Well, Tom Fitzgerald is off to a great start in the 2021 offseason. The New Jersey Devils just acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche. In return, the Devils gave up their second-round pick in this year’s draft, which they got from the New York Islanders and Mikhail Maltsev. While that load may be pretty big, it is likely going to be worth it. Graves is a player that the Devils desperately need on their roster. Having Graves on the Devils’ roster improves it in many ways.
Graves Improves the Devils Penalty Kill Instantly
One of the most significant issues the Devils had during the 2020-2021 season was their lousy penalty kill. The Devils had a 70.9 penalty kill percentage which was the lowest in the league. Forty-three goals were given up by them, which is the second most amount of power-play goals by a team this year. It’s clear the Devils need to fix this, and acquiring Graves will do this. While he isn’t the answer to improving the penalty kill entirely, he’s undoubtedly a player who can help make the penalty kill a little better. Ryan Graves brings a lot of hope that the penalty kill will be effective and very hard to stop. Graves this year on the penalty kill for the Avalanche had 33 blocked shots, three giveaways, and takeaways.
Ryan Graves is a Versatile Type Defenseman that the Devils Need
Graves brings an edge to physical play and stands up for his teammates when it’s necessary. He brings an experienced young man perspective to an up-and-coming young core of defensemen like Ty Smith, Kevin Bahl, and possibly Nikita Okhotyuk. The Devils have an excellent core of guys outside of Smith because he isn’t a physical player, but he makes up for it with his smarts, speed, and skill. To this young core, Bahl brings a physically tall, gritty defender with a long reach. Bahl can get a reach and poke pucks away and play the bodies cleanly. Bahl doesn’t have to slam a guy like a more undersized defenseman, but he can easily hip-check you. Okhotyuk brings a younger, more mobile defenseman similar to Anton Volchenkov, who can block shots and hit opposing defensemen.
Ryan Graves brings the veteran presence, young defenseman character, to a young New Jersey Devils locker room. These players will have an extraordinary player to relate to on and off the ice. Theoretically, the Devils power play should grow to be a very productive and stingy one with a new addition like Ryan Graves. Graves brings a very mobile defender who loves to shut down the opposing team’s top two forward lines. This acquisition of Graves should showcase to other fan bases that the New Jersey Devils defense will become a treat to watch during the next seven-plus years.
Graves Has Potential to Become Reckoned With
Ryan Graves had the NHL’s Best Plus-Minus during the 2019-2020 season. So Ryan, at his young age, is in pretty good company with those players. As a defenseman under Lindy Ruff, Ryan Graves’ potential has a lot of room to grow into a more advanced defenseman who can be a defenseman that New Jersey Devils fans are very excited to see. Many fans will be pleased that they are getting a mobile shutdown defender who can bring a presence that physical edge Colin White and Ken Daneyko used to bring during the glory years of Devils hockey.
The more Tom Fitzgerald builds around Ryan Graves as a long-term alternate captain, one day he also has the chance to add a guy like Dougie Hamilton via free agency. Mathematically, the Devils have the opportunity to extend their core players, i.e., Jack Hughes, who will be very integral in attracting more players to New Jersey, and getting the team back to the playoffs, and winning Lord Stanley’s cup. Fitzgerald needs to add a key goaltender next to Mackenzie Blackwood in splitting the workload for the upcoming 82 game season with a regular-season schedule.
The acquisition of Ryan Graves will not answer all of the questions that the New Jersey Devils have, but it is something that can allow fans of the team to begin to see the end of the team’s rebuild, by building up the team’s defensive corps.
Main Image Credit