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Devils could make more moves before NHL Trade Deadline, GM says

Fitzgerald pushes youth movement forward after trades of Greene, Coleman

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils may not be done making moves following two trades Sunday.

"I've been fielding a lot of calls," Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said after a 4-3 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Prudential Center. "Teams call and ask me what I'm thinking, and I've been very transparent with all the general managers out there. I'm not just giving players away, but I'm not telling anyone that this player or that player is off limits."

The Devils made that clear when they first traded defenseman Andy Greene, who was their captain, to the New York Islanders for a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and defenseman prospect David Quenneville. They later traded forward Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward prospect Nolan Foote and a first-round pick in the 2020 or 2021 NHL Draft.

Greene can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1; Coleman has another year on his contract.

 

[RELATED: Trade Tracker | Devils trade Coleman to Lightning | Devils trade Greene to Islanders]

 

New Jersey still has four players who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season: Forwards Wayne Simmonds and Kevin Rooney, defenseman Sami Vatanen and goalie Louis Domingue. Forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac each has this season and next remaining before potentially becoming unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2021. Palmieri has an eight-team no-trade clause in his contract.

Fitzgerald said Zajac, the longest-tenured Devil, will not be traded.

"There are a lot of teams kicking the tires to see where we're at," Fitzgerald said. "I'm guessing my phone will ring a little more now after what I did today. I'm looking to really move the organization forward, and there are players here that will do that and help us."

The Devils (22-26-10), last in the Metropolitan Division with 24 games remaining, are obvious sellers by the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24. They trail the Philadelphia Flyers by 17 points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"My plan, if I'm to continue at this position, is to build around [centers Nico Hischier] and [Jack Hughes] in that age frame and have a group of kids around that same type of age group and grow together," Fitzgerald said.

Hischier, 21, was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and has 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 47 games. Hughes was the No. 1 pick in 2019; the 18-year-old has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 50 games.

The Devils entered the season with playoff aspirations after using the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft to select Hughes, and the acquisitions of defenseman P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators and forward Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. The early struggles, which included an 0-4-2 start, led to Hynes being fired and replaced by Alain Nasreddine on Dec. 3. Pending unrestricted free agent forward Taylor Hall was traded to the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 16, and general manager Ray Shero was fired and replaced by Fitzgerald on Jan. 12.

"This season did not go the way it was supposed to go and that's not because a plan was different, but that we underperformed in October, November and December. A coach (John Hynes) got fired, a manager (Ray Shero) got fired and we pivoted to try to get ahead with asset management and apply that moving forward.

"I want to get better long term; that's the goal. It's not just a short fix in the next couple of years. We're thinking big picture and thinking down the road. With [Hischier and Hughes] down the middle, the future is bright. Building a team around that age demographic is important, but we're going to need some men too, because it's a man's league."

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