Unrestricted free agency opens at noon Eastern today, but Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils wasted little time continuing to reshape the roster. A day after buying out forward Janne Kuokkanen, Fitzgerald continued to reshape the bottom six of the Devils roster by trading Pavel Zacha to the Boston Bruins for Erik Haula before the free agency frenzy began. Darren Dreger broke the news just before 11am with Elliotte Friedman confirming the Devils return.
Pavel Zacha has been traded to Boston.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 13, 2022
Erik Haula goes to NJ in Zacha deal— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 13, 2022
Erik Haula is a 31 year old center and left wing who is coming off of a strong season for the Bruins with 18 goals and 26 points in 78 games. He has been strong in the faceoff circle and appears to be a clear upgrade over both Jesper Boqvist and Pavel Zacha, depending upon what role the Devils ultimately decide to use him in. He is a quick skater and has a reputation for playing a solid two-way game.
Haula, who is 31 years of age, is signed for one more season at $2.375M, so the Devils can give him a bit of a test run for this season before deciding whether or not he’s a good fit moving forward on another contract. It should also be noted that that salary is lower than the Devils qualifying offer on Zacha, which may or may not matter moving forward as the Devils hope to make other moves today.
As for Zacha and the return on this trade, honestly, it feels about right. I wrote back in May when I profiled Zacha as an RFA that his fit on this team moving forward felt questionable at best. Zacha never quite lived up to the hype that came with him being the 6th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He has been passed on the Devils internal depth chart by Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier at center and, at best, appeared to be slotted to be a third line winger again this season. He had a year to go until UFA, but he was clearly no longer a part of the Devils plans moving forward. As a result, they flipped him for a player who they think will be a better fit. Zacha will just have to try to turn another corner in Boston.
I wish Zacha the best of luck in Boston, but I’m not particularly sad to see him go as I think the Devils needed to reshape their bottom six and this is another move towards doing exactly that. But now, I turn this discussion over to The People Who Matter. What do you think of this trade? Are you happy the Devils are finally moving on from Zacha? How do you think Erik Haula will fit in on the Devils roster? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thank you for reading.