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On cusp of playoffs, Shero must weigh buying vs. selling

Devils NHL Trade Deadline outlook

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

With the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaching at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 29, is taking a close look at what moves teams might be looking to make and whether they'll be buyers or sellers. Today, the New Jersey Devils:


Record: 27-21-7, 61 points; 5th in Metropolitan Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference Wild Card

Unrestricted free agents: Tuomo Ruutu, LW; Lee Stempniak, RW; Stephen Gionta, C; Jordin Tootoo, RW; Tyler Kennedy, C; Bobby Farnham, RW; David Schlemko, D; Patrik Elias, LW; Jiri Tlusty, C.

Restricted free agents: Kyle Palmieri, RW; Reid Boucher, C; Sergey Kalinin, RW; Jacob Josefson, C; Jon Merrill, D.

Projected 2016 draft picks: 8 (1 first)

Projected 2017 draft picks: 5 (1 first)

Needs: Forward depth

Surpluses: Young defensemen

Players Potentially in Play: Stempniak, Gionta, Tootoo, Elias, Merrill, Gelinas

Likely status: Seller

Skinny: The Devils might be the surprise of the NHL in their first season under general manager Ray Shero. Entering the NHL Trade Deadline, New Jersey is in the hunt for its first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four seasons. First-year coach John Hynes has found a way to get the most from a roster filled with young, homegrown players and free-agent acquisitions who have bought into the system; veterans Schlemko and Stempniak have provided unexpected production. The Devils are among the lowest-scoring teams in the League and a nagging right wrist injury to left wing Michael Cammalleri hasn't helped. There have been a few young forwards, among them Boucher and Joseph Blandisi, who have exceeded expectations when called upon. But in order to secure a spot in the playoffs Shero might need to provide offensive reinforcements for the stretch run. The Devils have a multitude of quality young defensemen, including Damon Severson, Seth Helgeson, Gelinas and Merrill. Packaging one with a draft pick could land them a reliable scorer at the deadline. The Devils can afford to trade one young defender because they have one on the cusp of earning a full-time roster spot in 2016-17 in Boston College junior Steven Santini, a second-round pick (No. 42) in the 2012 NHL Draft. Another possibility is Shero putting together an even more enticing package to try landing Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin. The Devils have been a pleasant surprise this season but they probably don't have enough to win a playoff series at this stage of their rebuild. Now might be the time to gain valuable assets for a better future by moving players making significant contributions who could fill a need for a Stanley Cup contender.

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