The New Jersey Devils and interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald got a head start on the NHL trade deadline Sunday by offloading two players for a package of future assets.
In the first deal, completed Sunday afternoon, the Devils sent veteran defenseman and team captain Andy Greene to the New York Islanders in exchange for defensive prospect David Quenneville and the Islanders' second-round pick in the 2021 draft. Later in the day, New Jersey sent Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward prospect Nolan Foote and a 2020 first-round pick that originally belonged to the Vancouver Canucks.
Both deals signal the Devils waving a white flag on this season as they look to restructure their roster for a long-term vision. After coming into the season as playoff hopefuls following a promising offseason retool, it has been a trying season for New Jersey in which not much has gone right. The Devils currently sit last in the Metropolitan division with 52 points in the standings.
By trading the 37-year-old Greene, who is in the final year of his current contract, the Devils are able to turn an expiring asset into a couple of future pieces. On the other side, the Isles get a veteran defenseman rental who they hope will help offset the loss of defenseman Adam Pelech, who was placed on injured reserve with an Achilles injury earlier this year. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has a strong prior relationship with Greene from Lamoriello's days as boss of the Devils.
After it was erroneously reported that Coleman had been traded to the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday afternoon, the Devils struck a deal with the Lightning to send the forward to an already stacked and explosive Tampa squad that has been arguably the best team in hockey over the past few months.
Coleman, 28, is a talented and versatile contributor up front and he comes at bargain price ($1.8 million AAV) and an additional year of control beyond this season. In 57 games for the lowly Devils this season, Coleman was tied for the team-lead with 21 goals and also has three short-handed goals on the year. He'll join a Lightning team that already ranks second in the league in goals per game.
It's a strong pickup for Tampa Bay -- especially if you consider that the Boston Bruins, the team the Bolts are trying to catch in the Atlantic, were also in on Coleman -- but it comes at a substantial cost. Foote,19, was taken with the 27th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and is considered to be a top-flight prospect. Foote plus a first-round pick (which Tampa Bay acquired from Vancouver in the J.T. Miller deal last summer) is a nice haul for New Jersey. The Devils didn't necessarily have to trade Coleman considering his contract, but the bargain contract and the extra year of control allowed them to command a steep price.
It was a busy and productive day for the Devils on Sunday and their early efforts could help set the NHL deadline craziness in motion as other buyers scramble to counter. New Jersey may not be done just yet either, as they still have several players that they could look to move ahead of the February 24th cutoff -- including Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen, Nikita Gusev, Miles Wood and more.