In stunning news today, Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL. He is leaving the Devils with 12 years left on his current deal and $77 million left on the table. Kovalchuk will go back to Russia and now probably play in the KHL.
So where does that leave the Devils? Their leading scorer is now gone, they re-signed an aging (but still very talented) Patrick Elias, they lost David Clarkson to the Leafs, and they have yet to re-sign Adam Henrique who is a restricted free agent. They signed Michael Ryder, but he is 33 years old. The acquired Cory Schneider, but he will still be #2 behind Marty Brodeur. The main point though is that they do not have a young and effective goal scorer on the wing.
But what about Thomas Vanek?
Vanek is 29 years old, and can easily slide into the #1 left wing spot where Kovalchuk occupied the spot for 3 years. Vanek is entering the last year of his deal, and the Devils have the cap space to bring Vanek in. Vanek is very good in front of the net on the power play, and he can still be a very talented goal scorer. Makes sense, right?
The next question is who would the Devils be willing to give up in return for Vanek? I want Adam Henrique. He remains unsigned, but I would trade for his rights regardless. But I would not stop there because the rights to Henrique are definitely not gonna be enough since he is unsigned. Henrique is listed at 6'0", 195 lbs, and accounted for 16 points (11+5) last season in 42 games. He was also a huge part of the Devils success on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. Henrique would be another young player to come into Buffalo at the ripe age of 23. I would next target defenseman, Adam Larsson. Larsson has one year left in his entry-level deal, and would be a great addition into our rebuild of young talent. Larsson, the 20-year old Swedish defender, has accounted for 24 points in his young two year career. He would be reunited with Hank Tallinder, and would be able to play with fellow countrymen Johan Larsson and Jhonas Enroth.
In addition, Buffalo may also ask for a prospect or a 2nd or 3rd-rounder either in 2014 or 2015 in the trade.
The Devils would probably want a defensive prospect in return for Larsson. Who would be a good fit for New Jersey? Brayden McNabb? Mark Pysyk? Chad Ruhwedel? How about Jerome Gauthier-Leduc? Only time will tell with this trade, that is if it even happens.
I would not be surprised if a trade with the Sabres and Devils happened, again. Thomas Vanek can fill Kovalchuk's void, and could fix the wound that Kovalchuk has left the Devils. Could it also happen before Miller is traded. Only Darcy Regier will be able to answer that question, but it wouldn't surprise me now.
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