With the Devils currently quiet on the free agency market, I’ve decided to take a look at their current roster and assess some ongoing situations. One of the first positions I’ll discuss is goaltending, where Martin Brodeur is set to begin his 18th season between the pipes for the Devils.
Last year, Brodeur only made 30 starts due to a torn biceps injury. The injury-shortened season ended several streaks for the Devils goaltender. It ended Brodeur’s streak of ten consecutive seasons of 70+ starts. It also ended the streak of thirteen consecutive 30+ win seasons. Broduer, however, did enjoy success on the ice, breaking the all-time wins record and creeping closer to Terry Sawchuck’s shutout record of 103.
With all of his success, I think this year Brodeur needs to take a break. Sure, the numbers are absolutely great. Broduer has sported a GAA less than 3 and his save percentage is always in the .900. However, stats can only go so far. As we’ve seen, Brodeur’s play has slightly fallen off. We’ve seen him allow some soft goals, and at times it seems he’s less sharp than he used to be. The erstwhile goalie for the Devils isn’t getting any younger (he’s already 37), and it’s time the Devils begin to lighten the workload a bit.
Here’s where the backup goaltending situation comes into play. The Devils lost Scott Clemmensen to Florida (via free agency) and haven’t re-signed Kevin Weekes. Instead, the organization turned to Yann Danis, recently of the Islanders, and rookie Jeff Frazee. Clearly, these two aren’t the greatest options. But they can be serviceable for the Devils. I’m not implying that the Devils should only start Broduer for 40 games. But allowing him to start 70+ games is no longer going to work. They need to give their backups at least 20 games in net.
Look at what happened last year. While Brodeur was out with his injury, the Devils became a more aggressive team. They pressured on the forecheck and looked to become a more offensive team. With Brodeur back in the lineup, the team lost its aggressiveness. That leads to an increased workload, and for an older goalie that can and will add up. By giving the backup a good amount of games, the Devils can keep Brodeur fresh and potentially instill a continual aggressive system. With some more games off, Brodeur will be more fresh going into the postseason – and maybe that will help the Devils finally get out of the first round.
The New Jersey Devils and restricted free agent center Travis Zajac avoided arbitration and agreed on a four year, $15.55 million dollar deal.
During the 2008-2009 season, Zajac set a career highs with 20 goals, 42 assists and 62 points. He also led the team with a +33 rating.
Zajac’s contract will pay him an average of $3,887,500. His new deal will pay him $2.75 million in 2009-2010, $3.5 million in 2010-2011, $4.5 million in 2011-2012, $4.8 million in 2012-2013.
Zajac’s average salary ranks fourth on the team, behind Patrick Elias, Martin Brodeur and Brian Rolston.
Zajac played very well last year, anchoring the ZZ Pop line that was the Devils’ offensive force. With him wrapped up for four years, the Devils don’t have to worry about messing up the chemistry, especially whatever is forming between him and Zach Parise, the team’s most talented offensive player.
Not only will it help with chemistry, but the cap hit isn’t significant. Even in the last year of the deal, the Devils will only be on the hook for $4.8 million. That allows Lou to have some cap flexibility down the road, and it locks up a potentially talented all-star player for less than he’d receive on the open market.