Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Devils' roster takes shape with Parise captaincy, Sykora signing and Steckel trade

Whoosh, it’s been a busy last forty-eight hours in the swamp as the Devils sought to reconfigure their roster before the 3 PM deadline this afternoon. On Monday, the Devils sent down several players including former first-rounder Matt Corrente and highly touted defenseman Alexander Urbom, who made coach Pete DeBoer admit Urbom made him ‘look stupid’ (by his play in the last two preseason games) for not giving Urbom a chance to dress earlier.

GM Lou Lamoriello also waived eight players, including forwards Vladimir Zharkov, Rod Pelley and defenseman Mark Fraser. None of the eight players were claimed, including Pelley and Fraser, who are both on one-way deals, so they remained on the NHL roster while Zharkov and the other five waived players were sent down. According to NHL rules, Pelley and Fraser don’t have to be sent down for thirty days and won’t be exposed to waivers if and when they do get sent down. If either player does get sent down however, the Devils will not only have to pay their NHL salary in the AHL but also expose them to re-entry waivers if they want either to play for them this season.

Further complicating the roster situation, the Devils were touching the celing of the reserve list, meaning they had 48 players under contract with 50 being the max. And it just so happened the Devils also had three players trying out for the team without a contract, including former star winger Petr Sykora and defenseman Anton Stralman, as well as forward Steve Bernier. Before signing anyone, the Devils wanted to clear a spot (i.e. trade someone) first.

Hours after the Devils found out that nobody was claimed on waivers, they did wind up making a trade, dealing off the disappointing Dave Steckel to Toronto for a fourth-round pick, giving the Devils multiple picks in the 2nd, 4th and 5th rounds of a deep 2012 draft. After shedding themselves of Steckel’s $1.1 million salary (and roster spot) for the next two years, the Devils finally inked Sykora to a one year, $650k deal. At the start of practice today, Sykora’s teammates celebrated the contract by tapping their sticks on the ice in support of the popular 34-year old winger.

While Bernier left the team after reportedly refusing a two-way contract (and assignment to Albany), Stralman remains in limbo without a contract – or a visa! – as the Devils still have seven defensemen on the roster including Fraser and a full twenty-three man roster. Among the players who made the club were former ECHL forward Brad Mills, enforcer fan favorite Cam Janssen, and of course first-rounder Adam Larsson – now sporting Colin White's old number five.

Last but not least, the Devils finally named their next captain, giving Zach Parise the C, and fellow forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias the A’s. None of that is a surprise and the honor’s well-deserved for Zach, contract situation or no contract situation. Admittedly I’m a little surprised at how the actual roster turned out, but it’s clearly obvious DeBoer wanted a physical fourth line, and also wanted Nick Palmeri to stay since the Devils have few big forwards in their top nine. Winning faceoffs and finding forwards to play the penalty kill are big concerns, however. More on that in my season preview soon to come.

Barring no further changes this is what the Devils’ Opening Night roster will look like:

Forwards (14) – Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jacob Josefson, Danius Zubrus, Nick Palmeri, David Clarkson, Adam Henrique, Mattais Tedenby, Eric Boulton, Brad Mills, Cam Janssen, Rod Pelley

Defensemen (7) – Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, Bryce Salvador, Mark Fayne, Mark Fraser

Goaltenders (2) – Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg

Limbo – Anton Stralman

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