Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Matvichuk's On the Outs, Is Anyone Else?

Tom Gulitti has reported at Fire & Ice that Richard Matvichuk is no longer in the team's plans and he will be moved. The 34 year old defensive defenseman was on injured reserve until the last game of the season and the playoffs. While he certainly looked good in those games - which is saying something since the Devils defense resembled a paper tiger in last season's playoffs - Brent Sutter isn't interested in his services. That explains why he has been a healthy scratch for the first three games this season. I can't say that Matvichuk gave the Devils a lot in his short tenure in New Jersey; but he did improve greatly after a horrible first-half of the first year he was a Devil and he did show up to play in the playoffs last season. I wish him the best of luck in his new home.

Which leads to the perfectly logical question of what will the Devils do with Matvichuk. From Gulitti's post, we know Matvichuk won't be placed on waivers. Well, not for now, at least. Also, as Gulitti notes, it's unlikely that the Devils will deal Matvichuk to create more cap space to sign the surprisingly available Danny Markov. While you can't really guess what Lou Lamoriello plans to do, if Gulitti is ruling it out this early; I wouldn't expect Matvichuk to be traded for a low draft pick and have the Devils immediately sign Markov. That's what I would shoot for; even though I'm not confident as to whether Markov is in shape enough to immediately step in and play or if he will be a better fit in the system than Matvichuk.

So what should we expect? Again, since you can't really guess what Lou plans to do, it's entirely possible that Lou has an idea of who he wants on the team. As noted Matvichuk is out because he doesn't fit Sutter's new style of play. While Matvichuk's age and salary ($1.368 million) isn't desirable, there's always a need for veteran defenders who are tough and can play tough hockey. Or, failing that, he'll end up in Toronto. In any case, there's no reason the player coming back needs to be a "name" player. Just somebody who would fit the system and not cost the Devils a lot. The problem is, given that this information is out, I would imagine any potential trading partners would know that the Devils are trading from a point of weakness: trading away a player, to be precise. As an aside, it makes me wonder why this information was allowed to come out to begin with, now that I think about it. Normally, the Devils are very good at keeping secrets secret - unless I'm missing the obvious and it wasn't supposed to be a secret at all.

If the Devils have anyone of significant value in mind - and they usually do - someone else will be joining Matvichuk in a deal. Not anyone major, unless the Devils are looking to pull of a big deal. Given that the Devils have traded draft picks in the past; I don't think it'll be any major picks from this coming year. Probably a prospect in the minor leagues or a fringe prospect in juniors/college. I don't think we need to worry about whether Nicklas Bergfors or David Clarkson will have a new team to join, or anything like that. If it were up to me (and it's not, but humor me anyway), I'd try to package Matvichuk and Barry Tallackson for a low-end #4/5 defensive d-man that has some mobility and speed. I think Matvichuk's lack of speed really would make him a bad fit for an aggressive system such as Sutter's. If anyone has any suggestions as to who would fit in this category or for whom the Devils should trade for, please by all means leave a comment. Just be reasonable in your suggestions, Matvichuk isn't going to convince, say, Calgary to trade, say, Dion Phaneuf.

But guessing is ultimately foolhardy because you can never really guess what Lou is planning to do. It's why I can only guess as to what may happen - and even that is vague and not really based on anything concrete. That said, given that Tom Gulitti knows Matvichuk will be traded before any deal is in place, I wouldn't expect a big return unless the other teams get more than just Matvichuk.

ALSO: 2 Man Advantage's Patricia Greuter discusses the defense in a commentary. That they need time to adjust to the new system and the new defensive pairings in order to be more effective. I agree, new systems need time to adjust to them - something I noted when talking about the schedule and the initial expectations for the team. It also doesn't help that Colin White is out with an eye injury, the Devils they have been playing tough opponents on the road and will be until the end of this month.

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