New Jersey Devils right wing Martin Havlat is looking forward to having an opportunity to skate with good friend Patrik Elias in the NHL.
Havlat considers it a long time coming, too, considering they have shared experiences on Czech Republic national teams for many years.
Havlat and Elias played on the same line in Znojmo in the Czech Republic during the 2004-05 work stoppage, and represented their country at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 2011 IIHF World Championship, where they won a bronze medal.
Now they'll get an opportunity to further that success as teammates for at least one season in New Jersey. Havlat signed a contract with the Devils on Tuesday reported to be one year for $1.5 million. He had the final season of his contract bought out by the San Jose Sharks on June 27.
"We talked about the possibility of playing together before but it never worked out the way we wanted, but it's happened now," Havlat said Wednesday. "I think it's great. I'm going to the same team and to a team where I know quite a few guys, so that should make it an easier start for me."
Havlat had 12 goals and 22 points in 48 games for the Sharks last season but got into one game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He never became the big scoring threat the Sharks were hoping for when they acquired him from the Minnesota Wild; in three seasons with the Sharks he had 27 goals and 47 points in 127 games.
Right Wing - NJD
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 22
SOG: 72 | +/-: 14
He's hoping for a turnaround with the Devils, a team certainly in need of some offensive assistance.
"It's going to be up to the coach but I think there will be some chemistry," Havlat said. "There are a lot of options on the Devils and some great players. It's great to see Mike Cammalleri coming over and I already know Patty, Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky. I don't know where I'll be playing but hopefully it'll work with someone."
Havlat had been bothered by pelvic issues that required sports hernia surgery two years ago, but the 33-year-old said he is feeling great at this stage of his career.
"There were a few other teams with interest but I decided to go this way," Havlat said.
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told The Star-Ledger the fact fellow Czechs Elias, Jagr and Zidlicky were on the team played a significant factor in signing Havlat. Havlat also played two seasons with Ryane Clowe in San Jose before Clowe signed a five-year contract with New Jersey in July 2013.
"Patrik knows [Havlat] and played with him; that will be a positive," Lamoriello said.
Havlat has 236 goals and 579 points in 748 NHL games spanning 13 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Wild and Sharks. In 75 playoff games, he has 21 goals and 52 points.
Havlat said he'll be in New Jersey in a few weeks to find a place to live before beginning his summer workouts in Montreal prior to training camp. That's when the excitement of playing alongside Elias will kick in.
"He's one of few players I've always felt chemistry with on the ice during my whole career and hopefully it works out again," Havlat said. "There are a lot of things that went wrong [in San Jose] but I need to stay healthy and everything else will be great. Whatever my role was on past teams is behind me and I'm looking forward to my new role here."