Devils sign Zajac to eight-year extension

Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 6:15 PM
Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Lou Lamoriello called Travis Zajac a true Devil. He's now being paid handsomely to be one.

Lamoriello announced Wednesday that the New Jersey Devils re-signed Zajac to a long-term contract extension. According to multiple sources, the value of the deal is $46 million over eight years ($5.75 million per season).

"I knew in my gut that I wanted to be here," Zajac said, "and when it came down to it, it was an easy decision."

Because Zajac, who would have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, re-signed with his current team, eight years is the maximum term he is allowed to receive under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

After this season, a free agent joining a new club can sign for a maximum of seven years.

"To get an extra year, I thought that was important," Zajac said. "I wanted to continue my career here as long as possible."

The contract will start at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. This season will be the final one on the four-year deal Zajac signed prior to the start of the 2009-10 season.

"It's great news," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's such a prototypical New Jersey Devil. He's a big strong guy. He plays the right way. He plays both ends of the rink. Centermen like that are very hard to find. It's nice that he got rewarded, and he deserves it."

Lamoriello said negotiations with Zajac began prior to the lockout. It had to be put on hold until the new CBA was reached.

"We just ran out of time," Zajac said. "It was more sharing interest and both sides wanted to get the ball rolling to get something done."

Zajac, 27, played 15 games last season due to a torn Achilles tendon sustained Aug. 17, 2011. He attempted to come back in December, but after playing eight games, he was shut down for more than two months.

When Zajac finally returned to the lineup in late March, it sparked a season-ending six-game win streak, and that success carried right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had seven goals and seven assists in 24 games, including the season-saving overtime goal in Game 6 of the first round against the Florida Panthers that allowed the Devils to force Game 7.

"It's the type of player he is," Lamoriello said. "I mean, he has developed himself into an all-situation, complete player, and he's one of our core leaders and has been from Day One. His play in the playoffs was certainly monumental for us. Him coming back was very evident to what he means."

By signing now, Zajac avoids having to go through a season of uncertainty, the way Zach Parise did last year in New Jersey. Questions about Parise's future became popular as the Devils were going through their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

They weren't answered until July 4, when Parise signed his 13-year contract with the Minnesota Wild.

"As much as the Zach thing last year wasn't a distraction, and the way Zach handled it made it easy that it wasn't a distraction, those things have a way of hanging around," DeBoer said. "As much as you don't talk about them, they're still there. It's nice that everyone in our room knows [Zajac is] going to be there for a long time. He's obviously a key piece for us."

The Devils selected Zajac, a Winnipeg native, in the first-round (No. 20) of the 2004 NHL Draft. He is entering his seventh NHL season. In 423 games, he has 91 goals and 164 assists.

"To be able to lock him in for that many years I think that secures our top centerman spot for a long time," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I think it's great for the organization."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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