New Jersey Devils preseason schedule will impact waiver, roster decisions

The New Jersey Devils announced their preseason schedule on Monday. The calendar will have a direct impact on both roster decisions and signings before training camp and on the decision on who goes on waivers and when.
New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils announced on Monday the time and place of their seven preseason games. It's usually an announcement without much fanfare. It's nice to see when we're going to watch live hockey again, but that's usually the crux of the announcement. However, there is one interesting tidbit in the preseason that will dictate more than just when the Devils will get their final practice round in.

At first, this seems like a pretty straightforward announcement. We learned the Devils are playing seven preseason games, three of which will be at home. They will play a home-and-home against their rivals, the New York Rangers. The only game not within driving distance for most Devils fans is the game at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Every game also comes with a 7 p.m. start time.

The game that stands out the most is the last game. The Devils are going on the road to take on the Philadelphia Flyers on October 3rd. It's not that surprising, as the Devils play the Flyers in the preseason almost every year. It's actually somewhat early to end the preseason, as the Devils ended their preseason this past season on October 6th. However, there's a reason for that.

Not only are the Devils playing their first game of the season the night after their final preseason game, but the Devils are doing another back-to-back to start the season. Oh, and it's in Prague, Czechia for the NHL Global Series. This is well over 4,000 miles between games. A direct flight from Newark to Prague takes 8 hours and 20 minutes. Add in the two-hour drive from Philadelphia, and the Devils would land at 8 a.m. our time, 2 p.m. Czechia time. That would be five hours before puck drop on the next game.

That's why the Devils are going to look at this preseason differently. They usually send players down to the Utica Comets for training camp and back to their junior teams or overseas in waves. Last season, training camp began around October 2nd. It starts with AHL veterans and rookies with little-to-no chance to make the roster. However, next season, the Devils will have to keep a lot of those players.

The Devils need to have a full roster to play on October 3rd. None of those players are going to be on the opening-night roster. So, the Devils have to find 23 extras beyond the 23 players they already signed.

Then the Devils need to make immediate moves. They have to be salary cap compliant on the first day of the season. They have to shove players through waivers if the want to keep them on the roster. They can't make decisions on PTOs until that night, but they have to make the decision right then and there. Does Tom Fitzgerald go to Prague? He has to have a lot of incredibly hard conversations about cutting guys from their contracts and sending them down despite good training camps. Will he have those conversations on the phone now, or will he stay back while the Devils are in Prague?

Speaking of PTOs, the Devils likely have to sign a bunch of them, right? They need 46 players to go on October 3rd and 4th between the last preseason game and the first regular season game. How do you fill a roster of 46 players?

They started last season with 57 players on the training camp roster, but many had no chance to make it. Players like Josh Filmon, Michael Vukojevic, Tyler Brennan and Jeremy Brodeur were there for a look. Slowly, the Devils would cut bunches of players. Before the end of September, 24 players were knocked off the roster, leaving the Devils with 33. This season, that would leave the Devils 13 players short.

The preseason almost never actually has an impact on the season. This year, it very much has an impact on everything. Last season, the Devils put players on waivers early to get them through and avoid getting claimed by other teams. This season, the Devils might put someone on waivers and keep them in the NHL just to get it over with (once a player goes through waivers, they don't have to go back on waivers for a month).

It's interesting to see how this will impact roster decisions, but we think it will be somewhat significant. The roster will be easy to predict because the Devils have less time for surprises. Their "full-roster" preseason game might be in the middle of the preseason instead of at the end. A story like Jesper Bratt in 2017 is much less likely this season. Who knows who could miss out on their opportunity because of scheduling.