The 2021 New Jersey Devils season starts tomorrow. Rosters needed to be cap compliant and meet size requirements as of 5 PM ET yesterday. With an injury and players not yet with the Devils (including one new pick-up yesterday), the Devils opted to go with a four man taxi squad to begin this season’s campaign. The Devils announced their initial roster through Twitter at 12:19 PM ET today:
I have five brief (yes, brief) thoughts about this:
First and foremost, this further confirms that Nico Hischier is not yet available. This is not good news as Nico Hischier is one of the best Devils on the team. Devils fans around the world do not like to miss Nico. Hopefully, his pre-camp injury heals up soon as this season schedule is the definition of “hit the ground running.”
Second, all of the Devils placed on waivers on Monday cleared on Tuesday. While most were re-assigned to Binghamton (who is playing in Newark this season), Nick Merkley will stick with the NHL Devils on their taxi squad. He is joined by forwards Nolan Foote and Mikhail Maltsev as well as goaltender Gilles Senn. All three of those players are waiver-exempt, so the move for them was easy. Calling up Merkley to New Jersey would likely be a good first option should a forward become unavailable. I am a little surprised that no defensemen are on the taxi squad. Then again, with Binghamton setting up shot for 2021 in New Jersey’s practice rink that is literally connected to the Prudential Center, the logistics of a call up is not an issue. Remember: Merkley does not need to go through waivers to be called up, only to be put on the taxi squad or in the AHL.
Third, the Devils’ new acquisition is on this list, goaltender Eric Comrie, as a “non-roster” player. I presume this means he is not yet able to play for New Jersey due to protocols. And for all I know, he is not even in New Jersey yet. Comrie was picked up off of waivers yesterday. I can understand the Devils picking a goalie up off of the waiver wire in the wake of Corey Crawford’s retirement. I do not understand why it is Comrie instead of Alex Nedeljkovic or Phoenix Copley. While Comrie has played well in the AHL in past seasons - much better than Scott Wedgewood and Gilles Senn - he has been lit up in just about every spot appearance he has had in the NHL. I can buy he is an upgrade over Wedgewood, who is currently Mackenzie Blackwood’s backup to start the season. I am not yet convinced think he is a viable #2 goaltender behind Mackenzie Blackwood. Maybe he is meant to be the taxi squad goalie when Binghamton resumes play and Senn goes to the practice rink to play with them. But the Devils would have to put him on waivers to do that. I get the idea of what the Devils did. I am not sure they claimed the best goaltender available.
Fourth, I am not sure how exactly it works out, but the fact that Hischier is injured and defenseman Sami Vatanen, forward Jesper Bratt, and Comrie are not currently with New Jersey presumably means they do not count just yet. This will mean the Devils will have to make room for them if and when all four are available. Expect future transactions from New Jersey.
Fifth and certainly not least, congratulations to Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen, Nathan Bastian, Michael McLeod, Jesper Boqvist, and Ty Smith for making the New Jersey roster by opening night. With plenty of spots available - especially at forward - there was plenty of potential competition. These five have done well enough in the eyes of the coaching staff to at least begin the season in the NHL. Given the impending arrival of Bratt and Vatanen along with the return of a healthy Hischier, some of these six may be moved down to the taxi squad or Binghamton in just a few weeks. That should not minimize the accomplishment that this is. Keep up the good work; further success against NHL opponents should ensure further playing time in the NHL.
Those are my five thoughts about the Devils’ roster announcement today. What do you think of them? Thank you for reading.