The Atlanta Thrashers traded defenceman Niclas Havelid to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for blueliner Annsi Salmela.
Loophole Lou Lamoriello hasn't wasted any time in filling what I feel is the Devils' biggest hole.
New Jersey's had a terrific season to this point, and coach Brent Sutter deserves some serious consideration as coach of the year, but he's had to lean heavily on some of his blueliners for big minutes. Sliding Havelid in as a No. 4 or 5 defender — and a good one at that — is an excellent pickup given that he can also log some limited minutes on the power play (although he hasn't played there hardly at all this season under Atlanta coach John Anderson).
The Devils' blueline depth chart now looks a bit like so:
Martin - Oduya
Havelid - Salvador
Mottau - White
Interestingly enough, all seven of these guys are lefties, which normally can create problems but hasn't to this point in the season. Martin and Oduya have been terrific, while Mottau and White have emerged as a solid second pairing.
Havelid, meanwhile, has sort of been wasting away for years in Atlanta. He's playing 21 minutes a night with the Thrashers and is incredibly a plus player on one of the weakest teams in the NHL.
He makes $2.9-million this season and is due to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so this is likely strictly a rental deal.
There are downsides here for New Jersey. Havelid turns 36 in April and isn't likely to give you anything more than what we've seen the past few seasons in Atlanta, and Salmela was regarded as an up and comer and one of the team's top defensive prospects. Sutter was pretty reluctant to use the 24-year-old Finnish vet much in the 17 games he played in the NHL this season, however, playing him mainly on the power play and against very weak opposition.
Salmela is a bit undersized and went undrafted as a teen, but emerged last year as one of the top blueliners with Tampere in the Finnish league. New Jersey signed him as a free agent last May and turns that bit of pro scouting into a useful asset for a potential playoff run.
It's a deal that works for both sides given Atlanta's tearing things down, but I think Lamoriello gets good value for an unproven asset. There's going to be some real bidding wars for defencemen come Wednesday, and the Devils have sidestepped that a bit by acting early.
The Falconer has more from the Thrashers perspective, including some analysis of Salmela as a prospect.