The New Jersey Devils have made moves to cut down their training camp roster further as their preseason enters its final week in North America. Two were made today with another five set up today for the actual move to likely be made tomorrow.
First, here are the two: As reported in this Tweet by Chris Ryan of NJ.com, the Devils sent defenseman Jocktan Chainey and goaltender Akira Schmid back to their respective junior teams. Neither had any realistic shot of making the New Jersey Devils. Neither played in any preseason games. Good on them for not being among the first to be cut, but this was bound to happen. Chainey will return to the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, whose season started last Thursday. Schmid will join the goaltending tandem at the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League, who season started last Friday. Best of luck to them with their respective teams for the 2018-19 season.
Second, the Devils placed five players on waivers today. As reported in this Tweet by James Mirtle of The Athletic, Blake Pietila, Brian Strait, John Ramage, Eric Tangradi, and Kurtis Gabriel are all on the list. If unclaimed, New Jersey can assign them to Binghamton. They do not have to be, but I think they will since Binghamton will start their training camp on Tuesday morning. In fact, I would expect even more demotions even soon. Strait and Ramage did not play in any of the team’s three preseason games. Strait was a B-Devil last season and Ramage played entirely in the AHL last season too. It should not be a surprise that they were effectively cut and I do not think anyone will claim them.
Tangradi, Gabriel, and Pietila did play in preseason games for New Jersey. Tangradi drew some calls did a lot of not much against the Rangers last Monday. It is no surprise he was put on waivers. Gabriel and Pietila played in two games. Gabriel earned more penalty minutes than total ice time across both games while adding very little positive when he was on the rink. Former Devils beat writer and current Isles beat writer, Andrew Gross, tweeted out that “even #NJDevils players were annoyed with Gabriel’s actions tonight,” after Thursday’s game. Those who saw that and knew he was getting cut was proven right. Not that he had a real chance of making the NHL roster anyway. Pietila had a lot of effort and I thought did a decent job, especially on PK situations. But unless he made a huge impact in his appearances, he was likely to be sent down - and so that is the case. I anticipate all three will clear waivers and be re-assigned to Binghamton very soon.
Since the B-Devils are starting their camp soon, I would anticipate even more cuts to be made. Based on the roster at CapFriendly, there are plenty of Devils who can be sent down without going through waivers that will likely end up in the AHL. The only players that would have clear waivers that were not put on waivers today outside of the NHL roster are Nick Lappin and Eric Gryba. Lappin had two goals in his one preseason game and Gryba has not been a trainwreck on defense in his appearances. Their time to make their cases to the coaching staff is now. Amanda Stein of the Devils tweeted the following quote from John Hynes on Friday:
#NJDevils Coach Hynes says the team that makes the trip to Switzerland/Sweden will be very close to the opening night roster. Adds that over the next few days: "We're going to have some decisions to make and cut this thing down a bit."— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) September 21, 2018
The cuts have begun and more will be made in the very near future. If there is a time for Lappin, Gryba, and even try-out Drew Stafford to have a great game, then it will be this week either tomorrow in Manhattan or Thursday night in Winnipeg. There are effectively 23 tickets to Sweden and there are 47 players technically still in camp with five already in the process to be cut.
As for Binghamton, now is a time to get excited about the roster coming together. To that end, please read this camp preview post by Jeff Ulmer about the Binghamton roster, where he highlights the new faces on the team, behind the bench, and on The Panel.
UPDATE: Less than two hours after this post, the Devils made some more cuts. The re-assigning continued! According to the team’s official account:
In addition, the following players have been assigned to @BingDevils:— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 23, 2018
Forwards: Brandon Baddock, Nathan Bastian, Brandon Gignac, Yegor Sharangovich, Blake Speers
Defensemen: Josh Jacobs, Michael Kapla, Colby Sissons, Colton White
Goaltender: Cam Johnson
This should bring the Devils down to 33 once the players on waivers clear them and are re-assigned. Here are the notable names left in camp:
Goaltenders: Eddie Lack, MacKenzie Blackwood
Lack is definitely making the team as long as Cory Schneider is not going to play. Schneider has been practicing, though. Blackwood is also likely AHL-bound in time. I guess they want to have three 100% goalies available for the next two games to cycle through?
Defensemen: Ty Smith, Egor Yakovlev (or Egor Iakovlev), Eric Gryba
Smith is the last junior-eligible player in camp and he did dazzle at times on the puck in the team’s first preseason game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets another game before going back to Spokane in the WHL. Yakovlev sticking around is no surprise since he presumably signed with New Jersey with the intent on being here. If he is re-assigned, he may go back to the KHL. Gryba, as mentioned earlier in this post, is a veteran. Like Lappin, this is the week to have an awesome week if he wants to make a case. It will be difficult for all three of these players as the Devils already have seven waiver-eligible defensemen on their roster.
Forwards: John Quenneville, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Joey Anderson, Marian Studenic, Brett Seney, Kevin Rooney, and Drew Stafford
With Miles Wood now back in the fold, the forward spots available for New Jersey became a little less available. Still, there is at least one job up for grabs and I can see New Jersey taking at least one extra forward. So far, Lappin has had the best game performance, while most of these other names have had two games of work to evaluate. It is encouraging to see young prospects like Anderson, Studenic, and Seney survive multiple cuts in their first training camp appearance as pros. It is also encouraging that Quenneville and McLeod did the same in what could be an important training camp of their young careers. I’m a little surprised that Rooney is still around as I do not think he’ll bring that much to the table. I expect Stafford to be given the respect of being one of the final cuts - I do not think he has done well enough in camp to be signed and given a spot ahead of all of these forwards.
Who will play tomorrow night and Thursday night will be very interesting.