When the New Jersey Devils traded former first-round draft pick Stefan Matteau to the Montreal Canadiens for Devante Smith-Pelly, nobody expected either player to have much of an impact. Nobody told Smith-Pelly that, however, and he might just be the best acquisition of the deadline thanks to his inspired play.
The emergence of Smith-Pelly has been a revelation that nobody was expecting. He has tallied seven goals and four assists in his first 11 games with the Devils after having just six goals and six assists in 46 games with the Canadiens this season. The former second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks has already scored a career-high 13 goals this season.
There is no doubt that Smith-Pelly has talent. He just couldn’t find the right situation in Anaheim or Montreal. He might have found it in New Jersey, and right now he is offsetting the loss of Lee Stempniak who was third on the team with 16 goals. The 23-year-old Smith-Pelly also gives the Devils a young core with 25-year-old Kyle Palmieri and 26-year-old Adam Henrique that the team can build around.
Given the fact that New Jersey doesn’t spend a lot on free agents, the emergence of Smith-Pelly is a blessing for the Devils. He doesn’t turn them into a playoff contender, at least right now, but he does give their fans some hope for next year.
This season has been a bit of a surprise for the Devils. Not many expected them to enter the trade deadline still in the playoff hunt. They were roasted for dealing their third-leading goalscorer while being on the playoff bubble. That bubble might have burst for this year, but the future is a little brighter in Newark right now thanks to Smith-Pelly.