The New Jersey Devils thrust themselves into the uproar surrounding the Colorado Avalanche this past week, when they signed three free agents all with the intent to trade them despite the fines. This strategy was ridiculed by more than a few teams but the Devils were impressed with the strategy and within a couple days reached out to see what exactly the expectations were for Antti Raanta. Unknown to the team at the time, this was the beginning of the end for David Backes and his time in New Jersey.
Backes has been a key part of New Jersey going back to almost the beginning of GM Tousignant's time with the team. He was with the team during the extremly trying years when he was a rookie in 2007-2008 to the teams cup run in 2011-2012, as well as the mediocre seasons as of late. Of the 967 regular season games Backes has played he only played 11 for another team - that being the Buffalo Sabres back in 2005-2006. He spent the entire following season minus two games in minors before being a key player on the team for the next 12 seasons. He had a sophomore slump in 2008-2009 that saw him record only 5 goals and 25 points as he shot an abysmal 5.38% but aside from that season, he was always a force to be reckoned with. While he did score over 30 goals twice (in 2009/10 and 2011/12) he still managed multiple great seasons where he was the backbone of the team, almost always a given for 55+ points while also throwing an insane amount of hits, four times topping 360 in a season. His career plus minus of +43 is also quite impressive considering the one year of -53 severely hurting his overall numbers.
His career line with the team, 665 points in 956 games, does not immediately jump out as overly impressive but the team thinks what he brought during his prime years will not be seen for a long time in New Jersey. He played with some great players, like Patrick Kane - who will keep his name from appearing on any team records page when it's all said and done but his playstyle and consistency at being a top line C who could play special teams will be sorely missed. The team never wanted to see him leave the team, either through free agency or trade however with the salary cap and a need for a goalie - something had to be done. That unfortunately meant packaging Backes with another prospect and sending him on his way to Colorado - likely to be bought out and then signed to another team where he will likely still be an extremely effective 4th liner.
Back to trade actual trade outside of Backes, Ronnie Attard and Jordan Spence also saw themselves move to Colorado. Both were recent picks of the team from the 2019 draft, when Jordan Spence went 75th overall and Ronnie Attard went 107th. The defensemen both have very interesting upside, with Spence being a small undersized offensive defenseman and Attard being a bit of a wildcard with size, skating and offense but is a late bloomer. The team felt with a solid core of Sam Girard, Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Chychrun the depth on D wouldn't be hurt too badly with the loss of some high upside but high risk prospects. Evan Bouchard and Tobias Bjornfot are also recently drafted defenseman in the last couple of years who have a little more pedigree being first round picks so that part of the pipeline should still be fine in terms of depth.
Raanta comes to the team a year after signing Brian Elliot and seeing how a big contract on a goalie can backfire. Well, the team is sort of doubling down and the risk on Raanta is magnified even more, as his contract is twice as long as Elliots was and his starter ability is just as up in the air. The Devils have been a fan of his for awhile and think when he's healthy he's one of the better goalies in the league. The two headed goalie combination of Raanta and Elliot could be dynamite as both have ratings 77 and above but with the glaring issue of 29 and 28 DU, the team could be in for a world of hurt if something happens to one or both of them during the season. For the time being the team will be at or near the salary cap before any other moves are made and while Backes' departure leaves a hole at C, the hope is a winger like Charlie Coyle or Boone Jenner can slide over and fill that spot.