The last 48 hours were very busy for all 32 NHL franchises. All teams had until 5 PM ET today to be roster and salary cap compliant. This meant that anyone that needed to go through waivers need to be placed on them yesterday as it takes 24 hours to clear them. Everyone had final cuts to make, including the New Jersey Devils. They had at least 4 players to cut from the roster in some way, presuming Andreas Johnsson was demoted. This evening, the Devils announced those cuts and transactions with their 23-man roster for today’s deadline with the league. Here are the 23 with three inclusions on the injured reserves:
Goaltenders (2): Mackenzie Blackwood, Vitek Vanecek
Defensemen (7): Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler, John Marino, Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Brendan Smith, Simon Nemec
Forwards (14): Jack Hughes, Ondrej Palat, Jesper Bratt, Dawson Mercer, Yegor Sharangovich, Tomas Tatar, Erik Haula, Miles Wood, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Alexander Holtz, Fabian Zetterlund, Jesper Boqvist, Andreas Johnsson
Injured Reserve (2): Nico Hischier, Tyce Thompson
Long Term Injured Reserve (1): Jonathan Bernier
There is a bit to unpack here, so let us go through it bit by bit. First, Jonathan Bernier may have played in a scrimmage but he has not been participating in any preseason games. It was expected he would be on LTIR due to the recovery from his hip injury. Now he is. The Devils were cap compliant going into today regardless; but Bernier on LTIR means the Devils can exceed the cap by $4.125 million provided Bernier stays on LTIR.
Second, Hischier and Thompson were both hurt in preseason games. Hischier’s “cramp” turned out to be much more serious; and Thompson has been held out as well. Both were retroactively put on IR. That frees up two players to remain in New Jersey as long as both are on IR. If Hischier and/or Thompson are activated before opening night in Philadelphia, then someone else would need to be transferred off the roster.
Third, the big surprise here is that Simon Nemec is on this roster and Kevin Bahl is not. Bahl has had an excellent preseason. Nemec has not. I get the idea that Nemec is a second overall pick and the Devils can afford to give him up to 9 NHL games. However, he really has not stood out in preseason games in either end. Bahl at least has been a shut-down defender shutting things down regardless of opponent. Ben Birnell of the Utica Sentinal confirmed that Bahl was demoted to Utica. Bahl is still waiver ineligible, so he did not need to go through the waiver process. It is possible that this is a paper move. Except Nemec is also waiver ineligible so Bahl would not need to go. It is also possible that if Hischier and/or Thompson are activated, Nemec immediately goes to Utica so this may end up being a placeholder. I am confident we should see Bahl in New Jersey at some point this season. I am confused that it is not now because, again, he was really good in preseason and there is something to be said about rewarding good performances.
Fourth, there is thankfully no Mason Geertsen on this roster. He was the only Devil on waivers yesterday. Now, as I forgot when Andreas Johnsson was placed (and cleared!) waivers, a team does not necessarily have to demote someone after clearing waivers. The team has up to 30 days or 10 games, whichever comes first, to demote them. And they can decide to not to do that at all. Johnsson is on this roster. The Devils could send him down within the next few weeks if they so choose. They would not delay a decision on Geertsen. He cleared waivers this afternoon and, per Birnell, he has been assigned to Utica. This is good as Geertsen has nothing of value to the team in today’s NHL. My evidence of this was his 2021-22 season. Credit to the Devils for not over-thinking this.
Fifth, in addition to Johnsson on this roster, Holtz, Zetterlund, and both Boqvist and McLeod are here as well. This is a bit of a surprise as Boqvist and McLeod did not exactly have great preseasons. Holtz and Zetterlund did more to assert themselves. That the Devils coaches kept Holtz solely with NHL players was a sign that they wanted him to succeed and he arguably did. I would like to think that Holtz and Zetterlund both made the team for sure. However, this is a roster to meet Monday’s deadline and not necessarily the opening night roster. Again, if Hischier and/or Thompson come off IR, then someone has to go down to Utica. Holtz could be demoted as a paper move, Johnsson could be demoted as he already cleared waivers, and the other three would have to clear waivers for a demotion.
This is all to say that this 23-man roster is not necessarily going to be the one that goes to Philly on Thursday. It might be. It could be. But the Devils have the time for further decisions. It appears to me that since that they have that time, they will use it. For now, the final decisions were as follows: Bernier to LTIR, Hischier and Thompson to IR, and Geertsen and Bahl demoted while Nemec, Holtz, Zetterlund, and Boqvist made the team.
What do you make the Devils’ decisions made today for their 23-man roster? Are you surprised Nemec made this initial roster over Bahl? Do you think more moves will be made by Thursday? If so, what would you want them to be?