As the dog days of summer drag on, we continue with our writers roundtable. Devils news has been few and far between since our latest edition. In this week’s edition our staff writers Sam Britt, Mike Luci, and Brett Minieri examine different topics from NHL.com prospects rankings for the Devils to the most important news of the week, the Devils signing of 1st round pick, Pavel Zacha.
1. After the Dainius Zubrus’ buyout, Ray Shero stated it was a move to give them roster flexibility to add a forward through either a trade or a free agent signing. Who are some candidates that the Devils could either add via trade for or sign via free agency?
SB: Well getting rid of an NHL forward in Zubrus would hopefully mean we are looking to trade for another one. The dream trade would be Jordan Eberle, a young scoring winger. The Oilers are still looking to strengthen a young defensive core and with the Devils surplus of D prospects it could be a match. Though Eberle is on the expensive side his acquisition would certainly fast forward the rebuild
ML: It wasn’t a very good free agent class but there surprisingly are still some decent players available on the free agent market. After purging the team of most of their older players, I can see age being a huge factor. If anything, Shero signs someone to shore up on right wing depth and play a second or third line role (Brad Boyes-type player). Speculating on trades to me is like searching for a needle in a haystack, but if Shero does go that route, I would imagine he sticks to acquiring players similar to what he got in Kyle Palmieri.
BM: This is the question all Devils fans are asking and I don’t think Shero’s in a rush to answer it for us. That’s ok with me. He stated earlier this week (via Tom Gulitti) that if there was something to do now that made sense, he’d do it. If not, he has into training camp (Sept 17th) and beyond to fill those holes. There’s no rush and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an invite for a try out or two. Bottom line is the Devils aren’t a piece (or even a few) away from Stanley Cup contention at this point so I don’t think we’re gonna see something too flashy. That said, it’s both my hope and belief that Shero will ultimately flip a D-man and some assets for a quality forward—however he may have to play them a bit so they can enhance their trade value in order to get the best return. Wouldn’t be surprised if such a move came deeper in to October, and I’m ok with that too.
2. Last Thursday, NHL.com released their top 5 Devils prospects. It went as follows: 1. Pavel Zacha, 2. Steve Santini, 3. Stefan Matteau, 4. Seth Helgeson, 5. Raman Hrabarenka. Do you agree with these rankings? And if not, who would you include in your top 5?
SB: My top 5 Devils prospects would be:
ML: They seem pretty accurate for the most part. I’ll admit I personally don’t know much about Hrabarenka, but he put him some noticeable numbers in Albany this season and has gotten better after every season he’s spent in the AHL. I expected Reid Boucher to be somewhere on this list, preferably instead of Helgeson, but I suppose this is a testament to how deep the Devils’ prospect pool truly is and how undervalued we have initially taken Helgeson as a defenseman.
BM: Sure says a lot that our #1 prospect wasn’t even on the team 2 months ago. Happy to have him though and he’s by far our best prospect. The rest of the guys have had a cup of coffee with the big club and all have solid potential. Strange not to see John Quenneville on this list as he had a solid year for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and I’m sure Reid Boucher would be in many people’s top-5 as well. This is probably a good problem to have.
3. Now that Pavel Zacha has been signed before the August 15th deadline, where do you think is the best fit for him in 2015-16?
SB: I think Zacha’s development would be best served in Sarnia. Another year to adapt on the North American ice and a chance to find a consistent scoring touch. His previous year in Sarnia was a let down so I feel if he can build some confidence and dominate in the OHL, it could really improve his mindset and his skills entering the NHL
ML: Sam Britt actually wrote an article a few weeks ago on why Zacha should spend the upcoming season in the OHL. I couldn’t agree more on his assessment and reasons why. If Zacha puts up an impressive enough performance in training camp to earn a spot, the Devils have the luxury of the nine-game grace period to further determine his readiness. Ultimately, I think Zacha would benefit from a full season in Sarnia to shore up on his game, particularly one uninterrupted by injuries and suspensions. There won’t be any pressure on Zacha to meet NHL-quality standards if he’s still in the developmental stages of his playing career, and if the Devils are truly committed to continuing the transformative overhaul into the coming season, they should learn from past mistakes they made on how past prospects were mismanaged like Mattias Tedenby, Matt Halischuk, Niclas Bergfors, and Nick Palmieri. They can’t take that chance on a prospect of Zacha’s caliber with the team being in the state it’s in.
BM: Well, as we now know, he’s signed. Smart move. He’ll be given every opportunity to earn a roster spot in training camp but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea if he spent a year in Sarnia. The way I see it, he’ll get a taste of the big club as incentive and be sent down to hone his skills and keep him motivated