine pending unrestricted free agents and four pending restricted free agents. While some money will come off the books shortly, they’ll have to sign guys to more expensive contracts than what they’re currently making. It’s unlikely the Devils will acquire him. Still, they have more than enough prospects and a second overall pick in their pocket to at least entice Calgary. The Devils need a talented winger to pair with Jack Hughes, and Tkachuk fits the bill and serves as his bodyguard.
Trade for Connor Hellebuyck or let Blackwood start
Devils fans are convinced the team’s just a goalie away from a playoff berth. So, why not do everything in their power to get a good one? With the direction the Jets and Ducks are heading, they may be looking to sell of their elite goaltender that makes tons of money. In the last five seasons, you’d be hard-pressed to find many goaltenders who’ve been better than Hellebuyck. Then again, it may be wishful thinking believing they’d trade away a top five goaltender. Like I said with Tkachuk, they Devils have enough bait to trade with, it’s just a matter of if the Jets are willing to part with him. The Devils have noted the possibility of trading for Ducks goaltender John Gibson. His last three seasons have been anything but stellar, especially for a guy getting paid six million a year. I wouldn’t argue if the Devils let a healthy Mackenzie Blackwood get the crease either.
The Devils need a large dose of veterans if this team wants to win. Enough is enough of being the youngest team in the league because it obviously isn’t working. By adding veterans with playoff experience, it builds a successful lockerroom culture and teaches the younger guys how to win. If there was a way to bring in Pat Maroon and clone him twice to make up an all-Pat Maroon 4th line, I’d do it.
Bring in a top-six winger
Whether you want to go the free agency route or trade route, I could care less, just do one of them. The Devils’ top six had produced at a high rate this year but got no help from the other lines. If they can bring in an elite scorer like Filip Forsberg, they can push Sharangovich or Mercer down the lineup, allowing them to dominate lesser competition. I don’t want Wild winger Kevin Fiala or Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau but bringing in a David Perron or Ondrej Palat wouldn’t hurt, depending on the deal.
Don’t bring back coach Ruff
I just don’t see how bringing back Ruff is the right move. It literally screams, “we’re content with losing.” No coach has lost more than Ruff has in his two years in New Jersey. I get that Hughes likes Ruff’s system, but obviously, other teams do as well, considering the Devils get feasted on by everyone.
Let’s be honest, there’s a good chance none of these happen. The trade for Tkachuk, I’ll put at 5%, while the trade for a goalie, I’ll mark down at 35%. The Devils still have a ton of needs that need to be aided, but I have no clue which way Fitzgerald goes. They need goaltending, no doubt about it, but the Devils have been engulfed by a losing culture. If they want to start winning, they need guys who know how to do it, end of story.