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Devils' top pick Larsson signs three-year deal

by Mike G. Morreale /
NEWARK, N.J. -- The waiting game is over for Adam Larsson, the top defenseman taken and the No. 4 pick at the 2011 Entry Draft.
New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello made that possible on Thursday night, when he put the finishing touches on signing the 6-foot-2 1/2, 197-pound Swede to a three-year, entry-level contract. According to The Bergen Record, Larsson received a maximum entry-level salary of $925,000.
For Larsson, a participant at Devils rookie camp this week at AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center, the deal is just one more step to realizing his dream.
Lamoriello informed the media via a conference call Friday that no individual performance bonuses were included in the deal and that Larsson made the decision to sign his contract knowing that would be the case. He did receive an unspecified signing bonus.
"That's a decision the player made to be part of the Devils and not to be any different than anyone else in that locker room," Lamoriello said. "That is impressive."

Larsson said he was fine with the contract exactly as it was written.

"Actually, I didn't want to have bonuses because no else has them," he said. "I don't want to have pressure on myself with bonuses and stuff, so I think this was the best way."

Larsson said there was no pressure placed on him to sign the deal.

"It was all my decision and my family's decision," he said. "That's all this is now."

Lamoriello said he has never given a player on the Devils roster, including former draft picks, incentive bonuses for specific milestones in goals or ice time, and he applauded Larsson for thinking along the same lines in order to get a deal established.
"In my mind, it's not a team-first philosophy when players have bonuses," Lamoriello said. "I am not one who is a believer in the rookie bonuses that are in the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, yet everyone in the League that is drafted in the top areas seem to get them and nobody here has gotten them. It is not advantageous for us to do and nobody worries about individual things … only the team."
Larsson becomes the fifth player drafted 21 days ago in the first round to sign an entry-level contract. The No. 1 pick, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins (Edmonton), along with No. 6 Mika Zibanejad (Ottawa), No. 10 Jonas Brodin (Minnesota) and No. 13 Sven Baertschi (Calgary) have also inked deals.
The deal comes one night before NHL clubs were given a deadline to sign players under contract in Europe. The Devils had to sign Larsson by 5 p.m. on Friday in order to make him eligible to play in 2011-12. If Larsson wasn't signed, he wouldn't be eligible to play with the Devils unless the organization paid $100,000 to his Swedish Elite Team, Skelleftea, in order to extend the signing deadline to Aug. 15.
Larsson's U.S.-based agent, J.P. Barry, and Swedish associate, Claes Elefalk, had been working closely with Lamoriello for weeks in an effort to get a deal done before the July 15 deadline. Larsson still has one year remaining on his contract in Sweden.
"This young man is as mature as he can get at his young age," Lamoriello said. "He understands what that means. He doesn't want to be different than any other player in that room and he made a decision to forgo those bonuses to get his career under way, become a Devil and get ready for training camp. He deserves all the credit in this, along with his conversations with not only the Swedish representation, but the representation here."
The only thing Devils fans are interested in knowing now is whether or not the 18-year-old Larsson is talented and mature enough to play a role along the team's blue line in 2011-12. Lamoriello admitted it is the organization's intention, and Larsson's, to play in North America next season -- whether it is in the NHL or American Hockey League.
"In all fairness, because of where he was drafted and because of his track record, those are very reasonable questions and very reasonable expectations," Devils Director of Scouting Dave Conte told "There are indications that he is closer than the average 18- or 19-year-old.
"But by the same token, the demands of playing in the NHL require so much in terms of confidence and experience, physical ability and natural talent, all of which he clearly has. Are those traits ready to manifest themselves today … that's an unanswerable question for him and for us. But that's why we have training camps; that's why we have competition."

Larsson said he's going to take the lessons learned at this week's camp and come back for training camp in September prepared to fight for an NHL spot.

"This camp was good for me just to learn a little bit more and know the guys," he said. "I think that will help me in training camp. I'll go home and practice to be well prepared for training camp."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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