Ray Shero

Looking to make the leap: Pavel Zacha

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With his new three-year entry-level contract in his back pocket, New Jersey Devils prospect Pavel Zacha hoping to prove he belongs in the NHL as an 18-year-old.

“I’ve never been in a full (training) camp of the NHL. I was just in development camp. But, it’s my goal for this season to play in the NHL and now it’s up to me to show everyone that I can make the team and I’ll do everything for that,” Zacha said per The Bergen Record.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder was the sixth overall selection at the June NHL Draft.

Not surprisingly, Devils’ GM Ray Shero is pumping the breaks on expectations for Zacha.

“I don’t know,” Shero told The Star-Ledger when asked if Zacha is capable of playing in the NHL this season. “One day he will. Whether it’s going to be this year or in the future, we’re not sure. I’m not leaning one way or the other. It’s a decision he makes for us at some point.

“He’s got to trust us that we’re going to do what’s best for us and what’s best for him. If that means starting the year here or playing the year here, we feel that would be the best thing. If it’s going to be the opposite and we send him back to Sarnia (OHL), he’s got to trust that’s the proper form of development for him.”

During his first season in the Ontario Hockey League, Zacha scored 16 goals and 34 points in 37 games with the Sarnia Sting. He added a goal and an assist in five games at the 2015 world juniors for the Czech Republic.

For those who haven’t seen Zacha play, North American Central Scouting president, Mark Seidel, had the following report on the center prior to the NHL Draft:

Zacha’s biggest strengths are his skating and ability to beat defenders one-on-one; he has a skill set that’s hard to handle and will become an offensive force as he develops. Like most offensive stars, Zacha still needs to work on his defensive game, but the heady Czech will add that to his repertoire for whichever team selects him.

As for what he expects to see from Zacha at training camp, Shero is taking a wait and see approach.

“I don’t want to put any added pressure on him. We had that conversation as well in terms of just coming in and enjoying the process,” Shero said. “There will be a big day, a not-so-good day, a big game and a not-so-good game maybe.

“We’re in this for the longer term. As we go through training camp well see how he picks up things in terms of systems and how he feels about his game and confidence. It’s a big step for sure.”

Related: It’s New Jersey Devils day at PHT

Devils hire former coach (Noel) and GM (Savard) as pro scouts

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The New Jersey Devils beefed up their professional scouting department on Tuesday, as they announced the additions of Claude Noel and Andre Savard.

Savard and Noel join Bob Hoffmeyer in that specific scouting department for the Devils.

The two hirings really bolster the Devils’ staff from an experience perspective.

Savard, 61 spent time as an assistant coach, scout and even as a GM, as he held that position from Nov. 2000 through 2002-03 with the Montreal Canadiens. He remained as an assistant GM to Bob Gainey for a few more years before working with Devils GM Ray Shero in Pittsburgh.

Noel (pictured) may be more immediately recognizable to many fans, as he’s not very far removed from a head coaching gig with the Winnipeg Jets. The 59-year-old served in that role from 2011-12 to 2013-14 before spending part of last year with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.

Gus Katsaros of McKeen’s Hockey praised the moves as ways for the Devils to collect information that may not otherwise be available:

Obviously, Lou Lamoriello’s exit still leaves a crater behind in the Devils’ front office, but tweaks like these can help to fill some of that void.

In a way, this is like an NFL team grabbing a former head coach to work as a positions coach. Grabbing a few people who may seem a little “overqualified” for certain gigs could end up being pretty lucrative.

Devils’ Zacha to skip Czech’s world junior evaluation camp

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New Jersey Devils’ prospect Pavel Zacha will skip the Czech Republic’s world junior evaluation camp, which began on Saturday.

Zacha, the Devils’ 2015 first-round pick (sixth overall), is still without a contract.

“He doesn’t have a contract, so we don’t want to risk him getting an injury,” agent Patrik Stefan told the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti. “I spoke to the coach and he understands.”

The 18-year-old is a lock to make the Czech world junior team, if he’s made available. Zacha has represented the Czech Republic at the previous two Under-20 tournaments. He had a goal and an assist in five games at this year’s tournament.

The bigger concern for the Devils is getting the 6-foot-3, 210-pound center signed to an entry-level contract.

Zacha needs to be under contract with the Devils by 5 p.m. on Aug. 15 in order to be eligible to spend the 2015-16 season in the NHL because he is still under contract with Liberec in the Czech Extraliga for one more season.

The Devils already missed a July 15 deadline to sign Zacha, which means the team will have to pay Liberec a $100,000 transfer fee – if they sign him prior to the Aug. 15 deadline.

“Now that everything has settled down a little bit, we’ll reconnect with Patrik Stefan and give it a go to sign him,” Devils GM Ray Shero said. “Hopefully, that’s going to be the case. As I told (Zacha), that’s our goal and it has been from the outset. I’ve said this before: there’s no red flags, we’re going to get to it. So, we’ll get this thing going next week and, hopefully, get him signed.”

Here’s more from Gulitti on the Devils’ negotiations with Zacha:

Most of the structure of Zacha’s entry-level contract is already in place. As stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement, Zacha’s contract will be for three seasons and he will no doubt receive the maximum entry-level NHL salary of $925,000 and AHL salary of $70,000 per season.

The hold-up is believed to be over the Schedule A individual performance bonuses, which can be given out for meeting statistical thresholds in categories such as ice time, goals, assists, points, etc. Former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello refused to include Schedule A bonuses because it went against his team philosophy. In fact, Devils defenseman Adam Larsson, who was selected fourth overall in 2010, remains the only top 10 pick that didn’t get any form of Schedule A bonus package in his entry-level contract. (Entry-level restrictions were first put in place in 1995.)

With Shero as GM now, Zacha will receive at least some A bonuses, but the sides have been unable to agree upon how much. The player cannot receive more than $850,000 total and no more than $212,500 per category. A source indicated Stefan is seeking the maximum bonuses.

Zacha scored 16 goals and 34 points in 37 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting last season.

Lamoriello’s departure removes any doubt: Devils are Shero’s team

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Lou Lamoriello becoming the Toronto Maple Leafs’ new GM wasn’t just a surprise to New Jersey Devils fans. Executives didn’t see it coming, either.

Principal owner Josh Harris told the press that he found out “very recently” that Lamoriello wasn’t happy about a power-sharing situation with new GM Ray Shero.

“When you’re used to having absolute control of an organization… it was a different situation,” Harris said of Lamoriello, according to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere.

Shero is the new sheriff in town

Speaking of absolute power, it sounds like Shero will clearly be the man in charge, rather than dealing with more of a transition with Lamoriello as president. Harris said that he doesn’t feel the need to hire a new team president after this stunning departure.

Shero admitted that he was “surprised” that Lamoriello left for Toronto.

What’s next for New Jersey?

While Harris made the typical overtures about the team being willing to spend, it indeed sounds like the franchise may play it tight and rebuild:

As far as team-building goes, this is quite clearly Shero’s unquestioned regime now, but some other executive matters may be a collective effort.

Harris admits that he’ll miss Lamoriello, yet maybe pictures like these provide a decent argument that it might be best for everyone to remove such a looming, overwhelming presence. At least if they want to make some changes:

source: AP
Via AP

Devils part ways with director of scouting David Conte

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The New Jersey Devils have announced they will not renew the contract of David Conte – the club’s director of scouting.

Conte had been with the Devils organization for 31 seasons.

“David and I have had numerous discussions regarding his future. Based on our conversations, I believe it is in the best interests of our organization for David to pursue other opportunities and to not renew his contract,” said Devils’ GM Ray Shero in a statement. “I would personally like to thank David Conte for his 31 years of service to the New Jersey Devils organization. His contributions to the success of the hockey operations department have been immense. The search for his successor will begin immediately.”

The 66-year-old served as the club’s director of scouting for 22 seasons. Conte was promoted to executive vice president in September 2006. He also spent eight years as New Jersey’s assistant director of scouting. Conte originally joined the team as a full-time scout during the 1984-85 season.

His former draft picks include Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer and Patrik Elias.