It was reported yesterday that the Devils have signed Damien Brunner to a professional tryout (PTO) contract. He reports to camp in New Jersey today as the Devils will be taking a look at the Swiss forward to see if he can help out the team. Prior to making this move, it appeared that the Devils were all done signing people before the new season started. But whether they felt like this move was out of necessity or just some shrewd bargain rack shopping, the Devils are now one player deeper on the wing.
Earlier in the summer, fans of a number of teams were thinking Brunner would be a nice addition, so it was fairly surprising when he didn't end up signing anywhere. If you recall, there was actually a fair bit of smoke around a "Brunner to the Devils" story way back in July; so much so, that John actually wrote a piece on how he could contribute for the Devils at forward if he was signed. Yet, where the was smoke, there was no fire, and Brunner would stay on the free agency shelf for the remainder of the summer. From the sound of it, teams felt Brunner's rumored asking price of 3 to 3.5 million dollars AAV over multiple seasons was too much for a guy who has played only one truncated NHL season.
Damien Brunner Career Stats | Hockey DB
So now, with Brunner in camp on a PTO, the Devils will have to answer the questions of if he fits and where he fits in the lineup. One factor that affects this decision is how concerned the Devils are about Jaromir Jagr's health. If there is a worst-case scenario and Jagr's "soreness" problems are more severe than the team is letting on, then I think Brunner could be somewhat of a band-aid for if the issues continue. If Jagr is fine as the team says, then Brunner looks like more of a depth pickup, which, obviously, is a much more preferable scenario.
Operating under the assumption that this acquisition is for depth reasons, where can we expect Brunner to slot in if he makes the team? The top two lines seem pretty set in terms of personnel, so Brunner could be set up to jump in as a third line forward. That is probably the spot where he fits best as an NHL player. It could also spell bad news for some of the Devils' fringe NHL forwards, as making the team just got that much more difficult for guys such as Mattias Tedenby, Stefan Matteau, Reid Boucher, and the like.
As John went through back in July, Brunner looks like he can be a nice secondary scoring option, but should probably be held away from top competition. He can put up shots, plus he has some speed and skill with the puck, so him making the team would be welcomed as the Devils may be a little anemic on offense this season. His raw possession stats were good, but he was sheltered to an extent in Detroit and may have benefited from playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg for much of the season. Brunner could also figure into the power play situation as he played nearly 3 minutes per game on the Red Wings' PP last season. He contributes in a lot of places the Devils seem to be lacking in, so he should be a good fit, one would imagine.
Overall, it's pretty hard to dislike this move by Lou and the Devils. Brunner put up solid numbers in Detroit last season, and while he may have been asking for too much money before, him settling for a PTO means he'll probably be a bargain if the Devils do end up signing him. The Devils are in need of any scoring help they can get, and Brunner figures to be an upgrade over a number of the forwards vying for a spot on the team coming out of camp. Slotting him in to this lineup, the Devils have the potential to roll four truly solid lines going into this season (until that hope is inevitably destroyed by the presence of Krys Barch, that is).
So I like the move, but what do you all think of it? Do you think there's a chance Brunner doesn't make the roster? Who will be sent to Albany to make room for him if he does? How do you see the lines shaking out now? Comment with your thoughts on the move below.