When the Devils selected defenseman Adam Larsson fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, many fans rejoiced at the thought of having one of the next great defensemen in the NHL wearing Devils red. Larsson gave fans more reason to be optimistic when he made the team out of his first professional training camp. In his rookie season, the Skelleftea, Sweden native logged 2 goals and 16 assists through 65 games, plus an additional 5 games throughout the Devils’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2011-12 season.
Larsson performed well for the Devils during his rookie season, playing in key roles for the team up until he received a crushing hit from Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban on February 2, 2012 which sent him flying back-first into the boards and left him sprawled on the ice in obvious pain. That, one could argue, was a career-ruining injury. That injury had him on the injured reserve for much of the final frame of that season, or on the healthy scratch list during the season and playoffs. Ever since, Larsson has found himself “riding the pine” and watching games from the press box, or being sent to the Albany Devils of the AHL over the course of the past two seasons.
Larsson played 33 games for the Albany Devils in each of the last two seasons, logging 4 goals, 15 assists, and 19 points in his first stint with the minor league club, and 3 goals, 16 assists and 19 points in his second.
So far this season, the 21-year-old Adam Larsson has spent 7 of the team’s first 8 games watching from the press box as a healthy scratch after being forced out of the lineup by fellow young defensemen Damon Severson, Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas. He publicly voiced his frustrations with sitting on the first day of the 2014-15 season, in an interview with Tom Gulitti of The Record.
During training camp and the preseason, Devils defenseman Adam Larsson said the one thing he didn’t want was to have to go through this season was watching games from the press box again as a healthy scratch.
“And now I’m here doing it again,” Larsson said after today’s morning skate at Wells Fargo Center.
Like Larsson, the fans are just as agitated with him not being in the lineup. The team is letting young talent and potential go to waste by having him sit out games, and many fans on our Facebook and Twitter pages have openly voiced their displeasure about sitting Larsson, who was signed to a one year, $900,000 contract over the summer.
So, now for the big question. What is the fate of Adam Larsson? Let’s delve into some of the different scenarios that could play out over the course of the season with the young defenseman.
He requests a trade
This is a pretty likely scenario. The Devils have 4 defensemen right now under the age of 25, and also have the likes of Seth Helgeson, Raman Hrabarenka, and Reece Scarlett who are quickly getting to the point being NHL-ready as well. One could argue that defensemen Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky, who are knocking on the door of age 40, are in their final NHL season which would open up two more roster spots as well for young defensemen. Given his frustrations with the team over the past 2 seasons, it would not be unlikely for him to request a trade out of New Jersey.
There are plenty of teams that would be willing to trade for Larsson, especially at such a cheap price. What the Devils would demand in return is yet to be seen. He has a good defensive skill-set and is capable of making some good offensive plays as well, he can move the puck, and is a physical player. His speed seems to have declined since his back injury in 2012 and lower body injury last season. He also has some attitude problems, which is a contributing factor to why he has been benched so often.
If the Devils do decide to trade Larsson, they may get a lot less of a return than many would expect. As I said, Larsson had a lot of attitude problems in Albany, and one can assume the same for New Jersey. He has also been riddled by injuries, has constantly been a healthy scratch, has had troubles adjusting to the North American rinks, and the way that the Devils developed him has been, well, awful. For a team to take on Larsson, they would be relying on hope. They would be hoping that a change of scenery and coaching would benefit him, which in my opinion it would.
What could we expect in return? Ultimately, it depends on the team that he is dealt to. If they trade Larsson, they would have approximately $5 million in salary that they could take on. That’s not a whole lot, unless it is for another young player, prospects, or draft picks. Could Lou work his magic again and land a great deal for Larsson? Maybe it’s time. We shall see.
He leaves via free agency
This would be extremely difficult for him to do, as Larsson will still be a restricted free agent following this season. He would still be eligible to sign with another team, but the Devils would have the ability to match any other team’s offer and keep Larsson under their control. If Larsson does sign with another team over the summer, and the Devils choose not to match it, they would get some draft pick(s) in return as compensation.
Ultimately, this is an extremely unlikely case. If he wanted to leave New Jersey, his best bet would be by requesting a trade.
He signs overseas
There was a lot of talk this off-season about the Swede returning to his home country to play in the Swedish League if he could not reach a deal with the Devils. If his frustrations continue to mount over the next 74 games and he does not get the playing time that he desires, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he signs overseas. The Devils would lose him for nothing if this was the case, so you can bet that they would try everything in their power to avoid this. It is still an option for Larsson, even if it is an unlikely one at that.
He toughs it out and continues to wait for his opportunity
The last of the 4 most probable options for Adam, and the one that most fans hope he takes, is that he remains patient and cooperative until his opportunity arises. This would be the most ideal situation for the Devils as he will get more opportunities eventually and he could still prove his worth.
If he stays
What happens if Larsson does stay with the team for the season and beyond? Well, he will most likely continue to be a healthy scratch for the foreseeable future, assuming there are no injuries to any other Devils defensemen.
If and when he does get back in the lineup, who should he be paired with? When Larsson was in Albany, he performed the best with Jon Merrill. So it would be a good idea for him to play alongside #7. It is possible that he could play with Eric Gelinas, but that would require one of either Merrill or Damon Severson to come out of the lineup, and unless there is an injury, that isn’t happening.
Ultimately, Adam Larsson has bared the brunt of poorly-timed injuries and healthy scratches. His luck in Devils red has not been very good. He has become very frustrated about being a healthy scratch, and nobody knows how much patience he has left. What will become of Adam Larsson? Will he be traded out of New Jersey? Will he tough it out and wait for another opportunity, and hope to make the best of it? Will he find a way to leave after this season? Are there any other alternatives that we missed?
Leave your thoughts with us below, on our facebook page, or our Twitter. We would love to hear them!