The Boston Bruins made a significant trade just before NHL free agency began on Wednesday, trading Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Pavel Zacha.
The Bruins acquired Haula last summer in free agency, signing him to a two year $2.3 million AAV contract. In his sole season with the Bruins, the 31-year-old notched 18 goals with 26 assists in 78 games centering Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak on the second line. With the potential return of former second line center David Krejci, it only made sense to find a new home for Haula and to shed his $3 million in salary cap space to help sign Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
So let’s meet the Bruins’ newest addition.
Who is Pavel Zacha?
Zacha is a 25-year-old, 6-foot-3, 210-pound center from the Czech Republic drafted sixth overall by the Devils in the 2015 NHL Draft. In the 2021-22 season, Zacha scored 15 goals and 21 assists for a career-high 36 points.
Does Trading for Pavel Zacha Make Sense?
The short answer: Yes.
Zacha is a big, versatile athlete who can play center (his natural position) and wing. That gives new Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery flexibility when configuring lines. Zacha’s size is also a factor here, aiding in his transition to Boston’s hard-nosed hockey structure.
With Brad Marchand set to miss the start of the season recovering from hip surgery, Zacha could very well be slotted on that top line left wing. With a fully healthy roster, the third line left wing slotted next to Charlie Coyle could be an ideal fit for Zacha.
Or, Zacha could simply replace Haula as the center for the Bruins’ second line. This would especially be a good idea if Krejci doesn’t return to Boston next season. In 2021-22, Zacha won 50.1% of his faceoffs.
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Pavel Zacha and the Boston Bruins’ Free Agency Plans
It’s no secret the Bruins need to make some legitimate moves this summer.
Two areas of need are center and left wing, so why not get two for the price of one in Zacha? This allows Montgomery to see which combinations are the best fit. In the event that both Bergeron and Krejci return, the center position will be sound and Zacha will focus his efforts on being a left winger on any and all top three lines.
Bringing Bergeron and Krejci back are major goals for Boston this offseason. Adding Zacha in place of Haula helps get that done, as the move saves Boston $3 million in cap space to use on the two Bruins veterans.
AP Photo/John Froschauer