New Jersey Devils: Evaluation of Tampa Bay
With the Stanley Cup Finals already done with game one, free agency, the NHL draft, and the expansion draft is all coming very soon. The New Jersey Devils and their general manager, Tom Fitzgerald recently traded away Blake Coleman a few trade deadlines ago to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The biggest problem for the Lightning is that they have literally no salary cap space per Cap Friendly this offseason before any acquisitions are made.
Blake Coleman LW/RW
Former New Jersey Devils winger Blake Coleman is currently due for a new contract by the start of free agency. The 29-year-old of Plano, Texas has been worth every penny of his 1.8 million dollar contract since being acquired from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Vancouver’s 1st from Tampa Bay in the 2020 NHL Draft, plus Nolan Foote.
Blake Coleman in his first and second playoff runs with Tampa Bay yielded him 21 points in 44 games and counting. In 55 games Coleman scored 31 points with 14 goals. Signing Blake Coleman back to New Jersey would provide over 301 games worth of veteran hockey on the top nine for the New Jersey Devils. I assume Blake Coleman could fetch an average annual value per season contract from $2.2 million to $3 million with the past few seasons he has amassed since being traded.
Coleman’s power forwards game and grittiness back in New Jersey would help strengthen the Devils theoretically with the likes of a Yegor Sharangovich at center along with maybe an Alexander Holtz or Janne Kuokkanen on his flanks.
Erik Cernak RHD
The New Jersey Devils can afford to take a hit on the towering Slovak right defenseman in Erik Cernak. What the New Jersey Devils would be receiving a right-handed defenseman that can beat you in being physical as a defender, poking pucks away, going for the heavy clean hit, and even beating you offensively.
Despite this 24-year-old Slovak defender being in the NHL the past 3 seasons, he has been a major key cog in Tampa Bay’s defensive core. The New Jersey Devils acquiring his services would be money well spent and assets well traded for. Yes, the Devils could also make a draft pick in Roman Schmidt, a similar cut of cloth in both physical build and play style.
I can see Tom Fitzgerald parting ways with the Islanders 2nd round pick and a prospect for the former 43rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft by Los Angeles Kings. Cernak would bring that top pairing defensive stability the Devils need and the offense possesses. He’s also a proven winner in the Stanley Cup and Internationally for Slovakia.
The New Jersey Devils should take advantage of having the third-most cap space in the NHL, and a nice set of assets between 2021 and 2022 NHL Draft picks to dangle around. I don’t see Tom Fitzgerald will move the fourth overall pick due to the plethora of players to add to the Devils roster will be more near term. The 29th overall pick is possible in a blockbuster deal that can fix a more immediate need like the right defense.
Acquiring a winger like Blake Coleman makes far too much sense from a free agency side of Tampa Bay. The New Jersey Devils will need to replace one player they lose to the expansion draft and getting back a good yet really reliable player like Coleman is very ideal for a young team.
To acquire Erik Cernak makes perfect sense out of Tampa Bay due to his age, contract status, and his ceiling for an NHL player on the right defense would bolster the New Jersey Devils. The near and longer-term needs as this team progress with or without acquiring a Dougie Hamilton, and Rasmus Ristolainen caliber player would be a huge step forward with younger prospects coming up over time.
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