James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

NHL GMs: Beware of making deals with the Devils


This post’s main image features Taylor Hall and Cory Schneider wearing the jerseys of the teams who likely wish they got better deals from the New Jersey Devils.

Even Kool-Aid-sipping Devils superfans will probably admit that the Devils have a ways to go, which means GM Ray Shero likely won’t be shy to make more trade calls.

So, with that in mind, here’s some advice to other general managers: you might be making a deal with the devil when you trade with the Devils.

Let’s look at some recent Devils trades (from the end of the Lou Lamoriello era to Shero’s early days):

  • In 2014-15, they turned the last months of Jaromir Jagr‘s contract into one second-round and one third-round pick. During that same deadline, they grabbed a third-rounder for Marek Zidlicky.

This past deadline, they got nice production out of PTO success Lee Stempniak and then turned his expiring contract into a second-rounder and a fourth-rounder.

  • Picks haven’t always been going New Jersey’s way, but when they give up theirs, they’ve been getting guys who end up sticking with the team and strengthening the core.

Most prominently, the Devils sent a first-rounder (eventually Bo Horvat) to Vancouver for Cory Schneider. They managed to re-sign him for a reasonable price, locking up one of the NHL’s rare elite goalies. All apologies to Horvat, but that’s a big win for the Devils.

Kyle Palmieri seems like another great trade addition, albeit not on the Schneider scale.

Sending a 2015 second-rounder and a 2016 third-rounder away to Anaheim seems like a perfectly fair price for Palmieri, a player who figures to be a top-six forward for the Devils for some time.

  • Of course, this summer featured the blockbuster Taylor Hall trade.

Yes, losing Adam Larsson hurts, but the end result is another big win for New Jersey.


No doubt, there have been some growing pains in Newark. That said, the transition from Lamoriello to Shero is looking awfully positive, and trades likely play the biggest role in that brighter outlook.

So, other GMs, practice this line when Shero or an associate calls you: “That’s a great trade offer, but let me think about it.”

Or maybe just block any call from a New Jersey area code, just to be safe.

Whoa, watch these KHL coaches fight


If you were wondering what former NHL goalie* Peter Skudra has been up to, you probably didn’t expect the answer to be “He’s a KHL coach who fought another KHL coach.”

That unlikely scene took place at a KHL pre-season game, as Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy passes along word that Skudra (coaching Torpedo Nizhny) got into a scuffle with Yevgeni Popikhin (HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk) midway through a Saturday game.

The KHL tends to generate some odd moments compared to the more buttoned-down NHL, but this is something else.

It’s a sight to behold:

Leahy also unearthed video of the fight from this angle.

* – You’d most likely remember him from his Pittsburgh Penguins or Vancouver Canucks days.

Sidney Crosby went the extra mile for autograph seekers


To an extent, it makes sense that some people don’t like Sidney Crosby.

Most obviously, he’s a great player who’s helped the Pittsburgh Penguins beat plenty of peoples’ favorite teams.

Beyond that, Crosby is a competitor, and sometimes the drive to win brings out an edge that rubs people the wrong way. (Just ask Claude Giroux.)

It’s probably a little tougher to really drum up that hate during weekends like these, as Crosby earned millions of good guy points when he went above and beyond in making autograph-seeking fans happy.

The story surfaced on social media and was expanded upon by NHL.com: a family put up a sign in Crosby’s Nova Scotia area requesting an autograph from No. 87 about three weeks ago. Eventually they took it down, yet it caught Crosby’s attention, as he came by the house and did more than just sign a single sweater:

Maybe the best part of the story comes for Darryl Pottie, who wasn’t there as Crosby spent at least 20 minutes chatting with the family and signing everything short of a cat. His wife Tricia used the subject line “An old friend dropped in” and then …

“There was a picture and I open it up,” Darryl said. “Right away I recognize my daughter and I look beside her and it’s like, ‘That…that’s Sidney Crosby! Wait…wait a second. That’s in my house! He’s in my house!’ And I’m screaming at my work and people are looking at me like, ‘What are you talking about?'”

It’s fantastic stuff, unless you want to convince yourself to continue jeering the guy.

NHL.com provides the full rundown.

Defense is now the Devils’ most glaring issue


From here, trading away Adam Larsson to acquire legit star Taylor Hall is a slam-dunk, and a backboard-shattering one in that.

Even so, there’s little sense denying the notion that the New Jersey Devils face more uncertainty on defense after trading away one of their most important defensemen.

Take a look at a guess at what the team’s seven defensemen might be, in no particular order:

Andy Greene, Ben Lovejoy, Damon SeversonJohn Moore, Jon Merrill, Steven Santini and Brandon Gormley.

That’s … not an imposing group on paper.

All About the Jersey points out that the Devils were the second-worst team in the NHL at 5-on-5 in Corsi last season, a sometimes unthinkable plight for a team with such a tight-trapping reputation. And those issues came with Larsson.

This post really paints a dismal picture:

As defensive corps go, that one is… pretty underwhelming. Beyond Andy Greene, there are an awful lot of question marks in that bunch and a few players who we know are probably third-pairing level at best. There are probably four players total in that group (Greene, Severson, Lovejoy, Moore) I’m comfortable saying are NHLers right now for sure, which is certainly not ideal.

Greene probably does deserve more recognition as a quality defenseman and it’s also true that the Devils have a knack for manufacturing NHL defensemen, however.

It also must be noted that some of the Devils’ possession troubles can be blamed on a weak offense that added Taylor Hall this summer.

Damon Severson may be called upon to limit the damage.

Hockey Buzz’s Todd Cordell notes that while Larsson + Andy Greene served as a pairing that was better at limiting opponents’ shots, Severson and Greene created better offense and that such a combination might yield better results for the Devils overall.

Severson is targeted as a make-or-break guy in at least two other Devils-centric outlets, too.

John Hynes faces the challenge of putting things together to try to at least compete for a playoff spot. If this defense is any indication, they might need to ask a lot from Cory Schneider and an improved group of forwards.

It’s New Jersey Devils day at PHT


Back in 2011-2012, the New Jersey Devils made an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final. Since then, they haven’t even made the playoffs.

If that last deep run wasn’t the end of an era, then the 2015 off-season certainly stood as one, with long-time head honcho Lou Lamoriello making way for current GM Ray Shero.

In typical Devils fashion, New Jersey was scrappy last season, yet 2015-16 was rough. While they managed an “above .500 record” (38-36-8), they finished with the fifth-worst record in the East and unusually putrid possession numbers.

Trading in optimism

It isn’t all bad for the Devils and their fans, though.


They’ve added some very nice pieces via trades during the last few years. Cory Schneider, Kyle Palmieri and now Taylor Hall didn’t come cheaply … yet all three sure seem worth it at the moment.

In the case of Hall and Schneider in particular, they’re a great one-two punch of talent and value at $6 million apiece for the near future.


With Palmieri and Hall in addition to the likes of Adam Henrique, the Devils’ offense is starting to come together after years of struggling following the exits of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.

That’s especially true if Pavel Zacha can make the NHL jump and Beau Bennett ends up being a successful reclamation project.

Trading Adam Larsson from their defense corps hurts, yet the Devils tend to manufacture defense better than most. Even so, that group stands as the biggest mystery.

Expectations might be muted in Newark, but don’t sleep on Hall and the increasingly promising Devils.