It appears that Brad Mills will get to do this in Albany for the season. Will Tyler Eckford join him shortly? (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
The New Jersey Devils, like several other teams, put a number of players on waivers before they can be assigned to the AHL affiliate Albany Devils. Seven to be precise. As Tom Gulitti reported at Fire & Ice earlier today:
Now, these aren't "cuts" technically; they can be re-assigned tomorrow at noon if no one files a claim on them. And I doubt anyone in the NHL would. Likewise, I don't think it's a stretch to say that these seven aren't making it to the New Jersey roster this season. All seven here survived the first cut, though not all got a lot of action. Wiseman and Sestito didn't even get a preseason game until this past Saturday's game. Gionta and McKenna each got a game, a little preseason action. Only Davis and Magnan-Grenier didn't get any minutes in preseason.
The lone exception has been Brad Mills. He has been a real surprise in camp since he's played in all three preseason games so far and has looked fairly well as an "energy player." While the Devils liked what he did, I would think there wasn't much of a need for another energy player on the roster. Therefore, Mills is being sent down. Before camp, that wouldn't raised any eyebrows. As disappointing it may be to be sent down, I would like to congratulate Mills for trying to make the most of his opportunities. Who knows, maybe he'll be back during the season or next season, leading fans to demand that a foolish opposing player be "taken to the Mills."
Unless I'm missing someone, Michael Swift, David McIntyre, and Tyler Eckford are the only ones left in camp who aren't waived as of now who have not played a preseason game. Among those three, I'm the most interested in discussing Eckford.
I intend no disrespect for Swift and McIntyre. It's just that Rod Pelley's appears to be back at center on the fourth line; and Jacob Josefson, Adam Mair, and Marcus Nilson (among others) have got more attention this preseason. Basically, I don't think they have a chance. Eckford is a bit different though.
He's had 133 AHL games under his belt, including 61 with John MacLean behind the bench. The new New Jersey boss knows who he is and what he can do. He even got a taste of the NHL last season - at defense even. He's a two-way defender, a type of player the New Jersey team doesn't really have a lot of depth behind Andy Greene. Going into camp, I figured he had a real shot at a roster spot. Yet, with no preseason games, I can't help but think that he's on the outside of Alexander Urbom, Matthew Corrente, and even Matt Taormina. He's not getting any younger as he recently turned 25. We may have to soon consider, "If not now, then when?" to his NHL prospects - at least in New Jersey.
MacLean didn't come right out and say that it's anyone's last chance according to Gulitti. However, I can't agree. The Devils do have 3 more preseason games, and 2 of them are back-to-back at the end of this week. Presuming those are the final tune-up games, any prospects remaining and playing by then would have to be seriously considered to make the team. But for now? I would think anyone on the bubble who didn't play on Saturday will hope to be in the lineup on Tuesday.
Hopefully, Tyler Eckford is one of those players. Gulitti reported that he was one of the four defensemen practicing on the power play this morning. Why have Eckford practice the PP if he's not going to get a game? It wouldn't make much sense to me. Plus, there could be room for him tomorrow. Based on what MacLean told Gulitti, Taormina's the only defenseman named to be playing in advance of tomorrow's game. I'm sure the other 5 spots on defense will include some veterans. Who will they be? Does MacLean want to play Urbom in two straight games? Does he want to put Matthew Corrente back in the lineup? His answer will determine whether Eckford's really going to get a shot to make his case. Or whether it'll be another season back in the AHL.
I'd like to know what you think about today's waiver moves and Eckford's chances. Who else do you think is on the bubble as well? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.