My thinking was that, on paper, those 3 pieces without the first DO make sense, but to get the #1 pick from last year this early in his career, you kind of have to overpay, at least a little bit. The thing is though VAN is a win now team and if they pulled this off, it would be a huge boost for the organization.
They would have to figure out where Hughes fits in, but coming from one of the worst teams in the league to a true contender stacked with role models, young players, and his brother... you'd think he would probably figure it out. Or Travis Green would at least.
NJ would do this for a number of reasons, but mainly to be nice to Jack so he could play with his brother.
I find it interesting you say these players are just "ok", because that's completely and utterly missing the point.
Gaudette and Virtanen are everyday NHL players at the time of this writing, coming into RFA status this offseason. They both have legitimate potential, with a couple seasons before their true primes hit. This Devils team is going to suck again next year, which would be a huge opportunity for these guys to get paid and prove they belong in the league. I could see Ruff playing both of these guys big time minutes and in more varied situations. Sure they could both fail, but with the added motivation and opportunity I don't find that likely.
So directly in the now, NJ might be getting 2 (not 3) ok NHL players in this deal, but they have high ceilings that if fulfilled, would mean both graduated from ok to good. And while it's an outside shot, they could also both be really good one day. Both of them.
You have to take that into account looking at this deal as these are both far from finished players on the ice who are still under team control.
Nighthawk actually already pointed out reasonable expectations for both of them above.
The other player you were talking about, Juolevi, is a far from finished piece. He is not an NHL player right now. So to deem him OK makes no sense, because we have no idea what he is at the NHL level. He has done decent enough in the AHL from my scope at his numbers, but this is a guy who was picked #5 in 2016 over guys at his position like Sergachev, McAvoy, Chychrun, and Girard, all who have NHL jobs at legit salaries. What does that mean? Could be nothing. Could be that he is the second coming of Nick Lidstrom. We don't know. But he is a super valuable prospect, and if he pans out, and those other two ok guys become good, then this trade has already paid for itself.
Which brings me to the 1st rd pick. I don't understand why you would devalue that and say "late first" because we have no idea where that pick will land whatsoever. But the thing is, it doesn't matter. Sure a crap team's 1st would be better, but in general 1sts are incredibly valuable in today's NHL. Even if Fitzgerald didn't want to use the pick itself, it would allow him to do some very interesting trades if he wanted to. To gain market flexibility on a team with tons of cap space is desirable.
A more accurate way to put what you said would be to call it a mid to late 1st, and since we don't know at all where it will land, yours is a very short sighted assessment.
To illustrate this point, let's look back to 2015. This was the last draft class that, right now with 100% certainty, we can say was completely loaded. Funnily enough it might also go down as the worst moment in Boston draft history which I find to be quite amusing. Imagine if they had picked Barzal and Connor with DeBrusk!! But that's besides the point. From pick 15 down we have these players selected: Barzal (16), Connor (17), Boeser (23), Konecny (24), and Beauvillier (28). That's 4 super good NHL players and one who could be soon.
For perspective, Barzal, Connor, and Boeser were all much, much better in their rookie years than Jack Hughes was. Barzal won the Calder and Boeser was a finalist who got injured. Hughes couldn't even come close to a whiff of the Calder this year.
Not to take anything away from the young man, but if we are going to be honest, Jack Hughes just had the worst rookie season of a #1 overall pick since Nail Yakupov's rookie season in '12. And also, Yak's rookie year was WAY better than Hughes' just was. So the biggest #1 overall draft bust of the past decade had a MUCH better rookie year than Hughes just did.
Let that sink in.
Sure he was the #1 pick, but #2 Kappo Kakko also had a dirt rookie season on a stacked Rangers team. It's quite early, but the 2019 draft class might have just been a bad one.
That is a legitimate risk at this point, and while again it is early, I feel like the chances of those 4 pieces being better over time is pretty high. Especially if they use the pick correctly and sign the RFAs to smart deals.
If Jack Hughes had just put up a Crosby like 100+ P in his first year, this is a moot discussion. But he basically just did the opposite of that.
So why does NJ do this trade? Take your pick
A. It would be nice to see Jack play with Quinn for their entire careers on a team that just had their super star brothers retire not too long ago. Or in other words, compassion.
B. Players acquired benefit their TEAM.
C. Market Flexibility
D. Draft Capital
E. More is (sometimes) better in a team sport like hockey
My answer is
F. All of the effing above