Earlier today, it was reported that the New Jersey Devils signed Rostislav Olesz to a one-year contract. Rich Chere had a short post about it at NJ.com. The Devils have made that signing official and now the terms of the deal are available. As tweeted by Tom Gulitti, it's a one-year, one-way with a potential cost - and cap hit - of $1 million. Olesz will definitely make $700,000 in 2013-14, but there's a potential of $300,000 in bonuses. Why? Gulitti explained that since Olesz missed much of last season after undergoing ACL surgery, he's eligible for a bonus just for appearing in games. It's not a guarantee that Olesz will hit that bonus in this coming season. However, I would think he'll get every opportunity to make the squad out of training camp and he could stick around.
Let's take a step back first and quickly summarize Olesz' career so far. After being drafted high in the 2004 draft, Olesz stayed with his Czech club during the 2004-05 lockout and joined the Florida Panthers in 2005-06. In 59 games, he scored eight goals and registered thirteen assists while putting up 105 shots. Not bad, but not all that great. He showed improvement, scoring 11 and putting up 19 helpers in 75 games. However he never earned more than 30 points since then. Part of that was due to injuries, something that has plagued Part of that was due to being on some bad Florida teams. And part of that is on Olesz himself. Olesz was sent to Chicago in the Brian Campbell trade and never really got into the lineup. He spent more time with their AHL team in Rockford than with the Blackhawks and was given a compliance buy out. He's a 6'2", 215 pound, left shooting left winger who could play center and he'll turn 28 this October. And he's looking to stick around in the NHL as much as he can after recovering from his knee injury.
By the numbers, it's clear why Chicago bought him out. In addition to his struggles at staying healthy, he hasn't been all that productive in the NHL. He's scored 57 goals, earned 57 assists, and taken 732 shots in 355 games. He never really "broke out" with Florida and he's got a career shooting percentage of 7.8%. Again, not playing for full seasons hurt, but he never scored more than 14 goals in a season (he hit 14 twice) or earned more than 30 points (again, he did it once). He played mostly 12-14 minutes per game and his numbers at even strength at Behind the Net aren't all that impressive. With Chicago, he only appeared in 6 games. With Rockford of the AHL, Olesz showed he's got some skills as he put up 41 points in 50 games. But he hurt his right knee with them and didn't appear for anyone in 2012-13. Given that he didn't have a history of great production (or even great possession) when healthy, I can understand why they cut him loose from his $3.125 million average accrued value contract. Because he didn't have that in Florida, it wasn't going to take much to sign him. And it didn't.
I personally don't mind the Devils taking a flyer on Olesz. He's a low-risk, some-reward kind of signing; like Steve Bernier from two seasons ago. If Olesz does well in camp and shows the coaches that the knee won't be an issue, he adds to the depth of the Devils' forwards. While most fans are rightly concerned about how this team will score goals in 2013-14, the Devils weren't all that deep up front. Yes, with Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson getting new contracts, the Devils now have 14 forwards signed. But that includes Krystofer Barch and Mattias Tedenby, two players who aren't good. When injuries happen, someone's got to take that spot. So even if he ends up as a spare forward, I think he'd provide more use and versatility (he can play wing and center) than either of those two. And if he shows he can contribute in limited minutes, then don't be surprised if Peter DeBoer makes some room for him. The best case scenario for Olesz and the Devils is similar to what happened with Bernier. If he performs well, then the bottom six is better for it. If not, then Olesz acts as a spare and both sides part ways in 2014. Therefore, I like this deal in that I like this kind of deal in general.
In any case, I'd like to know what you think about the Devils signing Rostislav Olesz. Do you think signing him is worth the low risk to try and strengthen the team's depth? If not, who would you have rather seen? Do you think he'll make the New Jersey roster and how many games do you think he'll play in? Where do you think he'll be in the lineup when he does play? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Olesz and this signing in the comments.