Teams that look a lot different than they did a week ago — and could look different again a week from now — will meet Thursday night when the New Jersey Devils host the San Jose Sharks in a battle of rebuilding teams in Newark, N.J.
Both teams are coming off losses endured in the midst of eventful weeks. The Devils fell to the host St. Louis Blues 3-0 on Tuesday night. The Sharks last played Monday, when they lost to the visiting Florida Panthers 5-3.
The game Tuesday night was the first for the Devils since Sunday, when they traded captain Andy Greene to the New York Islanders a couple of hours before facing the Columbus Blue Jackets. New Jersey then dealt Blake Coleman, who shared the team lead in goals, to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 4-3 shootout win. Coleman was scratched as a precaution with the trade talks heating up.
The Devils, who have the third-fewest points in the Eastern Conference and the fourth-fewest in the NHL overall, probably aren’t done dealing in a league in which there are few sellers and many buyers as the Monday trade deadline approaches.
Entering Wednesday, there were four teams within four points of the wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference and four teams within three points of the wild card spots in the Western Conference.
Wayne Simmonds, who is a free agent after the season, is a candidate to be dealt, as is fellow right winger Kyle Palmieri, who is signed through the 2020-21 season and could net a bigger haul from a team ready to win a Stanley Cup.
“I’m guessing my phone will ring a little more now because of what I did (Sunday),” interim Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald told reporters Sunday night. “But I’m not looking to get rid of players.
“I’m looking to really move the organization, continue moving forward. And there are players here that will do that and help us.”
The Sharks, who entered Wednesday with the third-fewest points in the Western Conference and the sixth-fewest in the NHL overall, jumped into the trading-deadline fray Tuesday, when they sent defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick.
Dillon spent more than five years with the Sharks, who acquired him from the Dallas Stars on Nov. 21, 2014, and helped the team to its lone appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 2016.
The Sharks made the playoffs each of the following three years and reached the Western Conference Finals last year. But the likelihood of missing the playoffs for just the second time in the last 16 seasons has resulted in a pressing of the reset button in San Jose.
“Because of where we find ourselves in the standings this season, it’s imperative that we look towards acquiring assets for the future,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a press release Tuesday.
The most obvious candidate to be traded by the Sharks is center Joe Thornton, the franchise icon who is 40 years old and eligible for free agency after the season. Thornton has reportedly been linked in trade talks to the Colorado Avalanche as well as the Boston Bruins, who drafted him first overall in 1997 and traded him to San Jose in the November 2005.
–Field Level Media