Devils sign Zajac to eight-year deal worth $46 million ($5.75 million average)— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 16, 2013
Zajac deal includes full NTC. Interesting that lowest year of deal is next season at $3.5 million, perhaps guessing there might be escrow?— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 16, 2013
Deal goes to $5 M in 2014-15, then four years at $6.5 M per; then ends with two years at $5.75 M per.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 16, 2013
Also included in those figures is $1M signing bonus for next season and $1M signing bonus for 2014-15— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 16, 2013
The 27-year-old is a versatile center that plays as well in the defensive zone as he does in the offensive zone, and has become a great complement when healthy to star winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
Zajac was limited to 15 regular-season games last year due to an injury, but the star played a huge role in the success New Jersey had in the 2011-12 postseason.
What It Means
New Jersey has big expectations for the 2013 season, especially after winning the Eastern Conference Championship and falling just short of winning the Stanley Cup.
These players have seen what the Promised Land looks like and the spoils it offers, and now they want to experience it for themselves; that starts with the leadership and talent Zajac possesses.
Add in the departure of former Devils captain Zach Parise—the veteran signed a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Wild this offseason—and New Jersey will be leaning heavily on their newly re-signed center.
While this is a smart move by a New Jersey franchise that loves the kind of hard-working player that Zajac is, this contract is very long and will be completed when Zajac is 35 years old.
One of the biggest reasons the NHL was just in a lockout is because of the front-loaded, long-term deals that plagued the NHL, and while they claimed to have solved those issues, this contract appears to circumvent the reported demands of the owners.
Nothing says a fresh start to a new collective bargaining agreement like a franchise testing just how much they can get away with before the puck even drops. The NHL is officially back.