The New Jersey Devils made a lot of moves this offseason to fill important holes. They added Ryan Graves, Dougie Hamilton, and Christian Jaros to really fill the need on defense. Tom Fitzgerald signed Tomas Tatar to help the forward group add a veteran presence. Jonathan Bernier signed a big two-year contract to finally fix the backup goalie problem. It was a successful offseason, although it’s hard to call it that before the team hits the ice. Lindy Ruff‘s system isn’t the easiest to learn, and the Devils have a lot of chemistry to build with the new pieces. That is why finding people in the right roles is so important.
One of the most important roles on this team is the role of the third-line center. Travis Zajac has been the catalyst for that role for years, but he was traded last season as part of the Kyle Palmieri deal to the New York Islanders. The Devils need to find the right fit on that line.
Let’s assume that Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are locked into their positions on the first and second lines. It seems pretty obvious those positions are set. Let’s also assume Michael McLeod is going to continue his role as the fourth-line center. There will be times where McLeod plays more minutes than the bottom line, but for this exercise let’s call it the “fourth line”.
There are a lot of options. The Devils could still vote to sign someone on free agency or to PTO. However, let’s focus on the internal options. At this point, it appears Ruff and company will hold a competition to win the third center job. Here are the options the Devils can choose from.