How Can the New Jersey Devils Become True Stanley Cup Contenders in 2023?

Jack Hughes #86, New Jersey Devils (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)
Jack Hughes #86, New Jersey Devils (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images) /

How the New Jersey Devils can become true Stanley Cup contenders in the 2022-23 NHL season after their sensational rise to power.

The New Jersey Devils have some serious firepower coming from their top-six forwards on this young and high-flying offense, but there’s a steep talent dropoff when it comes to their third and fourth lines.

‘Jersey took a chance on Erik Haula in the 2022 offseason with the hope that he would become a matchup nightmare. However, despite his success in the faceoff circle and his reliability as a back checker, his lack of production on the stat sheet makes it difficult to count on him down the stretch. Especially considering that he’s facing weaker opponents each night as he’s shuffled down in the lineup as a 3rd and 4th line centerman.

It’s a fact that teams with the best bottom-six forwards are the teams with the most success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Addressing this weakness ahead of the March 3, NHL Trade Deadline, even for a one-year rental, will pay dividends for the New Jersey Devils, who are having their best season since 2012, the year they fell short to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Devs have been previously linked to San Jose Sharks star forward Timo Meier. However, considering that Meier has a fat qualifying offer north of $10 million coming his way this offseason, he would bring not only a massive salary cap hit on New Jersey, but the cost of trading for him would be well over what the team should be comfortable with spending.

The Devils have one of the most loaded prospect pools in the NHL, highlighted by Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, who have the potential to be one of the most dominant defensemen pairings in the league for a long time. If the Newar-based franchise plays its cards right, it’ll have the foundation necessary to recreate its early 2000s dynasty.

With this being said, the immediate status of the New Jersey Devils should be focused on riding their current success without getting too aggressive in competing for the Stanley Cup. The safest bet to get the most out of this team without giving up too much compensation is to acquire a veteran Stanley Cup champion who has no issue with playing bottom-six minutes. For this to happen, the New Jersey Devils should trade for Washington Capitals forward, Lars Eller.

Why the New Jersey Devils should trade for Lars Eller.

Lars Eller is entering the final year of a 5-year contract with an annual average value of $3.5 million. In 51 games played, the Rodovre, Denmark native has put together just 7 goals and 9 assists. No, these aren’t eye-popping numbers. However, this only works in ‘Jersey’s favor.

Due to his lack of production in a contract year, Lars Eller’s value is considerably low, making any trade offer for the 33-yo skater worth entertaining. The Devils’ success this season has forfeited the right to a top selection in the 2023 NHL Draft and has therefore made their Day 2 and Day 3 picks available in a potential trade package.

The Devils would be able to add a veteran who has won a Stanley Cup (within the last five years) to their bottom six for no more than a 2023 4th + 6th round draft pick. Eller stands strong at 6’2″ – 205 lbs with comparatively good speed and a tendency to show up in crucial moments during the game.

Given the lack of veteran leadership and playoff experience, the New Jersey Devils could greatly benefit from acquiring Lars Eller ahead of the trade deadline. In a worst-case scenario, the Devils lost a couple of late-round draft selections in exchange for a player who can keep the young guys focused down the stretch of the season.