Monday June 27, 2022

With the NHL Draft just two weeks away, the offseason will kick into high gear sooner than later. We’ve talked a lot about who the New Jersey Devils should target in a trade or free agency, but what about players they should avoid? Using Frank Seravalli’s latest trade board update from Daily Faceoff, let’s look at five players the Devils should steer clear of on the trade market for various reasons. 

Anthony Beauvillier

Once upon a time, Beauvillier looked like he had the potential to break out into a top-six forward. His production over the last three seasons hasn’t been terrible — he’s averaged 19 goals and 44 points per 82 games — but his underlying numbers fell off a cliff in 2021-22. He finished with a negative expected goals above replacement (xGAR) and averaged only 1.32 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, the lowest mark of his career. 

Beauvillier was the victim of some rotten shooting luck this season; he finished with a 6.67 shooting percentage (SH%) at five-on-five and 7.8 SH% at all strengths. Both were the lowest marks of his career, with the latter being well below his career 11.9 SH%. 

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There is good bounce-back potential for him next season, but it’s a bit too much of a risk for where the Devils are in their rebuild right now. Beauvillier has two years left on his deal at a cap hit of $4.15 million. If he doesn’t bounce back, the Devils will have some salary cap problems on their hands, given it looks like they will spend to make improvements this summer. So they need to be smart about how they allocate their money. 

Semyon Varlamov

The Devils’ goaltending struggles are clear as day, as they finished this season with an .881 team SV%. Best of luck trying to win games consistently with that kind of goaltending, so fixing the situation in between the pipes should be priority No. 1. Varlamov finished this season with a .912 SV% and has a .918 SV% in 112 games over the last three seasons with the New York Islanders. He’d provide an upgrade for the Devils, but there’s a fair bit of risk involved. 

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Varlamov played well this past season, he was limited to 31 games. Part of that was due to the stellar play of Ilya Sorokin, but Varlamov struggled with injuries as well. At 34 years old, that’s something the Devils might want to avoid after Jonathan Bernier missed a majority of the 2021-22 season after undergoing season-ending hip surgery

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Varlamov also only has one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $5 million. The money isn’t an issue since the Devils have a bit over $25.3 million in cap space, but he’s a stop-gap rather than a long-term solution. It probably wouldn’t take much to acquire him from the Islanders, especially if general manager Lou Lamoriello is just looking to clear space. But even if the trade cost is minimal, the Devils would be better off diving into free agency for Ville Husso or Jack Campbell

J.T. Miller

Miller had a fantastic season with the Vancouver Canucks, totaling 32 goals and 99 points in 80 games. He finished with a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 52.36 percent and expected goals percentage (xG%) of 51.03 percent. He was the Canucks’ second most efficient five-on-five scorer behind Conor Garland in 2021-22 and has averaged 88 points per 82 games over the last three seasons. Talent isn’t the reason the Devils should avoid trading for him. Rather, it’s the cost. 

For starters, the Canucks aren’t going to give Miller away if they don’t plan on signing him to an extension this offseason. They will want top assets, perhaps the second overall pick, which the Devils own in the 2022 draft, or a 2023 first-round pick. New Jersey would also have to include a top prospect and a young roster player, so it’s a high price to pay. 

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Then there’s signing Miller to an extension, which wouldn’t kick until 2023, when he’d be 30 years old. His dollar figure will be pretty high, likely north of $9 million a year. He’s a great player, but the Devils shouldn’t be the team to pay him that kind of money for seven years through his age 30-37 seasons. They’d be better off targeting Kevin Fiala in a trade, who should not cost as much because of the Minnesota Wild’s cap situation or pursuing Johnny Gaudreau in free agency. 

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Josh Anderson

Anderson has been a part of nearly every trade proposal I’ve seen for the second overall pick. There’s close to a zero percent chance of that happening, but we know the Devils could be interested in a bigger winger who can score goals. Even if that’s the case, they should stay far away from Anderson if the Montreal Canadiens decide to trade him. 

It’s not that Anderson’s a terrible player — he’s averaged 21 goals and 34 points per 82 games over the last three seasons. But other factors, such as his contract, are problematic. Anderson’s deal runs through the 2026-27 season at a cap hit of $5.5 million. Other than shooting the puck, he’s limited in what else he provides. He’s not a good passer, is below average defensively, and is a non-factor on the power play:

Josh Anderson
Josh Anderson’s wins above replacement (WAR) percentile over the last 3 seasons

Simply put, Anderson isn’t worth the cap hit the Canadiens gave him a couple of years ago, especially for the term he has remaining on his deal. If the Devils are intent on adding heavy skill to their roster, they’d be better off targeting wingers such as Ilya Mikheyev, Andre Burakovsky or Nino Niederreiter in free agency. 

John Gibson

Rumors of Gibson at least being open to a trade surfaced about a week ago. Time will tell whether the Anaheim Ducks decide to move him, but there will surely be plenty of suitors for a goalie who was once among the league’s elite. The key word is “was,” though. Between the 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons, he posted a SV% of .922 across 170 games. But since then, his game has fallen off a cliff. 

From the start of 2019-20 to the end of this season, Gibson has posted a .904 SV% across 142 games. His underlying numbers have cratered, as he’s posted a negative goals saved above expected (GSAx) in each of the last three seasons, culminating in a GSAx of minus-18.3. He’s only stopped .912 percent of shots he’s faced at five-on-five, ranked 62nd in the league for goalies with 1000-plus minutes logged. 

Gibson is only 28 years old, so it is odd his play seemingly began to fall off a cliff when he was 25 years old. With that said, he’s faced a lot of shots over the last few seasons and has had a heavy workload on a team that hasn’t been overly competitive. That takes a toll on anyone, especially a goalie who’s started 142 games in that stretch. Perhaps there’s a bounce-back potential with a change of scenery, but I don’t think the Devils should be the team to take a chance on that. 

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For starters, Gibson is under contract for five more seasons at a cap hit of $6.4 million. His play has not been close to worth that over the last three seasons, so the Ducks would have to retain a relatively significant portion of his remaining deal. But how many teams do that with a contract that spans as long as Gibson’s? 

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And even though his play hasn’t lived up to his contract, Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek isn’t going to trade Gibson for pennies on the dollar. He’ll likely want something equivalent of mid to late first-round value and then some. It’s not a price worth paying if you’re the Devils when Campbell and Husso should be available in free agency or a trade candidate such as Vitek Vanecek hits the market. Staying away is the best option here.

Plenty of Other Options for the Devils This Offseason

The Devils are likely in for an active offseason, but they have to be smart about who they add to their roster. While the players listed here would fill some needs they need to address, they won’t be the best use of assets to improve the roster. Fortunately, it seems as if there’ll be plenty of other options in free agency and the trade market, so general manager Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils should be able to find what they’re looking for to help the team make legitimate strides in 2022-23. 

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Advanced stats from Natural Stat TrickEvolving-Hockey

Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017

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