Could Devils pull free agency coup and lure Johnny Gaudreau to New Jersey?

Islanders Devils Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The New York Rangers are looking to build off their run to the Eastern Conference Final and the New York Islanders are trying to bounce back after a subpar season, the New Jersey Devils could be one of the New York area’s most intriguing teams headed into NHL free agency. 

With roughly $25 million in cap space, the Devils have the money to add a number of free agents that could help its young core and jumpstart the franchise’s turnaround. New Jersey has missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, and is coming off a 27-46-9 record last year, but it still can be a destination that could attract UFAs when the market opens at noon on Wednesday.

That includes one of the most coveted players that will hit the open market. 

Of course, that is New Jersey native and soon-to-be-former Calgary Flame Johnny Gaudreau. The winger is coming off a year in which he set new career bests in points (115) and goals (40) and he has been linked to the Devils, along with the Philadelphia Flyers and Islanders. 

Hailing from South Jersey, the Flyers were his favorite team growing up and they were anticipated to be a major player in the Gaudreau sweepstakes. However, a lot of bad contracts handed out over the years have severely handcuffed the Flyers this offseason with just $3.5 million in cap space after buying out the contract of Oskar Lindblom on Tuesday.  

By comparison, the Devils have to re-sign Jesper Bratt and a few other restricted free agents, but they have more than enough room to comfortably make a play for Gaudreau. And unlike the Islanders, who have more cap space than the Flyers, they wouldn’t need to move another contract to bring Johnny Hockey in. 

The Islanders still need to move another contract out like Josh Bailey to fit the talented 27-year-old in due to the need for new contracts for Noah Dobson and recently acquired defender Alexander Romanov. While the Flyers want Gaudreau, and he reportedly wants to go there, Philly Hockey Now reported that there is concern that Philadelphia has the money to do it. 

The outlet also reported that he “wants to play on the East Coast if he can.” 

New Jersey would certainly fit that bill for the talented hockey star. The Devils have a number of talented young forwards that include Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, along with a strong defensive unit and a goaltending duo that will be an improvement from last season. 

Bringing in Gaudreau to New Jersey could have a similar impact that the addition of Artemi Panarin had across the river in Manhattan, to help speed up the Rangers’ rebuild. 

A lot could happen between now and Wednesday at noon and Gaudreau is reportedly sitting on a massive contract offer from Calgary in an attempt to keep him in the Alberta city. 

Devils options not named Gaudreau

Devils fans may be looking at this offseason as it’s either Gaudreau or nothing, but there are a number of very good alternatives available that could help New Jersey. 

when it comes to those players, Ondrej Palat is one of the first names to come that a lot of NHL teams would welcome. After helping the Tampa Bay Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final last season, Palat is headed to the open market. 

His two Stanley Cup rings, his 21 points in 23 playoff games and 49 points during the regular season would surely be a boost for the Devils’ forward group. Andrew Copp, who helped the Rangers reach the conference final for the first time in quite some time, could also be another veteran add that would help New Jersey this season.

Nino Niederreiter could also be a name that the Devils check in on. He is a consistent 20-goal scorer and he knows the Metropolitan Division well.