How Will Jack Hughes’ Injury Impact the NHL Trade Market?

Jack Hughes has emerged as one of the really talented, bright young stars in the NHL over the past couple seasons. Entering Thursday, the 21-year-old left wing of the New Jersey Devils is ninth in the NHL with 67 points (in 50 games) and his 35 goals rank third in the league.

Unfortunately, he might be stuck on those numbers for a while.

Hughes, the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, was reportedly limited in practice because of an upper-body issue. The news out of New Jersey on Thursday morning absolutely sucks for Devils fans and, frankly, just hockey fans.

Week-to-week? That’s brutal for a young player who’s been so good this year, and team that’s blowing away almost everyone’s expectations.

New Jersey is currently in second place in the Metropolitan Division — the hottest division in hockey. The Devils are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, but find themselves six points back of the Hurricanes (who are 9-0-1 in their last 10) and just four points ahead of the Rangers (who are 7-2-1 in their last 10). The Devils do have one game in-hand on both the Canes and Rangers.

But now, with all three teams atop the division playing so well, and three weeks away from the NHL’s trade deadline, even being on the “shorter end of week-to-week” is a big blow for the Devils they might need to address with an addition.

Sympathy for the Devils?

The Devils have been linked to a number of top veteran players. They’re a young team — one of the youngest in the NHL — so adding a player with experience would make sense.

And the Devils have the assets to make a big splash if needed. New Jersey has their own first- and second-round picks in the next three drafts; they only lack a third-rounder in 2023 across the next three classes.

New Jersey also has one of the best collections of young talent waiting for its chance in the NHL; Scott Wheeler at The Athletic ranked the Devils’ prospect pool No. 2 in the NHL earlier this week. Of course, the headliner for them is Jack’s younger brother, Luke, who’s dominating at the University of Michigan this season.

What the Devils don’t have is a lot of cap space. CapFriendly estimates the Devils will have roughly $2 million in cap space to play with come March 3. That could change if Hughes needs to go on LTIR, but obviously the hope is that won’t be the case; LTIR requires a player to miss a minimum of ten games and 24 days.

Various outlets have linked New Jersey to a number of Blackhawks in recent weeks, including Patrick Kane and Max Domi. Last week, Frank Seravalli listed the Devils as a team that would make sense for Kane.

And you might recall the Devils did have a scout in attendance at the United Center on Tuesday night for the Anaheim game.

This is a big-time player on the shelf for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time, and the Blackhawks might be positioned to make a nice move here if the Devils are concerned enough to swing bigger than they had initially anticipated to capitalize on this terrific season.

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Tab Bamford has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks for almost two decades. He joined Bleacher Nation as the lead Blackhawks writer in May 2022. Tab is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and is the author of two books about the Blackhawks: "100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" (Triumph Books) and "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter/X/Instagram/Threads at @The1Tab

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