With preseason hockey on its way and camps having opened on Thursday, Ray Shero locked up Pavel Zacha, a pending restricted free agent, to a three-year contract extension.
Just three days back, Igor Eronko of Eurosport.ru, who keeps close tabs on the KHL, reported that a verbal agreement was had between Zacha and the Avangard Omsk of the Kontinential Hockey League. On the flip side, general manager Ray Shero made it known he was determined to keep Pavel.
So with Pavel now in the lineup, it seems he will be a fourth line center this upcoming season with the likes of Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Travis Zajac on lines one through three for those center spots. The annual average value for Pavel Zacha is $2.250 million USD, but if for some reason Pavel doesn’t pan out in New Jersey, look for Ray Shero to start seeking out trades outside of the Metropolitan Division.
With a lot of skilled and talented depth on this year’s roster heading into training camp, this pre-season looks like a few guys will fight for spots like Jesper Boqvist. Boqvist can make lines one through three from wing to center push down a guy or two in the lineup. This kind of internal depth and skill not only saves assets over time, but only makes competition even better. Back to Zacha, this means Pavel needs to focus winning more than his fair share of face-offs, being able to bury more points from the 23-35 range.
If all goes right for Zacha this upcoming season, he can be one of the better bottom six forwards, not only excelling in penalty kills, but also being a threat along the boards and winning on the rush and scoring drives. Over time, having seen Pavel Zacha take part in his first full season with the Devils, there were times where he looked like he was trying to connect with Canadian left-winger Taylor Hall. One of the mentors I see helping Pavel this season is a guy like Patrik Elias who is his idol stopping by the practices and giving him advice.
We saw how Elias did with Pavel in his NHL debut and it was a dandy. However, a veteran that is on this Devils team that is a gritty power-forward is Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds, having signed for one-year and $5 million with the New Jersey Devils, could be the spark plug teammate Zacha needs in order to turn his game up a notch. Simmonds wins battles along the boards and knows how to get the gritty garbage goals that helps a team win.