New Jersey Devils win the Sami Vatanen trade all over again… by bringing him back

Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils have won the Sami Vatanen trade all over again.

Months after trading him to the Carolina Hurricanes, the New Jersey Devils have re-signed Sami Vatanen to a one-year, $2 million contract.

Vatanen was a UFA and was one of the biggest names remaining on the open market, but he’ll now return to a place he knows well in the Garden State for the 2020-21 NHL season.

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This is a home run of a deal for Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald for a plethora of different reasons, including the fact that he now boasts the rare feat of winning a trade twice.

Yes, you did read that right.

With the New Jersey Devils toast by the time the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline swung around, Fitzgerald, who then had the interim tag to his name, opted to send Vatanen to the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Janne Kuokkanen, depth defenseman Fredrik Claesson and a conditional Fourth-Round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

That conditional pick turned into a Third-Round selection that was used on goaltender Nico Daws, who was taken with the No. 84 overall pick by the Devils, by the way.

So, in a nutshell, Fitzgerald traded an expiring contract to a Playoff team for a bag of valuable assets, before then bringing Vatanen back to New Jersey on a very team-friendly, one-year deal that will cost just $2 million against the cap in 2020-21.

That’s how you win a trade twice.

But the re-signing of Sami Vatanen for the New Jersey Devils is also important for other reasons, with the team really weaponizing their boatload of cap space in a smart way.

For starters, Vatanen knows this team, he’s familiar with the vast majority of the roster and it shouldn’t take long for the 29-year-old to slot back in, which is important considering that the 2020-21 season starts next Wednesday.

He’s a good fit in the locker room, he’s a competitor and, when healthy, he’s a very, very good and reliable top-four defenseman who can be a real asset for most teams in the NHL.

Also, he adds some balance to the Devils blueline and will be a nice top-four option for new Head Coach Lindy Ruff to have at his disposal, potentially a fit with offseason addition Ryan Murray.

But Vatanen can certainly bring plenty to the table for New Jersey, including eating big minutes, quarterbacking the power play and just adding a different dimension to that backend.

With 23 points (5 G, 18 A) in 47 regular season games for the Devils in 2019-20, including 10 power play points (1 G, 9 A), Vatanen can bring an offensive punch to the table and is also a good option to have on either PP unit.

Sami Vatanen (45)
New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen (45). Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Vatanen, who also recorded three points (0 G, 3 A) in 7 Stanley Cup Playoffs games for the Hurricanes last year, logged an average of 21:45 minutes of ice time per night for the Devils in 2019-20, and he should quickly re-establish himself as a top-four defenseman on this team who can play in all situations.

Also responsible in his own zone, Vatanen just gives the Devils another solid option on the backend and that will be important in what will be a gruelling 56-game shortened season, while he will also help with the transition game and getting the puck out of the zone both quickly and smoothly.

Plus, if Vatanen can hit anywhere between 25-40 points in 2020-21, then New Jersey can also flip him at the Trade Deadline (again) for more assets, and that could be a real option given that they will be stuck in a juggernaut of a East Division.

Vatanen, who was acquired by the Devils from the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 30, 2017, has a career total of 194 points (45 G, 149 A) with 192 penalty minutes in 434 career NHL games, in addition to 26 points (6 G, 20 A) in 40 postseason contests.

And, with $8,468,336 still remaining in cap space according to CapFriendly, the Devils still have plenty of room to re-sign their one remaining RFA in forward Jesper Bratt and make any additional tweaks to this roster should they so wish to do so.

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But, overall, after getting back some assets for him only to bring him back just a few months later, the New Jersey Devils have managed to win the same trade twice while also improving their blueline with a player in Sami Vatanen who will be an impact player in 2020-21.