1:20pm: Devils GM Ray Shero certainly isn’t concerned with the reports about Zacha and the KHL. The executive spoke to reporters including John Wawrow of the Associated Press and explained that if Zacha wants to go to the KHL “it’s a long way back to the NHL.” Shero still hopes to sign Zacha for this season, but is quick to point out that the Devils own his rights regardless.
8:30am: Though their offseason has focused on other things, the New Jersey Devils are another one of the teams around the NHL with an unsigned restricted free agent just a few days before training camp opens. Pavel Zacha is still without a contract, and he may not be getting one from the Devils anytime soon. Igor Eronko of Sport-Express passes on a report that Zacha has agreed to terms with Avangard of the KHL. There has been no official announcement from either side at this point, but losing Zacha to the KHL would be a big disappointment for a Devils team that has plans to contend for the playoffs this season. As a restricted free agent that received a qualifying offer, his rights would be retained by New Jersey.
Of course, it is very important to note that until a deal is actually signed—not just agreed to—Zacha could very well still end up in New Jersey. The 22-year old doesn’t have a ton of leverage in his negotiation after struggling to put up big offensive numbers and even seeing some time in the minor leagues last season. Originally selected sixth overall in 2015, the Czech forward has recorded just 76 points in 201 NHL games, though did post his career-high in goals last year with 13. Dealing with injuries and inconsistencies over his first three seasons, it seems likely that the Devils wouldn’t be offering a very lucrative deal for Zacha.
The fact that he is not arbitration eligible yet means there are only a couple of ways for this to end, and no real deadline other than December 1st. That’s when Zacha would become ineligible to play in 2019-20 should he not have an NHL contract filed with the league. Dropping a hint by agreeing to terms in the KHL may push a negotiation along, or it may be simply that Zacha intends on playing overseas this year to get his game back on track.
The Devils have added Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev and Jack Hughes to their forward group (among others) this season, making it even tougher for players like Zacha to crack the top-six and powerplay units moving forward.