The New Jersey Devils today re-signed restricted free agent center Pavel Zacha to a three-year deal worth $2.25 million AAV.https://t.co/4qRE6JwI7I
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 10, 2019
Zacha Re-Signs With The Devils
A day after a report came out citing that Pavel Zacha had agreed to terms with Avangard of the KHL, he comes to terms with the Devils. Devils general manager Ray Shero sees Zacha as an important player during a key year in his development with the Devils. Speaking with Mike Morreale of NHL.com at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, Shero believed he could get an extension done, but wanted to get the right term.
“I think we’re trying to find the right term and based upon his age, Shero told Morreale. “He’s a really good fit for us and a good player, he’s a young guy whose game is evolving.”
The KHL threat was a negotiation tactic from the start by Zacha. However, Shero knew he could not be strong-armed by giving some friendly advice to the player through the media. He also made it clear he “did not care” if Zacha signed with the KHL or another team.
“My advice (to Zacha) would be that you’re going to hopefully play in the NHL for a long time and to get to where we hope you can be and continue to grow, why would you (play in the KHL),” Shero told Morreale. “That’s going to be a big step back. But again, I believe hopefully we can get something done and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Devils sent a qualifying offer to Zacha back in June. Since he was no arbitration-eligible, the Devils knew they could wait him out as long as possible. So this is nothing new. During his previous stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Shero would wait until training camp to sign the last remaining RFAs.
Last season in 61 games with the Devils, Zacha scored 25 points and had an NHL career-high 13 goals. He was the sixth overall by the Devils in the 2015 NHL Draft recording 76 points (29 goals, 47 assists) in 201 NHL games with the Devils.
Where Does Zacha Fit In
The real question is where does Zacha fit in with the Devils. Currently, if you look at the Devils depth chart, Zacha is listed at the fourth line centre behind Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Travis Zajac. Zajac is getting up there in age, so eventually, the Devils see Zacha taking over the third-line centre role. Zacha continues to make strides in the face-off circle.
The biggest improvement has been his penalty killing. Last season, Zacha was one of the best penalty killers in the league. While that is something that can easily be replaced, as the moved on quickly from Brian Gibbons. The Devils do not want to give up a 6th overall draft that is only 22 who is trending upwards.
Not to mention the Devils have Blake Coleman, Kevin Rooney, and John Hayden who can play centre as well. The coaching staff could move Zacha to the wing to get more offence out of him. With the contract length being a team-friendly bridge deal, it is time for Zacha to show what he is made of.