As the 2013-14 regular season comes ever so closer, the New Jersey Devils and 29 other teams must undergo the difficult process of who remains with the team. All teams have until 3 PM on Monday, September 30 to be cap compliant and meet the 23-man roster requirements. Earlier today, as reported in this post by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, the New Jersey Devils cut eight players from their training camp roster. Defenseman Damon Severson returned to junior, the last remaining junior-eligible player to be returned to his club. Seven more were demoted to Albany: defensemen Brandon Burlon, Eric Gelinas, and Jon Merrill; forwards Mike Sislo, Tim Sestito, Stefan Matteau, and Rod Pelley; and goaltender Scott Wedgewood. I would think all seven will remain with Albany but their battle for where in that lineup will continue.
Some may be surprised that Gelinas and Merrill were moved down ahead of Alexander Urbom. Others may be scratching their head that both Krystofer Barch and Cam Janssen are still in New Jersey. Part of the reason why these moves were made now is due to waiver eligibility. I brought this up last month and here's where that comes into play. As I understand it Gelinas, Merrill, Matteau, Wedgewood, and Sislo did not have to pass through waivers. Urbom, Janssen, and Barch would. In fact, the only Devils still with New Jersey that are not waiver eligible are Adam Larsson and Keith Kinkaid. Sesitto and Pelley had to go through waivers, so that they went down makes me think that happened earlier. One does not have to be demoted immediately after going through them.
The other part of the reason why those eight were demoted was because the coaches and management concluded that they're not fit to be on the New Jersey roster. In this afternoon post by Gulitti, he talked with Lou about the roster decisions made today. There's a little bit of actual praise (e.g. for Gelinas and Merrill) plus some talking up of players (e.g. Matteau) but the actions make it clear. With that in mind, there was no need to keep them up any longer. The last preseason game is tomorrow and the Devils will likely put out a full roster if they can. If not, then it's the last chance for a few players to make their case. The eight are not ready for one reason or another. It's definitely within the realm of possibility that we could some of them in New Jersey in 2013-14 as a call-up. It's just not happening now.
So here's who's left:
Forwards: Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Dainius Zubrus, Damien Brunner, Jacob Josefson, Andrei Loktionov, Rostislav Olesz, Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter, Mattias Tedenby, Krys Barch, Cam Janssen
The Devils will have to cut five more players at a minimum. The first one is easy: Keith Kinkaid will go back to Albany. He doesn't have to go through waivers and the Devils have no need to carry three goalies. The other four is a tougher decision. On defense, I can't see any of the non-Urbom defenders going elsewhere short of a trade. I don't think a trade is happening for the team to accommodate Urbom, who hasn't been bad but hasn't been super in preseason. I think the defensive defenseman would pass through waivers and even if he doesn't, the team has plenty of defenders in Albany. He'll likely be among the five moved off the New Jersey roster.
Forward is where the action will be. Among this group of seventeen, eight are completely safe: Elias, Henrique, Zajac, Jagr, Clowe, Ryder, Zubrus, and Brunner. Assuming the Devils do stick with seven defensemen and use the entire 23-man roster, then there's fourteen spots available. Lou provided a potential tell into his plans as he flatly told Gulitti he wouldn't be "comfortable" with paying someone a NHL salary in the AHL. In other words, he doesn't prefer to put someone on a one-way contract in Albany. Out of all of the skaters available, only Urbom, Janssen, and Gionta have two-way deals. Therefore, this may mean that Janssen isn't going to be the team's designated "enforcer." Gionta may draw calls and work hard, but plenty of other players can work hard and draw calls while doing some other things better. I think Olesz and Josefson proved their worth in preseason and Brunner getting signed moved a bunch of people down the depth chart. He was a victim of the numbers game and not being particularly good enough to rise above it. I also think he'll pass through waivers because his game is not uncommon.
Yet, Lou better be prepared to get uncomfortable even if Janssen and Gionta are demoted. Unless someone's getting moved to another team, the Devils will have to move a player on a one-way deal down. Among them, I would say Mattias Tedenby would be the one. He's got the cheapest deal and he's had his chances to stick in the NHL to little avail. I don't think he's done enough of anything to warrant another team to take him through waivers. However, he has been hurt for most of preseason. He had a good game against the Rangers in my eyes but it was unfortunate he couldn't get another look or two. The Devils could put him on injured reserve to delay a decision on him, but I think that's delaying the inevitable. From my standpoint, I think he's the other forward to go to the Capital District.
If it were up to me, I'd throw Barch and Janssen down with Kinkaid and Urbom to keep either Gionta or Tedenby. I prefer using a veteran as a forward rotating in and out of a lineup, so it would likely be Gionta. Of course, I could be completely wrong in how I am reading this. But I will say that tomorrow's preseason finale will be massive for any of those at risk of being cut. Their job would be to make the decision as tough as possible. Who do you think will be the final five cut from the Devils by Monday? Please leave your answer and other thoughts on today's cuts in the comments. Thank you for reading.