For The First Time In Their History, The Devils Made A Deal With The Devil In Nabbing Michael Grabner From The Rangers
At the same time I picked up my phone to the notification that Michael Grabner was a New Jersey Devil I got a call from my brother telling me that Michael Grabner was a New Jersey Devil. Yet, as we quickly talked our way through Ray Shero throwing caution to the trade winds, I still couldn't help but think that I should find a third source. I blame the decades I spent drunk on the Kool-Aid for my delayed reaction time. Clearly watching a young, dynamic player who was drafted ahead of a more prototypical prospect and wears the dreaded number '13' across the back of a recently altered jersey wasn't a stark enough reminder that Lou Lamoriello has taken, among other traditions, his endearingly relatable hatred for all things Rangers across the border. It appears I shouldn't have kept putting off my system upgrade, because hearing that the Devils made a cross-river transaction had my wires crossed in a way that is typically followed by an error message.
After that update did finally go through, however, I found myself giddy at the idea of the Devils adding a proven scorer that does most of his damage at even strength, is a constant threat on the penalty kill, and has the speed to put up his pink slip against the wheels of Miles Wood. I didn't think that Ray Shero was even considering the option of renting, but he certainly checked all the boxes in shopping for a short term fit.
You can pretty easily make the argument that, despite their recent 4-game winning streak, the Devils have played some of their most dominant hockey in losing efforts as of late. Questionable goaltending and defensive gaffs aside, that has a lot to do with them being overly reliant on Taylor Hall to will the puck into the net. Their ability to grind out chances has only been made infuriating by their inability to finish them when the chips are down. Michael Grabner is just one flatfooted defenseman away from a breakaway at any given time, and - needless to say - the Jimmy Hayes/Drew Stafford/Nick Lappin/Blake Pietila combination that he'll likely push out of the lineup is only that dangerous to their own job security.
If absolutely nothing else, what this deal cost them in the future pales in comparison to the message it sends now. Whether or not you've elected to believe in the Devils' ability to compete in a postseason run, this is a vote of confidence from the only person that matters that they'll be there when the gun goes off. I didn't see it coming this early in the rebuild, but Ray Shero just declared it "playoffs or bust" for a team that's outperformed expectations. Never mind reinforcing the depth of the lineup, because that should go a long way in reinforcing trust with a player like Taylor Hall who might legitimately need to spend another long offseason in a padded room if his sensational season ends in early April.
So buckle up Devils' fan, both literally and figuratively. the organization just hit the gas on turning this team into a contender. Whatever "house money" they may have been playing with just got pushed to the center of table, so - regardless of what the forecast was in the fall - they can no longer afford to fold. Especially since letting their heated rivals win the first trade they've ever made with one another would feel almost as shitty as losing the franchise's forward momentum.