The Devils started the season as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, alongside the Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights. Over the last month, the Devils have come back down to earth as they have struggled to string wins together. After going 13-1-0 in November, the Devils found themselves stumbling in December as they finished the month 4-7-2. After controlling the Metro for most of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes have taken over the top spot leaving some questions about this team.
While many may be in panic mode, that is extreme, given it’s still only halfway through the season with plenty of hockey left to be played. This was expected for a team with so much youth on it, and in the NHL, you can’t win all 82 games.
With the March 3rd trade deadline approaching, the devils will need to decide if they will be buyers or sellers this season. The way this team can play, they should be buyers as they look to cement themselves as legitimate contenders not just in the Metro but the Eastern Conference.
The Devils have offensive talent with Jake Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and other supporting players. Coming into the season, the question marks surrounded the goaltending and the defense. Newly acquired goaltender Vitek Vanecek has been solid for the Devils, but the others behind him not been so much.
One way to fix your goaltending without acquiring a new goaltender is to bolster your defense. Outside of Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler, and Ryan Graves, the defense has been disappointing. John Marino was looking good, but he is currently on IR. The Devils could use an infusion of high-end talent to their top four, and one player comes to mind.
Quinn Hughes, the older brother of the current face of the franchise center Jack Hughes, would be the perfect candidate to bring life into this Devil’s defense.
With the Vancouver Canucks on the verge of what seems like a complete overhauling of their roster, a few star players will be made available. The biggest name that has emerged is captain Bo Horvat, but the need for a center in New Jersey does not exist. That brings us to defenseman Quinn Hughes who, only at 23 years old, is already a top defenseman in the league thanks to his offensive upside and ability to lock down players on defense.
Hughes is coming off a career year that saw him record eight goals and 60 assists for 68 points, with 31 of those points coming on the power play. Already this season, he has tallied one goal and 30 assists through 31 games playing for a poor Canucks team.
His ability to be a playmaker on the blue line would benefit the Devils immensely, especially from the left side. It would give the Devils two elite play-making defensemen on their top two power-play units, with Quinn anchoring one and Dougie Hamilton anchoring the other.
The question still remains what would the Devils need to give up? The return will not be a small one as Hughes is still only 23 years old and has already established himself as one of the best defensemen in the league. His age fits perfectly with the Devils’ core group of young players, which would allow the team to build around him for the future.
A trade for Hughes will require a first-round pick, Dawson Mercer and Jonas Siegenthaler. While some may think this is an overpay, it is not. Hughes is a younger and better player than Siegenthaler and instantly upgrades the Devil’s top four. While Mercer is still just 21 years old and has a ton of upside, the Devils have plenty of forwards to absorb the loss.
Whether a trade actually happens is still a wait-and-see with under two months to go until the March 3rd trade deadline. But if the Devils want to make their presence known in the Metro, they will need to make a move to bolster their roster as the New York Rangers, and Washington Capitals are coming.