Andrew Gross at Fire & Ice reported plenty of pertinent information to the New Jersey Devils before their final preseason game tomorrow and the regular season that begins next week.
First, within the team, Gross reported earlier this evening that Luke Gazdic will be placed on injured reserve and that the team demoted two forwards to Albany: Joseph Blandisi and Nick Lappin. Gross noted in his post that with these moves, the Devils have fourteen forwards - the most they can carry on an active roster assuming the Devils also have seven defensemen. Knowing that Blandisi was waiver exempt among all of the other NHL forwards on the roster, I’m not terribly surprised he was re-assigned. It’s not like Blandisi was particularly impressive in preseason either. We’ll see whether this is a “paper move.” With Gazdic going on IR, Blandisi could be back in New Jersey as soon as that. As for Lappin, Albany is likely the best place for him. Lappin was at least getting his shots off in preseason and was used on scoring lines as a right winger. His position alone helps his cause to be called up. I’d like to think we’ll see him make his NHL debut at some point in 2016-17. But for now, he should be establishing he can be an AHL scorer - he showed great signs in his first twelve season games and eleven playoff games - before presuming he’ll be anything in the NHL.
What I’m surprised is at who’s left. None of the other defensemen were sent down. (Aside: Gazdic being put on IR makes me think Jon Merrill will too. So that would open up a spot for a month as well.) I’m going to guess Saturday’s game will provide that final decision. Neither Keith Kinkaid or Scott Wedgewood have been placed on waivers for the purposes of being sent down. Anders Lindback remains on a PTO. At forward, Blake Speers and Miles Wood are still on the roster. The latter is a bit puzzling. In Friday’s practice, Speers, Wood, Blandisi, and Lappin all played on a fifth line per Gross’ report at Fire & Ice. The fifth line usually means they wouldn’t be playing in the next game. So why did half of them get demoted and the other two remain? Are Speers and Wood closer to a NHL job than I think? Possibly. But in general, why only demote two players when further cuts can and likely will be made after Saturday’s game in West Point? It’s odd timing. I suppose the coaches have seen enough of Lappin and Blandisi for now.
Anyway, the other news of the day is for the future. Per this post by Gross, the Devils signed Michael McLeod, their first round draft pick from this year’s NHL Entry Draft, to a three-year entry level contract. According to General Fanager, McLeod’s entry level contract is definitely at the higher end with a $925,000 NHL salary, performance bonuses that sum up to $500,000, and a signing bonus of $92,500 for each season. As a reminder, an entry level contract only begins when the player hits the professional level. As long as McLeod plays fewer than nine NHL games this year - and he will, he’s already with Mississauga - his contract will slide to the next season (meaning it won’t count on the cap and the contract limit for this season) and will continue to slide until 2018-19. The deal puts him on the books, secures his rights, and makes it possible to play for New Jersey should he earn a spot or get a call up from juniors after his OHL season ends. This is a good deal. It’s important to lock up the top draft picks early and it won’t be a factor until he becomes a NHL player.
All the same, the Devils have made plenty of transactions and are ever closer to setting their active roster for the NHL. What do you make of the timing of these moves being made in the evening before the last preseason game and ahead of any final cuts? Do you think Blandisi will be back soon? And are you pleased with McLeod’s entry level contract? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.