It's already mid-July and the Devils have yet to find a top 6 forward to replace Zach Parise. There are a few explanations for this- one being that the Devils are planning on looking at internal options to replace Parise (i.e. using a prospect like Tedenby/Josefson or moving Clarkson/Henrique to a scoring line) and the other being that two of the big free agents, Alexander Semin and Shane Doan have yet to sign.
Of course, while the big name free agents are biding their time, other forwards who could be good bargains like Wojtek Wolski, Peter Mueller and Kyle Wellwood have signed new deals. Petr Sykora, who had 46 points while making $650k last season falls under that category. He also wants to return to the Devils, which gives them a fail-proof option. While it would be nice to add an elite scorer like Semin, bringing back Sykora might not be the worst option.
I've mentioned before that he's been one of the better Devils when it came to puck possession. Outside of Alexei Ponikarovsky (who was only around for half the season), Skyora's been one of the best puck possession players on the Devils last season. Of course, I had my doubts about Sykora's possession numbers- that they were a product of playing with a good possession player like Patrik Elias (and to a lesser extent, Dainius Zubrus). It turns out I was wrong.
According to hockeyanalysis' WoWYs on Sykora, it seems that Sykora's good possession numbers had less to do with playing with Elias than I thought. In fact, his corsi% actually increases when Elias isn't on the ice (52.5% to 54.3%). In fact, most Devils see an increase in corsi events for when Sykora's on the ice.
Sykora's even strength scoring rates are also pretty good. At even strength he's scoring 2.03 points/60- good enough for 3rd on the Devils (min 30 GP). Of course, he did receive less ice time than the big three of Kovalchuk, Elias and
Voldemort Parise, so it's not nearly as impressive. But regardless, he's been able to keep his head above water at even strength. He might not be a big factor on special teams, but at even strength he's pretty effective.
There isn't a lot of risk involved with Sykora either. Outside of age, there aren't any big concerns about his game or the role he's going to be used in. He did have bad power play numbers last season, but a lot of it had to do with playing on a highly ineffective 2nd powerplay unit. If he does receive ice time with the 1st unit, he'll probably have better numbers. If not, he'll be an effective scorer at even strength.
While I'd like for the Devils to sign Alex Semin to a contract, having Petr Sykora as a "Plan B" isn't as bad as I thought. As for you, how would you feel if the Devils brought back Sykora for another year? Would you be okay with him returning? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.