Wednesday, January 16, 2013

N.J. Devils: Jeff Vanderbeek and Travis Zajac Moving Devils Forward

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY DEMONS

NEW JERSEY DEVILS - Carving A New Path Without Zach Parise.

Money changes everything.

New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek went from having the NHL threaten to separate him from the team, to recently buying out his partners, and solidifying his place as sole owner.  In the process, he refinanced the team's debt, and ultimately removed the Devils from under a constant cloud of organizational uncertainty.

With Jeff Vanderbeek's new found operational certainty, I guess comes operational flexibility as well.  And with a new CBA in place, I guess operational predictability plays a part too.  The result?  Wednesday, Lou Lamoriello announced the Devils signed their seventh year center, Travis Zajac, to an eight year contract extension worth $46 million dollars.  Last year, Zajac's season was derailed by an Achilles injury.  He only managed to play in fifteen regular season games before participating in the Devils inspired playoff run to the Cup Finals.  Zajac would have become a free agent at the conclusion of this season.

In the 2010's at least, it seems as if the Devils have turned over a new leaf.  This is twice now the Devils have bucked the trend and doled out major dollars for a player.  Money couldn't solve all the Devils problem though.  Sandwiched between signing Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk's pact, was the  departure of free agent Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild.  The Devils offer was representative.  But apparently, Zach Parise wanted to be home.  And speaking of home, Ilya Kovalchuk finally returned from Russia and reported to Devils camp.

So what do the reigning Eastern Conference champions do now?  They continue the relentless search for interchangeable players, like the Devils always have.  This is not the first time money came between a player and the Devils.  Instead, this is a way of life in New Jersey.  They will absorb the impact of Parise's defection, who was a Devils 2003 first round pick, and somehow find themselves right in the mix again this Spring.  It is now the turn of more recent first round selections like Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, and Adam Larsson, and an outstanding hockey player picked in the third round named Adam Henrique to carve a new path.  But without a suitable replacement for Zach Parise, the Devils certainly have their work cut out for them indeed.  However, if we've learned anything about the New Jersey Devils in the Lou Lamoriello era, it is to never count them out until they're out.


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