By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26
On July 13th, ahead of the NHL’s free agent frenzy, the Boston Bruins went and acquired forward Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Erik Haula. The Devils drafted Zacha in the first round (#6 overall) in the 2015 draft, but he hasn’t necessarily lived up to expectations. Regardless, the 25-year-old power forward earned a career-high in points last season with 36 tallies (15 goals and 21 assists) in 70 games. The Bruins traded for Zach because General Manager Don Sweeney and the rest of management believe that Zacha has yet to hit his ceiling. While Haula was a good soldier for Boston last season and performed his duties well, Haula is six years older and has much less potential than Zacha.
It’s worth noting that during Zacha’s seven-year tenure with the Devils, the team only made the playoffs one season, and they’ve been a bottom feeder in the NHL in recent years. The lack of success in New Jersey didn’t help Zacha’s case regarding his numbers. Still, the Czech Republic native has the chance to regain his reputation as a scorer on a much more competitive team with the Bruins organization. Zacha was drafted as a center, but eventually, the Devils transitioned him to the wing. Zacha’s ability to play both center and wing provides versatility to where the Bruins’ new head coach, Jim Montgomery, can plug and play Zacha.
The Bruins have yet to sign captain Patrice Bergeron and fellow countryman of Zacha, David Krejci. Assuming that the Bruins eventually sign Bergeron and Krejci ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season, Zacha will likely be slotted on the Bruins’ third line to play with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith. That combination would create a strong puck possession and checking line considering the size of Zacha and Coyle, along with Smith’s relentless forechecking style.
Not only would Zacha offer size to the Bruins’ bottom six, but he also has a lethal and accurate shot. One complaint Zacha received in New Jersey was his tendency to pass up opportunities rather than using his shot. With proper coaching from Montgomery and the rest of the Bruins’ coaching staff, Zacha may become the third lines, go-to goal scorer if he uses his large frame to get inside position on opposing defenders and use his quick release.
If the Bruins cannot sign Bergeron or Krejci, Boston would use Zacha as a top-six center. This would mean that his potential wingers would be Jake DeBrusk, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, or Taylor Hall. Regardless of who Zacha plays on a line with, in this scenario, he would probably see an increase in point production considering the talent surrounding him.
One aspect of Zacha’s offensive game that has started to draw some interest is his one-timer. As a lefty, Zacha often positions himself on his offside at the right circle, where he opens up his body for one-timers. This could prompt Jim Montgomery to slot Zacha on the right side of the Bruins’ first power play unit, especially with superstar Brad Marchand expected to be out for at least the first month of the NHL season. Once Marchand returns, Zacha could provide a solid net-front presence on the powerplay, given his size and quick hands in tight quarters. If Zacha impresses the coaching staff on the power play, who’s to say they don’t keep him there for the remainder of the season?
Last week, Zacha was one of 24 other NHL players that filed for salary arbitration. Zacha’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for August 11th, where the Bruins and Zacha’s agent will plead their cases, and the arbitrator will ultimately determine a binding agreement for Zacha’s contract. Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald indicated last week on Twitter that contract negotiations between both parties have been moving in the right direction, but we’ll have to wait and see whether a deal comes to fruition soon. Check out Mark Allred’s report for more information on Zacha’s contract and arbitration status.