New Jersey Devils News: Pavel Zacha’s Contract and his Options in 2015-16


News broke Tuesday afternoon that 2015 1st round pick Pavel Zacha has signed an entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils. The details of the contract are still coming out as Zacha will likely be eligible for performance bonuses but the current understanding is that the entry-level deal will run for 3-years at $925,000 AAV (as confirmed by the team) with less than the maximum $850,000 per year in bonuses, per Rich Chere. Zacha makes franchise history as the Devils’ first draft pick since 1995 to receive performance bonuses in his entry-level contract. To see just how unique this is, understand that Adam Larsson was the first top-10 selection in the past 20 years by any team to not receive any performance bonuses. Chalk that up to Lou Lamoriello’s stinginess.

Pavel Zacha is the last of the top-10 to sign his entry-level contract and the team signed him just four days before the August 15 deadline where Zacha’s rights would belong to Extraliga’s Liberec for 2015-16. Normally, signing a player after July 15 would result in a $100,000 transfer fee to the player’s rights-holder, but New Jersey and the Czech Hockey Federation were able to work out an understanding, per Tom Gulitti.

What does this mean for Pavel Zacha in 2015-16? The situation is undoubtedly complicated; even Ray Shero had trouble acquiring information about Zacha’s previous contract. To understand better, let’s look at Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars as a comparison.

Julius Honka is a Finnish defenseman of the Dallas Stars who, after being drafted in 2014 by the Dallas Stars, was ineligible to return to the Western Hockey League in his age-19 season. Normally, the agreement between the CHL and NHL forbids a player from playing in the AHL as a teenager because he must be playing in the CHL or NHL. Because the Finnish Liiga owned the rights to Honka (even when he went to Swift Current of the WHL), as opposed to Swift Current, the NHL and IIHF ruled that the Finn could not return to the WHL. Basically, as this article points out, Honka had three options: make the NHL roster, go to the AHL, or return to Finland and play in Liiga.

Similarly to Honka, Zacha was never drafted to the CHL. His rights belong to the Czech Extraliga’s Liberec. He joined the Sarnia Sting of the OHL in fall 2014 on loan from Liberec. However, what makes Zacha different than Honka is that he also signed a three-year contract with the Sarnia Sting, meaning that Zacha can either play in the NHL, CHL or Extraliga, unlike most players under similar circumstances. Essentially, Zacha’s rights belonged to his Czech club, which loaned him to the OHL, where he signed a contract, before being drafted by New Jersey.

Live Feed

Alexander Holtz must dominate New Jersey Devils training camp
Alexander Holtz must dominate New Jersey Devils training camp /

Puck Prose

  • 3 bold predictions for the New Jersey Devils in 2023-24FanSided
  • NHL 24: Predicting the highest rated players at every positionApp Trigger
  • The Top 5 under 25 goaltenders entering the 2023-24 NHL seasonPuck Prose
  • The 2024 NHL Stadium Series will make history this upcoming seasonPuck Prose
  • How the Blue Jackets Stack Up Against the Rest of the MetroUnion and Blue
  • If Zacha makes it to the NHL, he will have to play in a men’s league right off the bat, which could serve to impede his development into a top-flight player. While Zacha has NHL size, he is without many important traits of a successful NHLer, especially his on-ice awareness.

    Physically, Zacha is one of the most gifted players to come out of the 2015 NHL Draft. His size (6’3, 215 lbs) and skill-set ultimately earned him the sixth selection. On the ice, however, Zacha has trouble staying in the play and making space without the puck. He plays an unreliable game on defense, constantly looking for an outlet pass instead of playing his zone or sticking to his assignment.

    On the other hand, going straight to the NHL may help Zacha more than playing in the CHL. On Sarnia, Zacha’s size and physicality made him a man among boys. It was this advantage that ultimately resulted in Zacha receiving two suspensions for slew-footing and left pundits calling him undisciplined. Competing in the NHL against fully-grown men will teach Zacha to play with more composure.

    In addition, Zacha noted that he idolized longtime Devil Patrik Elias. When Elias returned to the Czech Republic in 2003 after having won the Stanley Cup, Zacha went out to meet his Czech idol and still has a picture of the two together. Because Elias has one year left on his current contract and is pushing 40, 2015-16 may be Zacha’s only chance to play with his fellow statesmen.

    Finally, Devils head coach John Hynes comes to New Jersey from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, where he dealt primarily with under-25 forwards. While there, Hynes developed multiple talents including Derrick Pouliot, Simon Despres and Beau Bennett, among others. Hynes’ greatest accomplishment has been his work with the defense and he preaches a system that relies on speed and two-way play. Should Zacha stick around in the NHL, Hynes will put the Czech forward on the fast track to playing solid defense.

    What do you think? Is Pavel Zacha ready for the NHL? Would you rather have Zacha in the CHL where he could dominate or is it better that he learns how to play Devils hockey now that he is a member of the organization? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

    More from Pucks and Pitchforks: the Devils are just another team with Ray Shero

    More from Pucks and Pitchforks