This is certainly something that New Jersey Devils fans are used to. Players on the team have been “going home” for the past two seasons. It started with Zach Parise signing with his hometown Minnesota Wild, then David Clarkson did the same thing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both were given huge contracts with their respective teams, so one could argue money was also a motivating factor in those decisions. The departure that arguably hurt the most was that of Ilya Kovalchuk. He retired from the NHL last offseason and left to play in Russia.
The Devils may be looking at another situation similar to that. Defenseman Adam Larsson is the Devils’ highest draft pick in a generation. They took him with the fourth overall pick three years ago. His development took a skid last season when fellow prospects Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas skated past him in terms of playing time. Larsson spent a good amount of time in the minor leagues, which was the first time he has when NHL hockey was being played. While he did not enjoy it, he still said he wanted to continue to be a Devil.
Larsson is currently a restricted free agent. He expressed to a Swedish newspaper that he would like to get a one-way contract in his next deal. According to NHL rules, Larsson would have to clear waivers even if the Devils wanted to send him down to the minors. He clearly just wants to play in the NHL, rather than the AHL.
The Devils made the confusing move of bringing back veteran blue liner Marek Zidlicky. They still have Mark Fayne, who is an unrestricted free agent. He is currently recovering from groin surgery. A decision on him, by any team, will have to wait until he is 100 percent. With the Devils bringing guys back, the blue line is once again getting crowded. Will there be room for Larsson?
The news of Larsson thinking about playing in Sweden is probably just a bargaining chip. The Swedish league is nowhere close to the NHL, talent-wise or money-wise. Larsson needs to be in Lou Lamoriello‘s plans for the future. You don’t give up on a 21-year-old who already has 128 career games. He has some playoff experience, and he was good in the five games he participated in. The team cannot let him go back to Sweden, no matter what.