A bit of old news, but the New Jersey Devils’ re-acquired defenseman Jay Leach and Steve Zalewski from the San Jose Sharks yesterday.
Leach played in the Devils’ organization with both the Devils and Lowell in 2008-09 and 2009-2010 before being claimed off re-entry waivers by the Montreal Canadiens. In 45 games with the Worcester Sharks, he had one goal, four assists and 45 penalty minutes.
Zalewski had four goals and 17 assists in 50 games with Worcester this season. The former fifth round draft pick played three games with the Sharks last season, failing to record a point.
Both Patrick Davis and Mike Swift were traded to the Sharks.
It doesn’t appear that Zalewski or Leach will play for the Devils this season. Both have been assigned to Albany. If needed, Leach could be recalled and would not have to pass through re-entry waivers.
The Devils made their first big splash of the offseason today, re-acquiring former forward Jason Arnott from the Nashville Predators for rookie winger Matt Halischuk and a second round pick in the 2011 draft.
Arnott, who served as captain of the Predators, centered the famed “A-Line” with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora on his wings. That line produced the overtime game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup finals to clinch the Devils second championship.
With the addition, the Devils acquire a center for their second line. Arnott, who had 19 goals and 27 assists in 63 games last season, hopes to be reunited with Elias in his second stint as a Devil.
“One hundred percent. Absolutely,” he said to Tom Gulliti. “I’ll never forget the fun we had playing on the line together. He’s still an elite player in my mind. It would be fun to play with him again.”
Arnott has one year, $4.5 million dollars remaining on his five-year, $22.5 million dollar contract he signed with the Predators in 2006. The 35-year-old center had a no-trade clause, so he ultimately accepted the trade back to the Devils.
Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello hopes that Arnott can bridge the gap and allow prospect Jacob Josefson to gradually gain more responsibility with the team.
“Absolutely,” Lamoriello said to Gulliti. “It gives them tutelage and support. This does a lot for the youth and takes some of the pressure off Travis Zajac. He has a good shot and help us on the power play. It also gives us experience and a player who served as the captain in Nashviille.”
Matt Halishchuk, an oft-injured player, recorded one goal and two assists in 21 career games with the Devils. The Devils drafted Halischuk in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft.
The Devils traded Arnott, Randy McKay and a 2002 first-round pick to Dallas on March 19, 2002, in a deal that brought the Devils Joe Nieuwendyk and captain Jamie Langenbrunner. The team originally obtained Arnott in a deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 1998, trading Bill Guerin and Valeri Zelepukin.
When asked about his role on the team for this season, Arnott told Gulliti he wanted to help the team win and mentor the younger players.
“I just want to help them win again,” Arnott said. “My goal is to help them win and help out with the young guys. That’s what I want to do.”
Lamoriello said he doesn’t expect the trade to hinder the efforts to re-sign free agents Paul Martin and Ilya Kovalchuk. But the team now has 16 players under contract for $11 million dollars, so I’m sure we’ll see the impact of this trade on negotiations with the two free agents in the coming weeks.
When I heard last night that the Devils had pulled the trigger on a trade for talented left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk, I almost couldn’t believe it. General manager Lou Lamoriello made one of the best trades of the season and brought the team a bona fide scoring threat. There hasn’t been a trade this big since 2001 – 2002, when the team traded for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner. The breakdown of the trade deserves a closer look, because Lamoriello almost stole Kovalchuk from the Thrashers.
Here’s the breakdown of the two-team trade:
RW NICLAS BERGFORS, D JOHNNY ODUYA, C PATRICE CORMIER, 2010 FIRST ROUND PICK, 2010 SECOND ROUND PICK
LW ILYA KOVALCHUK, D ANSSI SALMELA, 2010 SECOND ROUND PICK
What the Devils gave up to get Kovalchuk isn’t very much. Bergfors looks to be a promising player, but he seemed to be chafing under coach Jaques Lemaire system. He hasn’t done much recently, and he’s been relegated to the fourth line. Oduya looked to be a rising star last season, putting up seven goals and 22 assists and finishing the season at a +21. But he hasn’t performed well after signing three-year, $10.5 million dollar contract. He missed over 10 games with a groin injury, but he didn’t seem to be the same player as usual. Patrice Cormier, who was recently suspended for the rest of the season by the QMJHL, seems to be a promising prospect. But I suspect his recent activity – two intentional elbows in games, including the one for which he was suspended, gave Lamoriello cause for concern. Even the first-round pick is little compensation, because it’ll probably be a late round pick.
Overall, Lamoriello pulled the trigger on a deal that needed to get done. The Devils haven’t been scoring lately, and they’re also mired in a terrible rut. The team has lost eight of their last 11 games going into tonight’s contest, and they’ve been shut out in three of those games. Kovalchuk adds an immediate scoring impact and gives the Devils two scoring lines. He also plays the point on the powerplay, which has been anemic.
There is one bad thing about this trade. Kovalchuk is an unrestricted free agent after this season, so staying with the team isn’t a guarantee. But the trade allows the Devils to really compete with the Capitals and Penguins, which I see being the two biggest challenges to a Stanley Cup run. Even if he only becomes a rental, the trade was a great one for the Devils.
They can’t be done yet. They still need to shore up the blue line, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Lamoriello pull off his trademark small-move deal to bring in a defenseman.