On Wednesday, the New Jersey Devils made a few roster moves. Beau Bennett was placed on injured reserve and John Quenneville was called up. On that same day, Taylor Hall was feeling optimistic about playing on Thursday. I wrote it all up here and noted that this all means that Reid Boucher was really on the outside looking in. On Thursday, Hall said he was ready to play, the team agreed, and so Hall returned to action in a 3-4 overtime loss to Chicago. In order for Hall to play, a roster move had to be made. And instead of sending Quenneville back to Albany or demoting someone else like Miles Wood, the team put Boucher on waivers. Because he was placed on waivers on Thursday night, he had to clear waivers by noon on Saturday before he could be eligible to be sent to Albany.
However, today’s opponent, the Nashville Predators had other ideas. They put in a waiver claim for Boucher and acquired him. The official press release from the Predators is here, announcing the acquisition.
Since Boucher was not sent back to New Jersey or anywhere else, he is actually in Nashville. He could play today for the Predators. I am not sure if a player was claimed on waivers to play against his former team on the same say has happened before. It does not seem to be common.
In my preview of today’s game, I question whether or not Boucher would be missed if he’s claimed on waivers. I do not think he will be. Sure, Boucher showed some promise last season (8 goals, 11 assists, 79 shots in 39 games) and did well enough to earn a new contact (albeit a one year, two-way deal) and start in New Jersey. Gerard stated back in the summer that 2016-17 would be a make or break season for the winger. Clearly, it broke. He was frequently a healthy scratch in this season. While Boucher may have “fit in” alongside better forwards like Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, there was no real . The opportunities were in the bottom six and he did not make the most of them. In nine appearances in this season, Boucher picked up two assists, no goals, and - worst of all - twelve shots on net. Six of those shots came in one game. For a player whose largest talent is his shot, that’s just not good at all. Boucher’s most apparent flaw was his skating and it really has limited his usefulness. Not being able to skate well meant Boucher was not helping much on defense, moving well with and without the puck, and getting into positions to use that shot of his. I am not sure what about those skills would give the coaches a reason to play him on the power play or in a top-six role. The production certainly didn’t provide a reason. Therefore, what have the Devils really lost?
It could be argued that Boucher did not receive much of an opportunity. Yet, he didn’t make the most of what opportunities he did have. When Devante Smith-Pelly or Sergey Kalinin struggled and were scratched, Boucher did not do much to warrant his inclusion in the lineup. When Kalinin or Smith-Pelly returned to the lineup, they played like they had a point to prove. Jacob Josefson and Pavel Zacha may not have set the world on fire, but their use at wing, only kept Boucher back further. But, again, when the opportunity came, Boucher did not make the most of it. With Miles Wood impressing his call back up to the Devils in this week and the decision to call up Quenneville, Boucher’s fate was sealed. He was clearly not in the Devils’ plans. Hall’s quicker-than-expected return just moved that reality.
So it goes. It turned out Boucher’s time in New Jersey would be more analogous to Nick Palmieri’s time in New Jersey. For those that do not remember, Palmieri (no relation to Kule) was a young winger who scored a boatload of goals in junior but had issues skating that showed some promise when playing top talent in 2010-11 but could not succeed where there could have been a regular spot for him if he did in 2011-12. Palmieri was traded, but as part of a five-player package that brought Marek Zidlicky to the team. Given the timing, I’m not sure if a trade for Boucher would even be possible. And even then, what would teams offer for him? At the end of the day, while I wish Boucher well in Nashville with the exception of today and December 20, 2016, I do not think he is a big or even a medium-sized loss for the Devils.