The New Jersey Devils appear to be losing an important piece to their puzzle as Pavel Zacha is leaving to go to the KHL and it is not good news.
In what has been a really good offseason for the New Jersey Devils, there is some terrible news right before training camp is about to begin. According to reports, Pavel Zacha could be leaving the organization and the National Hockey League for the Kontinental Hockey League. He’s agreed to terms with Avangard of the KHL.
This is some really bad news for the New Jersey Devils. They are really deep at the forward position but this hurts the depth a little bit. Pavel Zacha was the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He didn’t ever reach his ceiling as a scorer but he was still growing into an extremely important depth forward for the Devils.
In 2018-19 he looked like he was growing his offensive game, however, as he had 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points in 61 games. That was a great improvement over his previous few seasons but his defensive game is what made him an important forward in the lineup. With players like Nico Hischier and Travis Zajac up the middle with him, they were really strong with two-way centers.
Zacha was also one of the best penalty-killing forwards in the entire NHL. He has proven that he can get in the proper position, make clears, and even create shorthanded opportunities. This is going to leave a big hole in the lineup as the Devils have lots of players that are top of the line penalty takers. They are likely going to have to make some kills this year and Zacha won’t be there to help.
At 22 years old, there was still room to get better as well. His elite penalty killing was there, and his offensive game was getting better and better as the years went on so this is less than ideal news all around. Zacha is on an expired RFA contract and would have needed a bit of a paid upgrade. Now, the Devils are going to be looking for someone who can replace what he brought to the team.
There are some free agents still out there and there are some prospects at forward like Jesper Boqvist who are begging to make it to the NHL this year. Boqvist can play both center and wing so this decision by Zacha might force the team’s hand to allow him to play center. This isn’t great news as previously mentioned, but the Devils are going to have to figure it out.