Talking Red

Which Defenseman Should the Devils Trade?

Posted in on by EJ Fagan

The Devils have 8 defensemen. Occasionally, they have demonstrated a willingness to play 7 in a game in the past, but for the most part the roster is best constructed with 6 playing in each game and one sitting on the bench in reserve. As a result of the logjam, Adam Larsson sat in the first two games, and it looks like he will sit again in Game 3.

Its unlikely that Devils think that Adam Larsson is their 7th best defenseman. And given the fairly poor offensive skill of the group that played last night, I have trouble believing that they believe that including Adam Larsson would throw off the balance between size/speed/puck moving/defense/penalty killing/etc among the blueline as a whole. By all accounts, Larsson had a good camp and was healthy. If this was a long term thing, Larsson could be sent down to Albany, but he hasn’t been. So, why is he sitting? My guess is that the Devils are trying to build trade value for one of Andy Greene, Anton Volchenkov or Henrik Tallinder.

Who should go? There is a reasonable case for trading any of the three:

Henrik Tallinder or Andy Greene: In my book, these guys fulfill pretty similar roles. Both players will drive the play forward while not scoring a lot of points, can play the power play in less-than-ideal circumstances, and are very solid defensive players.

Andy Greene is four years younger, a little better on offense, He’s been playing five more minutes of ice time per game against better players during this season. His cap hit is $375k lower, and he is signed for one extra year. Andy Greene is almost definitely the better player right now. All else being equal, you would want to keep him on the roster over Tallinder.

Anton Volchenkov: He’s a very different player than Tallinder or Greene. He won’t drive the play forward nearly as much, but is also a tougher, better defensive player. While Volchenkov was terrible toward the end of last season and in the playoffs, he was a very important part of the best purchase cymbalta penalty kill in NHL history. Somewhat surprisingly, Volchenkov has been playing 2 minutes more in ice time per game than Henrik Tallinder so far.

Of the three, Volchenkov has easily the worst contract. He’s signed for four more seasons at $4.25 million, a clean $1.25 million and one season more than Andy Greene.

Who goes? The Devils seem to think that Henrik Tallinder is the worst player of the three, judging by the ice time allocated over the first two games. Volchenkov The big difference between Tallinder and Volchenkov has come on the penalty kill. Volchenkov has led the team in shorthanded time on ice with 4:25 per game, while Tallinder has barely taken a shift on the penalty kill. Tallinder has played one more minute of even strength ice time per game, and has taken a few shifts on the second power play unit, although Andy Greene has taken most of that time.

So, it starts to make sense to trade one of Andy Greene or Tallinder instead of Volchenkov. Ideally, you would want to keep Greene and trade Tallinder. But that’s not accounting for one very important variable: return. If Greene is a better player, he could bring a better forward back to the Devils. On a team where Stephen Gionta is getting the 6th most ice team per game among forwards and Steve Bernier is on the power play, this is very important, and will become even more important after Stefan Matteau is sent back to his junior team.

Tallinder for an okay 3rd line forward or Greene for a slighter better one? Personally, I’ll take the okay 3rd line forward. Andy Greene is a better player, and will be a better asset for the Devils to hold over the next three seasons. His contract is looking very, very reasonable right now. Keeping Tallinder would be the better short term move, but I think the Devils could regret doing so as early as next season. They will have plenty of time and money to add a good forward in the offseason.