Cue up the next trade banter involving the Vancouver Canucks and this time it starts on Hockey Night in Canada. During the 2nd intermission of the Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs game panelist-reporter Jeff Marek said the Canucks were at least “curious about” centreman Pavel Zacha of the New Jersey Devils.
Vancouver Canucks fans might be unfamiliar. Zacha went 6th-overall to the Devils in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Brno, Czech Republic native is a big centre, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds who skates well.
Although he’s exhibited high-end offensive skills in the past, his most appealing trait may be his versatility. He has slotted in at centre behind Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier and has also spent top-6 time on the left wing. Last season he was the team’s leading scorer with a whopping 35 points in 50 games played. That’s sarcasm, as the Devils obviously didn’t score much and their special teams stunk.
This season, Zacha went through Covid protocols in early January and filled in at 2nd-line centre when Hughes went into protocol coming out of the NHL All-Star break.
He’s not afraid of physicality, with that size he’d better not be, and there’s no reason to believe his game won’t continue to develop at both ends of the ice.
There’s been a bit of hand wringing in New Jersey over him living up to his potential, particularly with an offensive drop-off again this season. This may just be the case of a young player needing to solidify his role, potentially needing a change of scenery and an opportunity somewhere else. It doesn’t help the Devils are almost dead last in their division this season, victimized by goaltending injuries and a merry-go-round in the crease.
Cue Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin. Working for the Pittsburgh Penguins, they would have seen plenty of Zacha in the Metropolitan Division since the very beginning of his career. They’d have a pretty good idea of where he’d fit in.
For those hellbent on trading JT Miller for some reason, maybe they could picture Zacha as some sort-of replacement. Versatile, left-shot, wins 50% of his draws, four years younger, but without the manic competitiveness. Let’s face it, not a replacement, but who knows what the future holds for him in the right environment. Sturdiness may be an issue as Zacha has suffered from lower back and hip issues in the past.
I’d be nervous about this players durability and desire. Thus, the anti-Miller.
In general, one can never have enough depth up the middle, especially depth that’s capable of scoring. The Vancouver Canucks could definitely use it.
Zacha’s contract expires at the end of the season and he’ll become a restricted free agent. He present salary includes bonuses and a $2.250-million cap hit.
Chat away. Enjoy the hockey action in the meantime.