After today's cuts - which I gave an overview here - the Devils have 28 on their current roster with player #29, Rob Niedermayer, coming soon. The Devils have one more preseason game to play, they will host the Islanders on Tuesday. With the Devils season opening this coming Saturday against Philadelphia, the Devils will have to cut 6 to 9 players in this week. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen in stages. It could happen on Wednesday after Tuesday's game. You and I just don't know, really. So why not consider the question ourselves?
Here's the roster of who's remaining on the New Jersey Devils:
Those in bold are those who are definitely going to be on the roster come opening night. Well, Elias won't, he's injured; but he's definitely going to be on the team. That's 16 players. Let's discuss who has the best chance to make the team as it currently stands.
Virtual Locks for the New Jersey Lineup:
Rob Niedermayer, center/winger. Rob Niedermayer was signed to a 1 year, $1 million one-way contract earlier this past Friday, with the intention of lining up as a center for New Jersey. Given the team's lack of depth prior to the signing, I'd think it's safe to say he'll be with New Jersey. The only question mark is his conditioning as he'll be joining up with the Devils just as preseason is ending. Still, he's a lock for all intents and purposes.
Nicklas Bergfors, right wing. I said that Bergfors had his best chance of making the team this fall - and I think he has risen to the task. Involved in every preseason game so far this season, he's looked very good in all four with his hustle and workrate. He's been productive with a goal and 3 assists, including time on the power play. You really couldn't have asked him to for much more from the young winger and I'd honestly be shocked if he's cut at this point.
Andy Greene, defenseman. Greene really hasn't impressed in two preseason games so far, but there's only one defenseman really fighting for his spot as the team's #6 defenseman. While I think Murphy has done well this month, I don't think he's done enough to truly unseat Greene's spot on the team. Even so, Lemaire will likely keep at least one spare defenseman; the worst case scenario is that Greene starts off as the extra defender. Just as he did at the start of last season. He'll be around, one way or another.
Very Likely to Be in New Jersey:
Andrew Peters, left wing. While the big bruising enforcer hasn't enforced anything in preseason so far, he's been getting minutes in the last three games in a fourth line role. Still, he's done well enough to earn a two-year, one-way contract with the Devils. I doubt he'll be sent down at this point.
Cory Murphy, defenseman. Murphy has played big minutes in the three preseason games that he got to play in and picked up 3 assists in the process. After the Rangers game, Lemaire initially questioned his size and said he needed to put up points to still be considered for the Devils. Yet, despite questions, Murphy got points in the next two games as well as over 20 minutes of ice time: 21:13 in the Islanders game and 25:38 in the Philadelphia game. Has he done enough? I think he'll be on the roster to start, but it's not a lock at this point.
A Battle for Center:
Rod Pelley & Tim Sestito, centers. With Patrik Elias out for some length in October, one of these two centers will almost definitely make the team to start if only to give the Devils four centers. Pelley has played in all four preseason games so far; but he hasn't really done much better than Sestito in preseason. Neither has been great on faceoffs, but neither has been so poor that it has hurt the team. I'm pretty sure both are on two-way deals, so the contract may not but if I'm wrong, please let me know.) I think this decision will come down to Tuesday night.
A Battle for an Extra Forward Spot - Assuming There Will Be One:
Ilkka Pikkarainen, right wing. Pikkarainen played in the team's first preseason game and I didn't think he played well. However, he unfortunately got sick this past week, so that has been the only look in preseason he got. Now that Peters and Niedermayer are signed, his chances of sticking with New Jersey just got smaller. He's now healthy after not being able to eat for three days, but is it too late? If he does play on Tuesday, he's going to have one heck of a game to stay in New Jersey. His saving grace could be his one-way contract, per CapGeek; but who knows whether that'll be enough.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, left wing. The signing of Andrew Peters really hurt his chances. Leblond seems to be accepting his fate according to this post by Gulitti. Lemaire admits he'd like another look at the player, but given that Leblond wasn't sick or hurt, it's a bit telling that he hasn't been in any other preseason games after that first one. On Friday, I said that the Peters signing makes Leblond somewhat unnecessary and CapGeek already has him off the New Jersey roster on their charts. His last chance to justify himself (and his re-signing) is Tuesday's game. If he doesn't have a great game, or even named to the roster, then I see him going back to Lowell.
Matt Halischuk, wing. Halischuk, like Zharkov, has done fairly well in preseason - only he has played in all four preseason games so far. When Jay Pandolfo was found to be sore, Halischuk replaced him for last night's game. That said, he's caught in a numbers game. Six wingers are definitely on the team; considering that I'm tipping three more forwards to make the team including two wingers; one of Pelley and Setito will be up in New Jersey, and so out of the extra spots left he's got competition. I think out of Leblond, Pikkarainen, and Halischuk, Halischuk has been the better player. Out of these three, I would think Halischuk starts up in New Jersey. Unfortunately, he's got a two-way contract and so can be sent down without a problem - like Zharkov.
Mark Fraser, defenseman. Two-way contract, unimpressive preseason, and low on the depth chart means Fraser is likely back to Lowell. In Chere's report on the Devils' cuts today, he noted that "injured defenseman Mark Fraser cannot be cut because he is injured." I'm taking that to mean he would have been cut today otherwise.
Rob Davison, defenseman. Two-way contract, played one game, and I don't think he looked good in that one against the Islanders. Combined with the logjam the Devils have at defense for bottom pairing defenseman, this all makes him a prime candidate for going down to Lowell.
Jay Leach, defenseman. I feel like I'm repeating myself, but it's true: two-way contract and unimpressive games mean that Lowell really does await. He's more of a defensive defenseman than Greene and Murphy, but is he necessary? I don't think he made his case well enough preseason. His past NHL experience may lead him to be a call-up.
Overall Possible New Jersey Devils Roster of 23 Players:
Goaltenders (2): Martin Brodeur, Yann Danis
Defensemen (7): Paul Martin, Johnny Oduya, Colin White, Mike Mottau, Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, Cory Murphy (extra)
Left Wings (4) : Zach Parise, Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo, Andrew Peters
Centers (5): Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, Rob Niedermayer, Rod Pelley (extra)
Right Wings (5): Jamie Langenbrunner, David Clarkson, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Bergfors, Matt Halischuk (extra)
Cut: Jay Leach, Rob Davison, Mark Fraser, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Tim Sestito, Ilkka Pikkarainen
Now, this roster is based on all of what I said earlier. Given that Elias will be injured for the first few weeks of the season, it's my understanding that the Devils can elect to keep an extra player should they put Elias on long-term injured reserve. I don't know whether they'll do just that, but if they do, then Leblond, Pikkarainen, and Sestito all have a new hope of making the team.
Now it's time to have your say. Do you agree that Bergfors will make the New Jersey Devils? Do you think Murphy will be the only extra defender on the roster? Do you think the Devils will go to the maximum on the active roster and keep 23? If not, who else do you think would be cut? Please leave all your thoughts about the potential starting roster for the New Jersey Devils in the comments.