With Bryce Salvador On His Way Back, Who Do You Take Out Of New Jersey Devils' Defense?

By Nick Villano
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils have been without their captain Bryce Salvador since October 22 due to a fractured foot.  It was quite bizarre how it all went down because he was originally out due to a death in his family.  After the first prognosis of 2-4 weeks, Salvador has missed closer to eight.

He is now skating once again.  This would be a good thing on most teams with a main cog in your defense returning to the lineup.  On the Devils, however, it now causes a logjam.  The logjam on the defensive side was something that really hurt them last season.  Constantly sitting people like Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder who are veterans and are used to playing on a daily basis is detrimental when they don’t play everyday and lose their rhythm to end up playing poorly.  This kind of situation may be on the horizon once again.  So what can be done?

Currently on the roster are Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Jon Merrill, Volchenkov, Eric Gelinas, Peter Harrold, Mark Fayne, and eventually Salvador.  Adam Larsson is on IR with a lower-body injury.

You are not doing anything with Greene and Zidlicky.  Greene is this team’s best defenseman by far.  Zidlicky has been one of the best offensive defenseman in the league with 15 points, good for fourth on the team.  He has a few bonehead plays, but you take the good with the bad when it comes to him.

Volchenkov is having a bounce back season and has really looked good after a terrible start to the season.  He has become much more involved with the offense, which is completely unexpected.  His plus/minus on the year is plus-three, which is a huge turnaround from last season where he was a minus on the year.  He is not a candidate to be taken out.

Peter Harrold is a guy who always seems to be the extra guy on this team.  Although he has been better this season, lately he is back to being the healthy scratch.  He isn’t going to go down to Albany, however.  He is the best player on the Devils to play that role of being able to go at the drop of a dime after not playing.  He may not be in the lineup, but he will be with the pro team.

Gelinas is a player that nobody wants to talk about when it comes to sending someone down to the minors.  He has been one of the better players for the Devils, especially on the power play.  He has 13 points in 25 games so far this season.  His play has helped this team win games.  In my opinion, there is no way that Peter DeBoer even thinks about sending him back down to the minors.

That leaves three options that seem possible.  You could send down Merrill and have him work on his skills in the minors, you could try to make a trade involving Fayne or you could not dress Salvador until you need him.  The last option may be the most enticing, but it isn’t something that will happen as we have seen in the past that they refuse to bench the captain.  Fayne is a guy who ends up in trade talks often because he is young enough to get something decent for him but old enough that a break out into becoming a great player is unlikely.  The most likely scenario is Merrill going back down to get more playing time.  He has played well while he is up, but he is the easiest move to make thanks to his two-way contract.

Salvador is going to be back within the week if all goes according to plan.  He is hopefully going to be better coming back on this team.  If not, there are plenty of young players who would love to take his spot.

Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports.  He also adds to their NFL and MLB content.  You can follow him on Twitter for more sports talk.

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