New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello made another crafty trade by acquiring Steve Sullivan for a 7th-round pick in this year’s deadline. However, it wasn’t what the Devils needed and their relative silence at the deadline did little to slow a spiral that would lead them out of the playoffs.
At the NHL trade deadline, this “Lamoriellian” move felt like watching the greatest chess player in the world win a game of checkers with a middle schooler; Pleasant as this one-sided deal was, New Jersey’s hockey genius needed to put his abilities toward something more grand, more elaborate, or simply more impactful.
The Devils needed top-line support after an injury to Ilya Kovalchuk crippled New Jersey’s offense as they clung to a playoff spot. Adam Henrique continued to slump, David Clarkson completely vanished and the bottom-line depth the Devils hold so dear didn’t win them hockey games. The offense just never clicked without Kovalchuk, and it never seemed likely that a 38-year-old Sullivan could possibly make much of a goal-scoring impact.
Additionally, New Jersey’s defense was ineffective all year. An acquisition of a technically-sound defenseman to lend balance to the top pairings would have really helped the Devils. A true offensive threat from the blue line would have been a great fit, both to alleviate the loss of Kovalchuk on the power play and to provide scoring in five-on-five situations. Instead, New Jersey continued to rotate eight mediocre defensemen.
There’s no way to view the move itself in a negative light. Steve Sullivan, a former Devil, fit in beautifully with this roster and somehow even saw top-line minutes. He brought leadership, presence and a minor scoring threat to a Devils team that lacked direction. Best of all, New Jersey risked nothing in the meaningless acquisition. It was a great move — but it was a small move.
It would have been nice if the Devils did a little more at the NHL trade deadline, but a win’s a win. Unfortunately, Lou Lamoriello just never brought enough talent back to New Jersey after Zach Parise walked last offseason.
The trade deadline was an opportunity to make a run, or at least make a roster move to counter some of the impact of Kovalchuk’s injury. Unfortunately, the Devils chose instead to silently slip into the draft lottery.