Give the New Jersey Devils front office credit. In 40 seasons since the franchise moved from Colorado to New Jersey, Devils executives have routinely used the annual NHL trade deadline to engineer immediate success – including a pair of Stanley Cup runs in the early 2000s.

This year, the team has already made a big splash by adding All-Star forward Timo Meier from San Jose just five days before the deadline. The massive deal to get Meier adds to a strong lineup that could produce the team’s first championship in 20 years. Even with Meier, that won’t be easy since the Devils would have to run a postseason gauntlet through the power-packed Eastern Conference.

In addition to their great skill at the deadline, Devils executives have been superb at the NHL Entry Draft. Trading for draft picks is always a good move for a New Jersey team that develops star players with remarkable consistency. The Meier deal was huge, but in the long run, any picks acquired before 3 p.m. on March 3 could be just as valuable.

This is a big year for the Devils, who have surprised the league with their level of play. Much of that success came through the draft, as four of the current team’s top five scorers entered the NHL with New Jersey. However, the Devils’ own history shows that veterans acquired at the deadline are often the final puzzle pieces for championship runs. New Jersey has opted to go that route again by adding Meier and any other roster players it might obtain before the deadline.

How many trade deadline deals were made in Devils history?

Since the franchise first arrived in New Jersey in 1982, the Devils have made more than 50 total trades within 48 hours of the NHL trade deadline.  That includes 35 trades on actual deadline days. The team set its single-season record of four deadline-day trades in 2016, and New Jersey has made at least one trade within 48 hours of the deadline in each of the past 10 seasons.

Because many of these transactions led to instant Stanley Cup returns, it’s a daunting task to rank the all-time top 10 Devils deadline deals. Of course, some trades in this top 10 list paid long-term benefits rather than short-term ones, but it is impressive to note how often New Jersey strengthened its roster in the weeks before long playoff runs.

Ranking the Top 10 Best New Jersey Devils NHL Trade Deadline Deals of all time

  1. Timo Meier, Scott Harrington, Santeri Hatakka, Timur Ibragimov, Zach Emond and a 2024 fifth-round pick from the San Jose Sharks for Andreas Johnsson, Shakir Mukhamadullin, Nikiti Okhotiuk, Fabian Zetterlund, a 2023 first-round pick, a conditional 2024 first-round pick, and a 2024 seventh-round pick – Feb. 26, 2023

It’s obviously too early to tell if this is really one of the greatest deadline trades in Devils history, but its blockbuster nature qualifies it for a spot on this list. This is one of the largest multiplayer deals in NHL history and by far the most player-filled New Jersey has ever made this late in a season.

Meier alone is a huge get for a Cup contender, but it’s worth considering the very high price that the Devils were willing to pay.

Mukhamadullin is a big piece of the deal for San Jose. The 21-year-old blue-chip prospect is a 6-foot-3 Russian defenseman who has yet to play in the NHL. He ranked No. 50 overall in the 2022 Hockey News Future Watch list and should be NHL-ready this fall after a career-high six goals and 25 points in 67 KHL games with Ufa. During a stint in last year’s AHL playoffs, he picked up two assists in three games with Utica.

The other key players who went to the Sharks are Zetterlund, a left wing, and Okhotiuk, a defenseman. Zetterlund is already an NHL regular, having played 45 games for the Devils. Okhotiuk isn’t a major prospect in the deep New Jersey pipeline, but he has also seen NHL action and has a chance to make it at the game’s highest level.

The first-round draft pick, which will likely be a late one, is still a big deal for the Sharks, who are already out of the playoff race and can certainly use it as part of a rebuild.

This was a lot to give up for the 26-year-old Meier, a 2022 NHL All-Star who broke out for the Sharks last season. In 2021-22, the right wing caught fire with career highs in goals (35), assists (41), and points (76). With San Jose this season, he had already scored 31 goals and 52 points in 57 games and will likely hit the 40-goal plateau while playing for the Devils.

Meier is on the final year of his contract, and the Devils obviously plan to offer him a max deal in the months to come, so he’ll be in New Jersey for a long time. That’s important, since the other players obtained in this trade all have expiring contracts and don’t seem to have bright futures in the NHL.

  1. A.J. Greer, Mason Jobst, 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 fourth-round pick from the New York Islanders for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac – April 7, 2021

This trade came five days before the deadline, and it saw two longtime Devils take the short trip to Long Island as part of a New Jersey overhaul. It was tough for fans to wave goodbye to Palmieri and Zajac, but it was an important and necessary move since the Devils recognized that both players had little left to give the team.

Palmieri, 30, spent six seasons in the Devils organization. The popular center had scored 140 goals and 266 points in 397 games for New Jersey. He had scored at least 24 goals in each of his first five seasons as a Devil, and five years before the trade, he had a career-high 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games. The magic had worn off, however, as he had only eight goals in 34 games of the 2020-21 season and was headed for unrestricted free agency.

Although he immediately helped the Islanders with a surprising run to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals and earned a new four-year contract that September, Palmieri has seen his scoring drop off sharply and missed a lot of time with injuries since the Isles committed to him. The Devils made the right move when they gave up on Palmieri.

Zajac, meanwhile, was 35 years old and also headed for free agency. He had played 1,024 games in New Jersey, scoring 202 goals, and he left the Devils tied for third on the team’s all-time scoring list with 550 points. His best season was a 25-goal, 42-assist effort in 2009-10, but he had not scored 20 goals in a season since that year.

Nine years earlier, Zajac was a big part of the Devils team that went to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, but his max contract was expiring and he was headed for unrestricted free agency. He played a minor role in the Islanders’ 2021 playoff run, but opted to hang up his skates on Sept. 20, 2021, signing one-day contract to retire as a Devil.

The upside of this trade for New Jersey wasn’t the mediocre players it obtained. Greer and Jobst were both gone by the end of the season. The upside was the draft picks, who can be a big part of the Devils’ future beyond this successful season.

New Jersey used its 2021 first-rounder to get Chase Stillman, a right wing now finishing up a strong major-junior career in the Ontario Hockey League. He had 18 goals and 42 points through 49 games this season after scoring 28 in only 35 games last year. The son of former NHL player Cory Stillman is considered a serious NHL prospect and ranked 87th on the Hockey News 2022 Future Watch list.

New Jersey spent its 2022 fourth-rounder on Daniil Orlov, a defenseman who plays for Moscow Spartak’s KHL club. He is not a top prospect, but has good size at 6-foot-2 and will definitely be given a chance to play in the NHL once he leaves his native Russia.

  1. A 2015 second-round pick and the right to claim either Florida or Minnesota’s 2016 third-round pick from the Florida Panthers for Jaromir Jagr – Feb. 26, 2015

Four days before the 2015 trade deadline, the Devils got what proved to be maximum return for a 43-year-old future Hall of Famer whose best years were behind him.

At the time of the trade, Jagr had played in 1,530 NHL games and scored 1,784 points to rank among the league’s all-time leaders. He had spent the previous two years with New Jersey, playing full seasons in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Jagr had signed with the Devils as an unrestricted free agent in July 2013. He led the team with 43 assists and 67 points in 2013-14, so he clearly still had something left. However, his two-year New Jersey totals of 35 goals and 96 points in 139 career games were not up to his past standards, and he had an expiring contract. Going to Florida briefly rejuvenated him, and he spent three more years in the NHL

What happened to the picks the Devils got for Jagr? Both were traded to Anaheim before the 2015 draft for a future Devils star named Kyle Palmieri. Essentially, the Devils traded the aging Jagr for a 24-year-old Palmieri, who would go on to score 140 goals in 397 games with New Jersey, including 30 goals in the 2015-16 season alone.

  1. Peter Stastny from the Quebec Nordiques for Craig Wolanin and future considerations (Randy Velischek) – March 5, 1990

This 1990 deadline-day deal saw the Devils pick up a Hall of Famer who still had some mileage left.

To get Stastny out of Quebec, where he had been a fixture for a decade, the Devils offered Wolanin, a 22-year-old defensemen they had drafted No. 3 overall in the 1985 first round. After five NHL seasons in New Jersey, Wolanin had played in 283 games, scoring 16 goals and 78 points to go with 469 penalty minutes. He had his best season in 1987-88 in helping  the Devils reach their first Stanley Cup playoffs – a remarkable run that took them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Wolanin went on to play six seasons with the Quebec franchise that later relocated to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. His career highlight came the following year, when he won the Stanley Cup in a limited role with the Avalanche. He was a good player, but did not figure heavily in New Jersey’s future at the time of the deal.

Velischek, 28, was sent to Quebec to complete the Stastny deal on Aug. 13, 1990. The veteran NHL defenseman had played 392 games for the Devils, beginning his stint with the team in 1985. He was also part of the 1988 playoff run, but was hardly a key factor in it. He went on to play only three seasons in the Quebec organization and finished his career with three more years in the minor leagues.

Stastny, on the other hand, paid big dividends for the Devils. The 33-year-old former Calder Trophy winner and six-time NHL All-Star had played 737 games for Quebec, scoring 380 goals 1,048 points. He closed out the 1989-90 season with five goals and  11 points in 12 games for Devils. New Jersey went on a 10-3-1 roll after the trade to move into second in Patrick Division.

Stastny remained with the Devils for three more seasons. He scored 60 points in each of his first two full years with Devils and produced 24 goals in 1991-92. The Devils never missed the playoffs with Stastny on the team, but unfortunately lost a Game 7 in both their 1991 and 1992 first-round series. Stastny was outstanding in the postseason, scoring nine goals and 24 points in 29 playoff games with New Jersey

  1. Marek Zidlicky from the Minnesota Wild for Kurtis Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux, Washington’s 2012 second-round pick and New Jersey’s 2013 third-round pick – Feb. 24, 2012

Three days before the deadline, the Devils gave up quantity -- but not quality – to get a player who would help them reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Indeed, Foster, a defenseman, and forwards Palmieri and Veilleux were of little use to New Jersey at the time they were traded for Zidlicky.

Foster, 30, had joined the Devils in a deal with Anaheim less than three months earlier. He had three goals and 12 points in 28 games with Devils and was minus-9 with an expiring contract.

Palmieri, 22, had been the Devils’ 2007 third-round draft pick. The right wing, no relation to Kyle Palmieri, had played parts of three seasons in the NHL. He scored 13 goals and 25 points in 78 Devils games but had no playoff experience and was also on an expiring contract.

Veilleux, a 30-year-old left wing, was an NHL regular from 2005 to 2010, but had spent 2010-11 season in Europe after his career took slowed in Tampa. He came to the Devils on a one-year contract in 2011 and played only one game in New Jersey -- spending rest of his time in AHL with Albany Devils, notching 22 points in 40 games.

The draft picks were also unimpressive. The Wild wasted their 2012 second-rounder (No. 46 overall) on Raphael Bussieres, who never played in NHL. They then went on to trade their 2013 third-rounder to the Islanders as part of the Niederreiter-Clutterbuck deal that benefited both teams.

In exchange for all of that dead weight, the Devils got Zidlicky, a talented 35-year-old defenseman who had played 548 NHL games for Nashville and the Wild -- scoring 60 goals and 298 points.

Zidlicky closed out 2011-12 regular season with two goals and eight points in 22 Devils games as the team went 14-7-2 with him in lineup and ended its season on a five-game winning streak.

New Jersey got hot in the playoffs, beating Florida in a seven-game series in Round 1, beating the Flyers in five games in Round 2, and dispatching the Rangers in a six-game Eastern Conference Finals series before losing the Stanley Cup Final to Los Angeles in six games.

Zidlicky had a goal and nine points in the 24-game playoff run – the only time he reached the postseason’s final round. He would go on to spend three full seasons with the Devils, scoring a respectable 22 goals and 92 points in 214 games.

  1. Sergei Nemchinov from the New York Islanders for a 1999 fourth-round pick – March 22, 1999

Recognizing that the 1999 NHL Entry Draft would be one of the weakest in history, the Devils had no problem giving up a fourth-rounder for Nemchinov one day before the 1999 trade deadline. It was an extremely well-timed move.

Nemchinov was a 35-year-old center who had already played eight NHL seasons and won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994. He had scored 30 goals as a rookie and 75 over his first three seasons, but became a role player after those early years. Still, his 125 goals and 275 points in 565 career games were nothing to sneeze at, and his veteran experience made him especially desirable

After closing out 1998-99 regular season with four goals in 10 games for the Devils, Nemchinov returned to play three more full seasons before heading home to Russia. During those years, he helped New Jersey win the 2000 Stanley Cup championship and reach Cup Final in 2001.

The biggest goal of his Devils playoff career came in Game 7 of the second-round series vs. Toronto in 2001. His early second-period tally tied the game at 1-1 and paved the way for three more second-period goals in a 5-1 rout that put New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Devils went on to beat Pittsburgh there in five games.

As for the 1999 draft pick the Devils yielded, it ended up in Los Angeles as part of the Islanders deal to obtain Ziggy Palffy and Bryan Smolinski. The Kings used the pick to draft Daniel Johansson, a Swedish forward who never left Sweden.

  1. Bryce Salvador from the St. Louis Blues for Cam Janssen – Feb. 26, 2008

One of the more profitable deadline-day deals the Devils ever made brought over a defenseman who would become a major part of their team as well as its captain.

The Devils, who were heading for the 2008 playoffs, saw a potential trading partner in a Blues team already out of the running. They offered up Janssen -- a 24-year-old forward known more for his fists than scoring touch -- to get a reliable player for their No. 2 defense pairing.

Janssen, a 2002 fourth-round pick by the Devils, had played just over half of two seasons with New Jersey in 2005-06 and 2006-07, but spent much of 2007-08 recovering from shoulder surgery suffered after he fell down awkwardly in preseason fight. His career Devils stats at the time of trade were 95 games with one goal, no assists, and 205 PIM.

Salvador, 32, played for seven seasons in St. Louis and had 447 games of NHL experience. He stepped right into the Devils lineup and became a New Jersey fixture over the next six seasons before retiring due to injury in 2015.

He was at his very best in the Devils’ run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. – scoring four goals and 14 points in 24 games. Highlights included a shorthanded goal in Game 2 of the second-round series at Philadelphia, two crucial assists in a Game 2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and another two points in Game 4 of that Eastern Conference Finals series. In Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, Salvador scored the game-winner to keep the Devils’ Cup hopes alive.

In January 2013, Salvador replaced the departed Zach Parise as Devils captain. Four years later, he joined MSG Network as a Devils studio analyst and has held that job ever since.  

As a footnote, it turned out Janssen wasn’t done in New Jersey. After three full seasons with Blues, he returned to the Devils as free agent in July 2011 and spent three more years in organization – finishing his NHL career with 774 penalty minutes in 336 games.

  1. Grant Marshall from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a conditional 2004 draft pick – March 10, 2003

This deal, made on the eve of the 2003 NHL trade deadline, worked out quite well for the Devils.

The pick they surrendered to Columbus ended up being a fourth-rounder (No. 121 overall). Columbus later traded the pick to Carolina, and then it went to the Calgary Flames, who drafted Kris Hogg. In other words, the draft pick was an afterthought.

Marshall, on the other hand, was a key ingredient for the Devils’ 2003 Stanley Cup championship. The 29-year-old forward, a former Maple Leafs first-round pick, had played 549 NHL games with Dallas and Columbus before coming to New Jersey, and he would save his best hockey for the Devils’ 2003 Cup run.

Marshall completed the 2002-03 regular season with a goal and three assists in 10 games, helping New Jersey clinch the Atlantic Division and reach the playoffs as a No. 2 seed.  He then erupted in the postseason with six goals in 24 games. Almost all of his goals were dramatic.

His first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal came at 10:26 of the third period of Round 2, Game 2 vs. Tampa Bay. That goal forced overtime, and the Devils went on to win 3-2 for a 2-0 series lead. In Game 5, Marshall was the No. 1 star, scoring the game-winner to break a 1-1 tie at 11:12 of triple overtime.

Another goal came in a 5-2 win over Ottawa that gave New Jersey a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. He went on to set up Jeff Friesen’s series-winning goal at 17:46 of the third period of Game 7. Marshall’s centering pass on a 2-on-2 situation was picture-perfect, giving Friesen an easy goal to send the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final.

Against Anaheim with the Cup on the line, Marshall scored in the opening game, which the Devils won 3-0. He also helped force overtime in Game 3, when his hard shot was deflected in by Scott Gomez at 9:11 of the third period.

Marshall went on to play two more full seasons with the Devils, but nothing in those years could compare to the performance that earned him a Stanley Cup ring in 2003.

  1. Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk from the Dallas Stars for Jason Arnott, Randy McKay, and a 2002 first-round pick – March 10, 2002

This was a blockbuster deadline-day deal that led to a Stanley Cup championship one year later. To get Langenbrunner and Nieuwendyk, the Devils had to sacrifice Arnott and a first-rounder, but it was well worth it.

At 27, Arnott was still in his prime even after playing 10 NHL seasons. After four-plus years with the Devils, he left New Jersey with career Devils stats of 97 goals and 221 points in 302 games. He had been a key member of the Devils’ 2000 Stanley Cup championship team with eight goals and 20 points in 23 games. He had also contributed 15 points in the Devils’ run to the 2001 Stanley Cup Final.

Nevertheless, Arnott was on an expiring contract, and the cost to retain his services would be high. Likewise, McKay, who had won two Stanley Cup championships with the Devils, was also about to become a free agent. The 36-year-old veteran NHL right wing had a chance to close his career with his hometown Montreal Canadiens and was definitely not coming back to the Devils, so there was really no reason to keep him.

The Devils pulled the trigger on the deal to land forwards Langenbrunner, 26, and Nieuwendyk, 35. Both had played on Dallas teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and lost to the Devils in the 2000 Stanley Cup Final. Although they could not help the Devils get out of the playoffs’ first round in 2002, they would play huge roles in 2003.

After the trade, Langenbrunner re-signed with the Devils and would go on to spend eight seasons in New Jersey. During the run to the 2003 Stanley Cup, her scored 11 goals and 18 points in 24 games – leading the Devils in playoff goals and tying for the lead in points. His career Devils totals were 142 goals and 385 points in 564 regular-season games to go along with 18 goals and 50 points in 68 playoff games.

Providing veteran leadership in the 2003 championship year, Nieuwendyk contributed three goals to the playoff run before leaving the team as an unrestricted free agent. In his lone full regular season with the Devils, Nieuwendyk scored 17 goals and 45 points.

Dallas got a valuable player in Arnott, and the Stars also saw some return from the first-round pick, which they used in a trade for goalie Ron Tugnutt. However, what Dallas got pales in comparison to the 2003 championship memories that still linger in New Jersey.

  1. Alexander Mogilny from the Vancouver Canucks for Brendan Morrison and Denis Pederson – March 14, 2000

Before discussing this trade, it should be noted that outstanding Russian star Alexander Mogilny deserves to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Why he is not there remains a mystery, since he is one of the greatest talents the league has seen.

Mogilny scored 473 goals and 1,032 points in 990 NHL regular-season games. He had eight 30-goal seasons, three 40-goal seasons, and two 50-goal seasons. He even had a 76-goal season in his fourth NHL year. He played in four NHL All-Star Games, made two postseason All-Star teams, and won the Lady Byng Trophy and Stanley Cup. How can Mogilny not be in the Hall of Fame when both Cam Neely and Clark Gillies are already in there as Honored Members?

New Jersey Devils fans have known Mogilny belongs in the Hall ever since the 2000 NHL trade deadline, when their team scooped him up for a relatively low price. The rewards were an immediate championship and subsequent run to the Cup Final.

The Devils gave up a pair of 24-year-olds in Morrison and Pederson, both high picks in the loaded 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Neither player, however, had the potential to reach Mogilny’s level of NHL stardom.

Morrison had spent two full seasons and part of a third with Devils, scoring 23 goals and 81 points in 131 games. Much of that production came in his 46-point rookie year of 1998-99. By 2000, his contract was about to expire, and he hadn’t helped his status in by holding out for more money the previous fall. He was not a great fit for the Devils, even though he would go on to retire with 200 goals and 601 points in 934 games.

Pederson had been in Devils organization for six after turning pro and was in his fourth full NHL season when the team sent him to Vancouver. Through 271 NHL games prior to the trade, Pederson had 44 goals and 49 assists for 93 points. Like Morrison, he was an excellent rookie who tailed off as the years passed. There was no compelling reason for the Devils to retain him.

When Mogilny, 31, joined the Devils, he had 21 goals and 38 points in 47 games for  Vancouver, but his past three seasons had been limited by injuries. He was no great spark at first, closing out the 1999-00 season with three goals and six points in 12 games as New Jersey went only 5-7-0 to enter the playoffs as No. 4 seed. Things changed in a hurry, however.

During the Devils’ run to the 2000 championship, Mogilny tallied four goals and seven points in 23 playoff games. His biggest moments were scoring the eventual game-winner for a 2-0 lead at 16:33 of third period as Devils beat the Flyers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and then assisting on Patrik Elias' series-winning goal at 17:28 of third period of Game 7.

Mogilny returned for one more remarkable year with the Devils. During the 2000-01 season, he led New Jersey with 43 goals and finished second on the team with 83 points. He went on to add five goals and 16 points in 25 Devils playoff games. In Round 2 vs. Toronto, Mogilny had a stunning five-point game, leading the Devils to an OT win in Game 2 on April 28. His four second-period points in that game remain a Devils playoff record. He also scored the Game 4 winning goal, evening the series at 2-2.

Leaving New Jersey as a free agent after the 2001 playoffs, Mogilny returned in 2005 to finish his career with the Devils organization. During the years they had Mogilny in their lineup, the Devils won seven of eight playoff series.

Parameters of Rankings

The key factor in ranking this list of great New Jersey trade deadline deals was how much the team gained in the short term -- by enjoying a longer playoff run than might have been expected – or how much it gained in the long term by adding a player who made the team better for many years. This list represents a combination of both factors with a bit more weight given to players whose addition led to more overall team success in the time period after they were traded to New Jersey.

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