Assessing New Jersey Devils’ Trade for Marek Zidlicky

The New Jersey Devils Traded for Veteran Defensemen Marek Zidlicky, Sending Nick Palmieri, Kurtis Foster, Stephane Veilleux, a 2nd round pick, and a conditional third round pick to the Minnesota Wild. Was this a good move?

I’m a big Devils fan. I follow the team closely, know every guy on the roster, and at first I thought the Devils gave up way too much. Marek Zidlicky, his 35 years, his 4 million in cap hit for the next two years, and his whopping 14 assists and no goals warranted prospects, picks, and a defenseman? Then I thought about it a bit more critically.

Nick Palmieri might have never played another productive game in the NHL. It’s hard to forget the magical connection Palmieri and Ilya Kovalchuk had last season, but in the little NHL action he’s seen this year he’s proven himself to be a highly mediocre prospect. He’s young, that can certainly all change, but right now he’s not worth much to the New Jersey Devils. Rumor has it Nick Palmieri was the focal point of the trade. If that’s the case, I’m okay with his departure.

Stephane Veilleux was on his way back to Albany. He doesn’t feel like it, but Veilleux was around the NHL for ten years and not very productive in any season. The New Jersey Devils will not miss him.

Kurtis Foster is the worst defensemen on a blue line that features Mark Fayne – maybe it’s not all bad.

Then again, is a defenseman with no goals and fourteen assists any sort of an upgrade at all? Marek Zidlicky certainly has goal-scoring potential, and any Devils fan recognizes the blue line weaknesses of this team even before injuries took out Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson, but is this a down year or the down side of a veteran career? Zidlicky’s problems with Minnesota Wild management are well documented, but there’s a lot of risk here for the New Jersey Devils. At best, they’ve found a veteran defensemen who won’t “Fayne” the puck to the opposition streaking through the slot. Zidlicky was productive for most of his years in the NHL and could be the presence that the Devils need to complete their defensive corps. At worst, they just picked up four million dollars in cap hit next year. Wasn’t this the team that didn’t have any money to sign Zach Parise?

The Devils defensemen could be, when healthy – Adam Larsson, Andy Greene, Anton Volchenkov, Bryce Salvador, Henrik Tallinder, and Marek Zidlicky. Not bad, considering they truly have only three NHL-quality defensemen on the roster right now.

My biggest qualms with this trade come from the draft picks and the cap hit. Realistically, the “prospects” are nothing to be missed all that much. However, the draft picks, a second rounder from the Caps who won’t be making the playoffs this year (maybe), and a third rounder if the Devils make the Eastern Conference Finals. Palmieri is a serviceable NHL forward with upside and Foster is a decent enough shot from the point. Zidlicky wanted out. Did the Devils really need to give up a potentially useful draft pick? Two?

Secondly, the four million the Devils could be on the hook for next year is a bit troublesome. Zidlicky has fourteen points and no goals so far this season and at that rate nobody will want the veteran defenseman next year. When the Devils look to clear cap space for captain Zach Parise, will they regret acquiring a 35-year-old defenseman that doesn’t score? Then I’m reminded of Brian Rolston’s 5 million dollar cap hit that Lou Lamoriello was able to turn into a 1 million dollar cap hit through a few manipulative moves. Maybe he’ll be able to dump Zidlicky and sign Parise. However, if the Devils make room for Zidlicky’s cap hit next year and Parise doesn’t end up in New Jersey, I won’t be the only angry Devils fan lamenting this move.

Ultimately, the Devils gave up a lot. They may have given up too much. The trade has long standing impact on the franchise and the draft picks hurt. The potential four million dollars the Devils could be on the hook for next year may also hurt. However, the Devils’ biggest weakness is their defense. Martin Brodeur has been a revelation in the second half of the season so far. Many of his goals allowed come from mistakes by their group of young and oft-injured defensemen. The New Jersey Devils may have the best top line in hockey and their third line gives them incredible depth and versatility. The biggest hole on this team is in their defense, and if Zidlicky can show up and not fuck things up too bad, the Devils win in this trade – provided Lou can dump him and sign Parise, that is.

Mark Donatiello
Follow me on Twitter:  @FasterHockey more


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