Damon Severson sign-and-trade continues NJ Devils upward trajectory under Tom Fitzgerald

Nov 5, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson (28) against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson (28) against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald facilitated a sign-and-trade with Damon Severson and the Columbus Blue Jackets. With this move, the Devils receive a third-round draft pick in the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft. 

Damon Severson was the longest-tenured member of the New Jersey Devils, spending nine years with the team. His time in New Jersey has come to an end with a sign-and-trade.

The 28-year-old defenseman inked an eight-year, $50 million contract with the Devils with an agreement to immediately be traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 2023 third-round draft pick, the 80th overall pick. Severson’s deal has a $6.25 million cap hit.

Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald and Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen each made a move that benefitted their team. This is just the second sign-and-trade in NHL history.

Some fans might look at this trade and think a third-round draft pick is not a great deal. The reason it is a great deal is because the Devils would have gotten nothing if Severson had signed after free agency opens on July 1. Severson was only able to sign for eight years with the Devils, so New Jersey acquired the draft pick for facilitating the deal.

This is a win-win situation for everyone. The move is a win for Severson who doesn’t have to wait to figure out his future. He’ll have plenty of time to get settled before the 2023-24 season.

The Blue Jackets got a top-notch defenseman before he hit the open market. In the 2022-23 season, Severson had 26 assists, a +/- of 9, and 115 blocked shots.

Severson was set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, meaning that until then, the only team he could sign a deal with was the Devils. By completing a sign-and-trade, the Blue Jackets ensured they wouldn’t have to compete with other offers in July. They strengthened their blueline and can move on to other needs.

Damon Severson sign-and-trade is another savvy move by GM Tom Fitzgerald

The Devils have only gotten better since Tom Fitzgerald became GM in 2020. Fitzgerald has made some phenomenal moves. His biggest move in the past year was acquiring Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks ahead of the 2023 trade deadline. Fitzgerald noted earlier this week that he was set to begin contract talks with Meier’s agent.

One of Fitzgerald’s smartest moves was trading Ty Smith and a third-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for John Marino last offseason. Marino solidified himself this past season as a significant part of the Devils’ blueline.

Ironically, the draft pick Fitzgerald gave up to acquire Marino was a 2023 third-round draft pick. The draft pick the Devils received from the Blue Jackets in the Severson sign-and-trade is a 2023 third-round draft pick.

It’s no surprise that Fitzgerald pulled off another savvy move. Reporter Ryan Novozinsky wrote in a tweet that “GM Tom Fitzgerald didn’t deal the pending UFAs at the deadline because he ‘got the blessing’ from ownership to ‘keep plowing through’ and try to win the Cup. He maximizes his return here.”

By holding onto Severson, Fitzgerald put himself in a position to make a move like this when Columbus came calling.

It’s hard to see a long-time member of the team go, especially since Severson grinded through some really tough years with the Devils. He was finally able to be part of a special team during the 2022-23 season. The team had the third-best record in the NHL during the regular season and reached the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning their first playoff series since 2012. New Jersey is now expected to make several playoff runs in the coming years.

The emergence of prospects Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec didn’t leave much space for Severson in New Jersey moving forward. His departure makes room for these young players on the blueline. Luke Hughes already got a taste of the NHL at the end of the regular season and during the playoffs. Nemec is expected to make an impact next year.

It would have been nice for Severson to be a part of the team’s anticipated success in the coming years, but it was also clear the Devils wouldn’t be able to afford him. He knew it, Fitzgerald knew it, and the fans knew it. With the Devils hoping to re-sign both Timo Meier and Jesper Bratt, they just wouldn’t be able to give him the contract he deserves. This deal ensures he gets what he deserves and the Devils get a return, too.

Although it’s not a first- or second-round pick, a third-round pick could be meaningful. It’s possible the pick could turn into a bust, but it’s also possible the Devils could strike gold.

Current Devils prospect Nico Daws was a third-round pick. Some notable Devils players were drafted even later than the third. Miles Wood was a fourth-round draft pick by the Devils. Ryan Graves (pending UFA) was selected in the fourth round by the New York Rangers. John Marino was drafted in the sixth round by the Edmonton Oilers. Jesper Bratt was selected by the Devils in the sixth round. Sometimes a late pick can be a diamond in the rough.

Damon Severson was a solid Devil for nine years, but it’s time for him to move on. With this sign-and-trade, Fitzgerald once again put the organization in a position to grow and succeed.

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