The New Jersey Devils announced today they signed center Travis Zajac to a long term contract.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello made the announcement today during the team’s scrimmage with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany Devils. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but its been reported it is an eight year, $46 million contract. It’s an annual $5.75 million cap hit and includes a full no-trade clause.
The eight-year deal is the longest allowable under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Zajac was entering the final season of a four-year, $15.5 million contract he signed as a restricted free agent in 2009. He was scheduled to make $4.48 million (prorated for the lockout) this season.
The Devils center will make $3.5 million in the first year of the contract. That number jumps to $5 million in the second season. From years three to six, he will make $6.5 million. His salary drops to $5.75 million for the final two years of the contract.
Lamoriello said both sides were working on an extension before the lockout began and completed it this week.
Zajac missed most of the regular season last year recovering from a torn Achillies tendon, an injury that occurred during offseason workouts. He played just 15 regular season games, recording two goals and four assists. He fully recovered by time the postseason rolled around, and became a key contributor for the Devils, netting 14 points (7g, 7a) in 24 playoff games.
He was drafted 20th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2004. He has 91 goals and 164 assists in 423 regular season NHL games. Of the 19 players selected before him in the draft, only three (Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Andrew Ladd) have more career points.
Eighteen years after his father broke the hearts of New Jersey Devils fans everywhere, his son has a contract with the very same team.
New Jersey signed first round draft pick Stefan Matteau to an entry-level contract. As per club rules, terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Matteau, 18, was the 29th overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. He spent the last two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development program, collecting 32 points (15g, 17a) and 166 penalty minutes for the under-18 squad this past season. He also participated in USA Hockey’s Under-20 Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid earlier this month.
While he’s expected to play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL next season, Matteau said he’s looking to make the NHL roster this season. He participated in the Devils prospect camp this summer, and earned praise from general manager Lou Lamoriello.
“The Moose” is back.
The New Jersey Devils re-signed unrestricted goalie Johan Hedberg to a one-year contract. Lamoriello wanted to re-sign Hedberg, and began talks last week with his agent. They couldn’t reach a deal before the noon deadline, and Hedberg hit the open market. Several teams were interested, but Hedberg wanted to stay with New Jersey.
“There was interest, which is great,” Hedberg told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “It’s flattering, but with everything accounted for, I felt good about coming back here. That was my first choice and when everything worked out and it felt like we were able to find some good ground I felt good about coming back.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Hedberg apparently took less money to return to New Jersey.
“We were discussing numbers,” Hedberg told Gulitti. “It’s so hard. This is a tough day. There’s so much to take into consideration. Money isn’t everything for me. I just want to feel that I’m getting fairly treated. When I felt that was the case, I was happy to sign. Like I said, that was my No. 1 choice and when we could agree on something that made sense to me I really wanted to do it.”
Hedberg, who turned 38 on May 5, went 15-12-2 last season. He recorded a career-best 2.38 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts. He made $1.5 million (plus bonuses) last season.
Although he didn’t like being away from his family, Hedberg will once again leave his wife and daughter to return to New Jersey.
“That was one of the things too that I had to take into consideration if it could be what I could justify to myself to do,” Hedberg told Gulitti. “But I think it’s going to work out for the best. I still want to play. I still feel like I can contribute and I still feel I’ve got some good years ahead of me, so I don’t want to just not do anything. We’re going to do it liek thsi for now and we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, it will be good.”
Andy Greene wanted to remain a New Jersey Devil.
His agent, Dan Plante, received four calls today about the unrestricted free agent. Three of those, according to Plante, were “Stanley Cup contenders.” But Greene’s first choice was to stay with the organization.
Lou Lamoriello made that happen, inking the defenseman to a four-year contract shortly after noon today.
“I’m really excited,” Greene told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I was pretty confident it was going to get done, but, obviously, you never know until the last minute and until it’s agreed upon I’m pretty fired up and excited.”
Neither Greene or Plante would disclose the terms of the deal.
Greene played in all 82 games this season, collecting 23 points. He remains one of the only offensive threats along the Devils’ blue line.
Greene’s experience with the organization made him want to stay.
“I like it there,” he told Gulitti. “We have a great group of guys. We have a great team. There’s a lot of reasons. Those are kind of the bigger ones, but there’s alot more that goes into it. I’ve enjoyed my time there. Obviously, there’s been some ups and downs, but there’s been a lot more positives than negatives.”
Greene made $750,000 last season, the final of a two-year deal.
The New Jersey Devils entered today with 11 restricted free agents. Two of them may not return.
The organization sent qualifying offers to nine of their restricted free agents today. Matt Corrente, Matt Taormina, Vladimir Zharkov, Mark Fraser, Maxim Noreau, Jeff Frazee, Steve Zalewski and Nathan Perkovich all received offers.
Alexander Vasyunov, who entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, did not receive an offer. His agent informed the Devils that he signed a one-year contract for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL next season.
The players can still receive offer sheets from other teams, but the Devils can match that offer.
There were a few players who were locks for qualifying offers. Taormina led defenseman in goals until a high-ankle sprain ended his season. He was one of the few bright spots during the team’s abysmal first half, and will probably get a chance to earn his spot back next season. Corrente, a former-first round pick, has the support of the organization behind him. Like Taormina, injury limited him this season.
Other players seem to be skating on thin ice. Fraser followed a strong rookie campaign with a disappointing sophomore season. The Devils qualified him, but with the defensive depth moving through the organization, he needs to put together a solid season. The same goes for Frazee. The Devils have three strong goalie prospects in Scott Wedgewood, Maxime Clermont and Keith Kinkaid. They’re still a year or two away, but Frazee doesn’t have much time to prove himself.
The organization also did not issue a qualifying offer to defenseman Anssi Salmela. He played 48 games with the Devils, but failed to really make an impression. It doesn’t necessarily mean the team won’t sign him. Two years ago, New Jersey didn’t qualify Andy Greene, but re-signed him anyway.
Zach Parise entered this offseason a restricted free agent, but did not receive an offer. Instead, New Jersey elected to take the left-winger to arbitration. That eliminates the possibility of other team’s submitting an offer sheet and guarantees he will be a Devil next season.
As the Stanley Cup finals begin and the off-season looms, the New Jersey Devils face several question marks. The team still has yet to formally interview candidates for their open head coach position. They need to determine whether they’ll hold their position in the draft (fourth overall) or trade out of the spot. They’ll also need to evaluate the 21 restricted or unrestricted free agents on their roster to determine whether or not they should stay with the organization.
The biggest question, however, surrounds just one player. Zach Parise enters the off-season a restricted free agent, seeking a raise from his $3.125 million salary. Despite battling a knee injury, he’ll still be the most sought-after restricted free agent forward on the market.
According to a report from Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record, the Devils have not contacted anyone in Parise’s camp about a new contract. It seems the team will file for salary arbitration, extending the period of exclusive negotiations for the player and team. While the move may damage the relationship, it remains the best option for the Devils. Player arbitration can help keep down Parise’s salary for this season, allowing New Jersey to adequately pay him when cap space becomes available in the 2012-13 offseason.
The term salary arbitration sounds dirty. It pits player against team in a dogfight over a new contract. The deadline to file a request is July 5, and cases are heard in late July and early August. The team and player can negotiate up until the hearing, and many cases end before a hearing takes place.
If it gets to a hearing, the team must pay the player at least 85 percent of last year’s salary. A ruling is made no later than 48 hours after the hearing. The team can walk away from the decision, but we all know the Devils wouldn’t do that. If they use the arbitration route, they’ll accept whatever decision the arbitrator announces.
It’s not a pretty process, but in this case, I believe it’s the best route. Parise missed all but one of the team’s 69 remaining games after surgery to repair his torn meniscus. Of course, his production before last season should earn him a raise. Hell, he’s one of the most important faces of the franchise. But salary cap issues continue to plague the Devils. General manager Lou Lamoriello will have just $7 million to sign players. It sounds like a ton of money, but Parise can – and should – command anywhere between four and six million dollars.
Taking the left-winger to arbitration guarantees two things: the Devils won’t lose him to an offer sheet they can’t afford, and he’ll be under team control next season. Any contract only be for a year, but the team can negotiate a larger extension with more cap space. It’ll keep him affordable for yet another season while giving him the chance to rebound and show the knee injury won’t hinder him throughout his career.
Arbitration cases don’t have to be nasty affairs either. There will be arguments, and ultimately things will be said that neither side wants to hear. But it’s a negotiation, and one that doesn’t need to get out of hand or nasty. I don’t think Lamoriello would walk into any case looking to personally attack Parise. The move is solely based on financial needs, and right now, the Devils’ cannot afford to upgrade their roster by significantly raising Parise’s salary. Arbitration seems like the necessary evil to keep him a Devil and keep the team competitive.
Adam Mair, invited to New Jersey on a tryout contract during training camp, was waiting for his opportunity to suit up for the Devils during the regular season.
He’ll finally get his opportunity tomorrow night.
The Devils signed Mair to a one-way, one-year contract for $515,000 today after left-winger Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond cleared waivers.
“It’s exciting to be part of this team, this organization now and I’m looking forward to being able to contribute and help and I’m very happy,” Mair said to Tom Gulitti after today’s practice at Prudential Center. “My family and I are very happy.”
After not receiving a contract after training camp because of the cap situation, Mair stuck around the team’s facilities, paying his own way to continue practicing with the organization. The center, who can play all three positions, should benefit coach John MacLean as the Devils deal with injuries and cap restraints.
“He’s versatile and with what we have right now we need a guy like him,” MacLean said to Gulitti. “He’s good because of his versatility. He can play center. He can play right wing. He can play left wing. He can kill penalties. We need that right now.”
Mair will make his season debut tomorrow night, giving the Devils 16 skaters for their game against the Buffalo Sabres. Coincidentally, Mair played seven seasons for the Sabres before signing with the Devils. The new Devil believes it’ll be a good game.
“We’re in the same conference,” Mair said to Gulitti. “We’re going to play them four times. But it will be nice to go back there and see those guys. They’re a litle desperate (the Sabrtes are 1-2). We’re desperate for a win. It should be a good game.”
Mair scored two goals in five preseason games. But it wasn’t only his offensive presence that earned him praise in the locker room. Mair continually talked about winning this preseason, even though the games didn’t matter. He stepped up for teammates on the ice, even though his spot on the team was never guaranteed. It’s that type of veteran leadership the Devils, who stumbled out of the gate, need in their dressing room.
For today’s updates on some of the injured players, follow the jump!