There are two bits of news this morning involving the depth of the New Jersey Devils roster. According to the New Jersey Devils' PR account on Twitter, they have sent defenseman Seth Helgeson down to the Albany Devils in the AHL. Also according to @NJDevilsPR, the Devils have also activated Stefan Matteau from injured reserve and loaned him to Albany for conditioning purposes. From my opinion, both of these moves seemed inevitable to me.
It is true that head coach John Hynes seemed to favor Seth Helgeson when he was up with New Jersey. He played in twelve games and played over Damon Severson, who was scratched for a few games in this past month, and Eric Gelinas, who has not played in a game since February 8. Still, there is not much sense for the team to carry eight defenseman with Severson seemingly now out of the proverbial doghouse. In addition, it's not like Helgeson did a whole lot. Yes, he wasn't an anchor in his own end of the rink. But the Devils - and perhaps the larger NHL - has little use for a slow defenseman that adds next to nothing going forward. Someone really only just defends and hits as a player's main attributes just isn't enough for a regular spot short of being exceptional. Helgeson wasn't bad over his twelve game stint, but he's not what this team needs.
As far as Matteau is concerned, I'm pleased at this development. Matteau has not played a NHL game since January 14. He's been stuck in an unfavorable situation this season. Since he's waiver-eligible and 21 years old (he turned 22 in this past week), he likely would have been picked up on waivers despite not having done much in the NHL if he were to be sent down. However, he hasn't shown enough to be a regular player in the NHL even as a fourth-liner. Given his young age, sitting in the press box for weeks at a time does not help him at all. He needs to be playing somewhere, ideally in the AHL. The same league he can't go to without passing waivers. Hence, the unfavorable situation. Given his recent facial injury, New Jersey now can send him down without risking that someone will take him for free and he can actually do something on the ice. That's a positive, even if it's only a temporary move. I still wouldn't be surprised if he gets moved by Monday because this strikes me as a situation where the team doesn't seem like they see him in their future and the player could use a change of scenery. Of course, I'm assuming players on conditioning assignments may be moved; I could be wrong about that.
I do have to note the timing of these moves. The NHL Trade Deadline is this Monday and the Devils just happened to open a spot on their active roster. It may truly be only one since Matteau will eventually have to come back from his conditioning stint. Matteau is still technically on the NHL roster during this conditioning stint. Still, I wonder whether this is to set up for a potential move to be made over the next three days. After the trade deadline, teams can carry more than 23 players on their active roster. As I understand it, if there's a Devil to be coming back from an injury - Mike Cammalleri and Patrik Elias come to mind - they're free to join the team as of March 1. Ditto Helgeson. So I don't think the Helgeson demotion is necessarily done to make an internal move unless the Devils really want to activate someone before that date. We'll see.
I Can't Add Update: I just realized that the previous paragraph I originally wrote - now crossed-out - was wrong. While Helgeson was sent down, Matteau is activated from IR. Therefore, the Devils are still at 23 people. The only fact that was true in the original paragraph is that after the trade deadline, teams can carry more than 23 players. So on March 1 and beyond, Helgeson can come back, injured players can come back, etc. without needing to make another move. I apologize for my original error.
What is your reaction to this news? Do you think this is to set something to happen soon, or is it just the team moving players for other reasons? Please leave your answers in the comments. Thank you for reading.