The New Jersey Devils have made their first professional player transaction of the 2011 offseason today, not including signing Brandon Burlon to an entry level contract. Tom Gulitti reported at Fire & Ice today that the New Jersey Devils have re-signed Jay Leach with a one-year, two-way, NHL minimum salary contract worth $525,000.
I will admit that I didn't expect this to be the first move by Lou this summer. At age 33, all he can really be counted on at the NHL level is just filling in for a few games. He doesn't bring any offense to the table and his defending is just OK at best for a third pairing role. I don't think the New Jersey Devils really need Jay Leach; but I don't think he was signed to be in New Jersey unless he is absolutely needed. He was likely signed by New Jersey on a two-way deal to ensure he'll remain in the organization in Albany.
The Albany Devils have several defensemen that you can pencil into your lineup. Alexander Urbom, Dan Kelly, and Harry Young will be back; and they will be joined by Eric Gelinas, Brandon Burlon, and Joe Sova. The one thing they all have in common is that they are quite young and inexperienced at any professional level. The only defenseman with significant AHL experience on the blueline would be restricted free agent Maxim Noreau - who was an all-star first team member last season. Jay Leach will be the veteran in Albany to help out those still new to the league and convey what it takes to even get into the NHL, much less stick around. I have no problem with that.
This re-signing also brings up the total of signed defensemen by New Jersey to 12. There are 6 on the New Jersey roster with Leach, and 6 in Albany. I figure Noreau will be signed - why else would the Devils have traded for him? - so with up to 13 defenders on the total roster, some other players are going to be let loose. There's no need to have a ton of defensemen on the NHL roster, and letting some players go will free up space on the reserve list (basically: a NHL team can't have more than 50 signed players). I've noted that the Devils don't really need to keep all four restricted free agent defensemen up with New Jersey. At the same time, Tyler Eckford, Olivier Magnan-Grenier, and Rob Davison may now be completely surplus to the Devils organization with this signing. Clearly, more decisions and moves (perhaps a trade or two?) will have to be made.
I'll defer to Tom over whether this is good for Albany; but I don't mind this one-year deal at all provided Leach stays in Albany and contributes in his own way. It's for the league minimum and even as far back as April, this meets what I wanted to see if Leach would be retained. So I have no complaints. What do you think of the signing? What does this mean for other free agent defensemen in the system? Do you think this will lead to more signings? I hope so, since deadlines are coming up; but let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading. (And thanks to elesias for FanShotting this when it first broke.)