Nikita Gusev hasn’t had a great season and it’s unlikely that most teams want an underperforming winger who is a sniper turned into playmaker. If there is a team that wants to take a chance on him, it’s likely his former team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Moving on from him and getting a mid tier prospect or mid-late pick is worth salvaging.
Kids like Nolan Foote, Tyce Thompson and Alexander Holtz could be in the lineup through the next few years. Dawson Mercer is already on his entry-level contract, plus Patrick Moynihan later down the road. The plethora of forwards on the wings are likely to force GM Tom Fitzgerald ’s playing card hands.
Dmitry Kulikov and Kyle Palmieri could end up being dealt to the Boston Bruins. Boston needs a scorer in Palmieri and needs a left defender such as like Kulikov to shore up the hole left by Zdeno Chara. Boston could easily toss in Jake DeBrusk to give New Jersey a younger finisher in the Devils timeline. New Jersey can stock up on picks, but they’re likely going to tell teams to throw in a top prospect and a higher pick from rounds 1-3. Quality over quantity will help improve the hockey club’s rebuild.
The Devils don’t need any centres, but I see them giving a team like Toronto a Jesper Boqvist type centre/winger. Additionally, Timothy Liljegren is a right-shot defensemen to possibly replace P.K. Subban in the expansion draft. Toronto knows a team like New Jersey can take on any salary issues from teams struggling with cap troubles.
If Subban should make it through to the offseason, moving on from him, Sami Vatanen and Dmitry Kulikov would allow three spots to open up in the near-term. That would make way for players such as Nikita Okhotyuk, Reilly Walsh, Kevin Bahl, or Michael Vukojevic, and later down the line, bring in Shakir Mukhamadullin. Goaltending wise, Mackenzie Blackwood and Scott Wedgewood look solid in net and that one-two punch appears to be pretty stable.
Moving on to free agency, this year’s class does not look good, but I do see the Devils promoting players who compete from within with any incoming moves. The rebuild appears more like a semi-rebuild because the young nucleus does exist, however, the scoring wingers continue their paths with a pair of big, mobile, physical defensemen.