This afternoon, the New Jersey Devils officially announced that sixteen players have been assigned to the Binghamton Devils and another four players have been placed on waivers with the intention of being sent to Binghamton when they clear. That means twenty players have been cut from the New Jersey Devils’ training camp roster and 29 players remain.
According to the release from the Devils, here is who is being sent down:
Goaltenders (2): Gilles Senn, Evan Cormier
Defensemen (5): Michael Paliotta, Colby Sissons, Colton White, Josh Jacobs (pending waivers), Dakota Mermis (pending waivers)
Forwards (13): Joey Anderson, Brandon Gignac, Ludvig Larsson, Mikhail Maltsev, Nikita Popugaev, Ryan Schmelzer, Brett Seney, Yegor Sharangovich, Blake Speers, Marian Studenic, Fabian Zetterlund, Brandon Baddock (pending waivers), Ben Street (pending waivers)
The majority of these cuts should not be surprising. There was no chance for Senn or Cormier to usurp Cory Schneider or Mackenzie Blackwood. None of the five defensemen being sent down or on their way of being sent down made a real challenge for more minutes. None of the thirteen forwards really stood out, save for Mikhail Maltsev’s gorgeous goal that stunned Brendan Smith, Alexandar Georgiev, the MSG broadcasters, and the fans of Our Hated Rivals. Even that was just one great goal a couple of nights and games ago. Most of these cuts did see some preseason action so at least they had a chance.
What was more surprising to me are some of the names still with the Devils. The Devils have two more preseason games left. Both are on the road; they go to Boston on Wednesday and they head to Columbus on Friday. I would think that the Columbus game will be close to what we should see for opening night on October 4. I was hoping both games would be used for tune-up purposes but it is now more likely it is the last chance for now for a number of players still in camp. Here is who is left per the Devils’ release:
Goaltenders (2): Cory Schneider, Mackenzie Blackwood
Defensemen (11): Will Butcher, Connor Carrick, Andy Greene, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson, Ty Smith, P.K. Subban, Matt Tennyson, Sami Vatanen, Jeremy Groleau (injured), and Julian Melchiori (injured)
Forwards (16): Nathan Bastian, Jesper Boqvist, Jesper Bratt, Blake Coleman, Nikita Gusev, Taylor Hall, John Hayden, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Kevin Rooney, Wayne Simmonds, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, Travis Zajac
Every one of these players except for Melchiori and Zacha have been involved in preseason already. I can understand keeping the injured players around; they can be moved down at some point in the future. I do not quite understand the purpose of keeping Matt Tennyson, Nathan Bastian, and Michael McLeod around. Tennyson looked OK in both of his appearances. However, the 29-year old has yet to stick in the NHL wherever he has been and he has not really done enough to warrant a roster spot over anyone else on defense. McLeod has not been all that impressive in his three preseason appearances. In those games, the opposition collectively out-attempted and out-shot the Devils 17-31 and 14-25 when McLeod was on the ice in 5-on-5 play. That reflects the observations that he just has not been enough of a factor in either end of the rink. While he does have two goals and an assist, he also only put up five shots in total. I do not see the purpose of keeping him around. You may feel to agree to disagree about McLeod but Bastian has been far more anonymous and less impactful than McLeod. The Devils have kept McLeod away from Bastian which tells me that they do not have a desire to keep them together. Bastian could have been sent down today and I do not think anyone would have paid much mind to it.
I would argue that the proverbial “bubble” is larger than those three players. I would think Jesper Boqvist and Ty Smith are on it. Boqvist has been a better player in his three appearances than, say, McLeod or Bastian. He has also demonstrated that he can use his skills in motion; another example of someone “fast, attacking, and supportive.” He has used this preseason to make a good case for him to stay in New Jersey than going back to the Swedish Hockey League. I cannot really say the same for Smith. He has not been good and he was awful in his most recent appearance. His situation is NHL or WHL and I will agree that he has nothing left to prove in the WHL. But his preseason performances do not at all suggest he is really ready for the NHL. In a perfect world, he would be in the AHL for a bit and then break through to the NHL level after getting his game sorted out at the professional level. Age restrictions make that impossible. I could see Smith getting into the Boston game with the understanding that it is “put up or go to Spokane” time.
I would also go as far as to suggest that Kevin Rooney’s and John Hayden’s spots on this roster are not that set. Sure, Miles Wood deservedly received a lot of criticism after Saturday’s game. But Rooney and Hayden have been terrible in their three preseason performances. Hayden does not seem to understand how the Devils kill penalties. Rooney has been been the definition of “just a guy” on the ice. Neither have been good in their own end. Neither have been good on offense. As we saw with Wood on Saturday, they cannot keep up with his pace and likely not with any other fast players. Both would require waivers to go down but given how they have been playing and where they are in their careers, I do not think it would be risky to subject either of them to waivers. I also do not think it would be a big loss if they were claimed. If the options are Boqvist and Zacha (pending his visa issues) over Hayden and Rooney, then I would go with Boqvist and Zacha.
The next set of practices and the Boston game may be the one to decide who the last cuts are. In the meantime, I would like to know what you think. Did any of the cuts surprise you? Who do you think will make the team among those on the fringes of the roster? Who would you make in your final cuts? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about today’s roster decisions in the comments. Thank you for reading.