According to a report from Igor Eronko of Sports Express in Russia, former New Jersey Devils forward Pavel Zacha has agreed to terms with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. The details of the contract are being released yet. But reports are it is a one-year deal.
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) September 9, 2019
Zacha Agrees To Terms With Avangard
Since being drafted by the Devils sixth overall in 2015, Zacha has appeared in 201 games tallying 76 points (29 goals and 47 assists). However, in three full seasons in the league, he is struggling to find his game. Expectations were high for Zacha showing signs of being a goal scorer with Sarnia Sting of the OHL. He could never find the scoring touch after making the jump to the big league.
In the 2018-19 season, Zacha was heading on the right track offensively. In 61 games, he tied his career-high in points with 25 and reached a new career-high in goals with 13. However, Zacha could not sustain that offensive outburst. Even though he took strides in the face-off circle and as a penalty killer, he continuously would be non-existent in games. For a team like the Devils that needs to get offensive up and down, the lineup that just cannot happen.
What Is Next for Zacha
Zacha was on an expiring contract and was an RFA this off-season. The Devils gave him a qualifying offer back in June. Since he was no arbitration-eligible, the Devils knew they could wait him out as long as possible. It is not a surprise the KHL came calling. While this may be a negotiation tactic for Zacha and his team, the best thing for him is to play overseas to get his game back on track.
It would be hard for Zacha to crack the Devils lineup this season. Considering the depth the Devils added upfront this off-season, he would have been a fourth-line centre. As a matter of fact, the Devils might have shifted him to the wing considering Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Travis Zajac were the top three centres on the roster. And with the addition of John Hayden as well this off-season, the Devils see Zacha as expendable. Along with the fact that Jesper Boqvist is on the brink of making this team this season, there was no room for Zacha.
Zacha is just another player in the long line of draft picks that former general Lou Lamoriello missed on. Even if the Devils were to sign Zacha, they would likely trade him to upgrade their defence. While things did not work out in New Jersey, the best thing for him is to regain his confidence and come back stronger next season.
PHILADELPHIA, PA: New Jersey Devils Pavel Zacha attempts to win a faceoff against Philadelphia Flyers Sean Couturier during a game on October 20, 2018 (Kate Frese/ Last Word On Hockey)