After missing one deadline, Devils and Zacha hope to sign deal before the next

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Keep an eye on negotiations between New Jersey and ’15 first-rounder Pavel Zacha over the next three weeks.

Zacha, the only top-10 European draftee that’s yet to sign his entry-level deal, has already missed one key deadline and is now facing another in mid-August, per The Record:

As part of the agreement between the NHL and the European professional leagues, any 2015 draft pick under contract with a European club had to be signed by 5 p.m. on July 15. With Zacha contractually committed to Liberec in the Czech Republic’s Extraliga for 2015-16, it remains unclear how the Devils and Stefan missed that deadline.

As first reported here last Thursday, the Devils must now pay a $100,000 transfer fee directly to Liberec to extend the deadline to 5 p.m. on Aug. 15. If Zacha isn’t signed by then, however, he cannot play in the NHL before the 2016-17 season.

When I asked [player agent Patrik] Stefan on July 15 about the deadline and Zacha’s contract status with Liberec, he stated, “There is no contract.” Stefan confirmed Zacha’s Liberec contract today, however, and explained his answer last week as a misunderstanding.

“I was only saying that there was nothing preventing Pavel from signing from the Devils,” Stefan said.

Zacha was taken sixth overall in June. The other top-10 Euros — Ivan Provorov (seventh, Philly), Timo Meier (ninth, San Jose) and Mikko Rantanen (10th, Colorado) — have all inked their entry-level deals.

Zacha, 18, impressed onlookers at New Jersey’s recent prospects camp, to the point where some have suggested he could start next season in the NHL.

“I thought he was fantastic,” Shero told the Bergen Record. “That was the feedback we gave him today. I think that was from the entire staff. Very professional, very mature.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the size and strength to play in the bigs right now — all that remains is getting that contract signed. Shero didn’t seem to think it would be much of a problem, saying there were no “red flags” with regards to the negotiations.

“There’s nothing that’s going to stop us from signing Zacha,” Shero explained. “All I’ll say is we’re continuing to try to work on something with Pavel Zacha.

“If and when there is a deal that makes sense for both parties, we’ll sign it.”