The chance to be reunited with the organization that drafted him was simply too much for Brian Rolston
to pass up.
After spending nine years away from the Garden State, Rolston returned to the New Jersey Devils
on Tuesday by signing a four-year contract. The agreement came less than 48 hours after the Tampa Bay Lightning
acquired Rolston's rights from the Minnesota Wild
for a conditional draft choice.
Once Rolston hit unrestricted free agency, though, he weighed his options and ultimately decided to return to the Devils, the team he played for from 1994-99. He admitted that the Lightning deal didn't alter the decision-making process.
"It didn't really affect things too much," said Rolston, who scored 30 or more goals in each of the past three seasons with the Wild. "Obviously with Minnesota things couldn't get done, so they wanted to get a (draft) pick out of things and Tampa wanted to take a chance. Obviously, Tampa is a great hockey team and a great organization. I felt that there would be other teams out there, including the Devils, which obviously were high on my list. I'm just excited that I got here and everything worked out the way we wanted.
"I'm very, very excited. It's been a long day today. To be going back to New Jersey … I started my career there, and now I'm 35 years old going back. I couldn't be happier, and my family couldn't be happier about coming back."
Rolston's return came hours after the Devils retained forward Jay Pandolfo
and defenseman Bryce Salvador
by signing both to new deals. They also re-signed restricted free-agent forwards David Clarkson
and Barry Tallackson
Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello — who sent Rolston to the Colorado Avalanche
early in the 1999-2000 season in a deal that brought Claude Lemieux
back to New Jersey — was delighted to bring Rolston back into the fold on Tuesday. Lamoriello is excited about the versatility Rolston will provide his club.
"Brian gives us a dimension that we don't have," Lamoriello said. "He's a forward that can go on the point on the power play and quarterback. He's used in all situations, whether it be in a shut-down mode, offensive mode … he is one of the top forwards, as far as I'm concerned, playing the game today."
Because of that, Devils coach Brent Sutter
will have to determine where Rolston will be better served — playing center or the wing alongside Patrik Elias
"What it does give us is tremendous options as to where people can go and what they can do," Lamoriello said. "I like all the parts that we have right now. I’m extremely pleased that we were able to do this."
Lamoriello isn’t concerned about the length of the deal, even though Rolston will be 39 when it expires in 2012.
"There's no question when you look at age, I've had people who were 35 going on 40, and I’ve had people who were 28 going on 40. In Brian's case, he's not a player at 35 years old," Lamoriello said. "We look at him like a 30-year-old player. The way he keeps himself in shape and the values he has, we don't look at him as a 35-year-old player. Age is a number."
Over the next four seasons, though, Rolston is confident the Devils can compete for another Stanley Cup. After all, the man who guards their net gives them a chance to win each and every night.
"Anytime you have a goaltender like Marty Brodeur in your net, you have a chance of winning everything," Rolston said. "Obviously the guys that Lou has added, the guys that have been there — (Jamie) Langenbrunner, (Jay) Pandolfo, Elias, (Brian) Gionta, (Zach) Parise … I could keep going – with all these players, it sounds like a winning combination. I'm a small part of it, and I’m excited to be there."
|Rolston wasn't the only former Devil to return to the Garden State on Tuesday. New Jersey also signed veteran center Bobby Holik Bobby Holik to a one-year deal.
Rolston wasn't the only former Devil who returned to New Jersey on Tuesday. Veteran center Bobby Holik, who played in The Swamp from 1992-2002, signed a one-year deal with the Devils. Holik had 15 goals and 19 assists for the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007-08.
"I'm very excited," Holik said on Tuesday night. "I’m familiar with the organization and the way things are done and run there. At this point in my career, I wanted to be on a team where I can contribute and play some good, competitive hockey and have some success."
Holik is confident that the fans who are still upset with him for signing with the rival New York Rangers in the summer of 2002 will warm up to his return once things get going in October. When asked if he had any regrets about signing that five-year deal with the Blueshirts, Holik responded quickly and emphatically.
"Six years ago, I was in a different position in my career," said Holik, who was bought out after two seasons in New York. "It's not a decision I made compulsively. It was well thought out. At the time, it was the best decision for me. Some time has gone by. A lot has happened since. I'm in a different part of my career."
One that has him back where he experienced the most success. Holik helped the Devils win Stanley Cups in 1995 and 2000.
At the end of the day, Lamoriello was excited about bringing both players home.
"Bobby brings size and strength, and we all know how difficult he is to play against," Lamoriello said. "The most important thing is both of them are excited to be back here."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.