If there is one name that has been consistent with the Devils for the past five years, it’s Travis Zajac. He is locked up for the next four seasons, averaging $6.125 million dollars a year. However, Zajac is only as good as the players around him. Seeing as the Devils will be rebuilding, it’s time to send Travis Zajac packing.
Travis Zajac has seen some good times in New Jersey. He was part of the lovable ZZ Pops line, along with Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner, and has six games of Stanley Cup Final experience. However, once players that made those team good began to leave, so did Zajac’s productivity. Zajac clearly isn’t the elite player that the Devils hoped he would be and are paying him first line money to a third line center.
What made Zajac good was that he was always on a line with guys that could put up 20-30-plus goals per season. Zajac, himself, has even reached that level twice. Both times he accomplished the feat he was lined with the aforementioned ZZ Pops line. As names such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson left New Jersey, Zajac’s game slowed. Zajac has never hit the 50-point mark since 09-10. Each of their full seasons with the Devils, each of the players mentioned above had 30 or more goals.
Zajac is good for around 15 goals per season. The money he is making demands more.
There is that contract again. When Zajac was given the deal, the Devils still had one of the above mention players. What happened the following offseason was a shock. Zajac became the guy who would be needed to put up points. Now that names such as Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri have taken over that role, Zajac just had to find his role within the team.
But with the emergence of Pavel Zacha and the prospect of a certain someone joining the team, the Devils are heavy at the center position. Some players will have to go. Average players with top player salaries should beware.
This argument isn’t to say Zajac has been silent in productivity. He is a former Iron Man who plays 70-plus games per year and nets around 45 points per season. He can play in all situations and is loved by the fans. Perhaps that is why he was given the contract when the team was being run by a fan.
Since the organization is rebuilding, it would make sense to ship out a player who has been there for all of it. Zajac was a part of the first Devils team to miss the playoffs in 14 years and has been taking up cap space that could be used to bring in new players.
Zajac is 32 and isn’t getting any younger. With age, comes decreased trade value. Especially since he as reached his 30s. So the question remains who will take Zajac off the Devils hands? There are a few few that have the cap space, and a few that could fit.
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First is the Carolina Hurricanes. Like the Devils, Carolina has been rebuilding for a years now. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 and the organization traded away their franchise center two years ago. With Jordan Staal leading the Canes down the middle, he, Viktor Rask and Elias Lindholm could use some help rounding out the center position. The Hurricanes almost made the playoffs last season and he could be the missing piece Carolina needs to make it back to the playoffs.
Another option is Zajac’s native Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets penalty kill is in the bottom five in the NHL. Zajac’s skill on the PK could helpThe Jets are another team that has been miserable and as a franchise is seeking their first WIN in the playoffs, more or less a series win. Going back to when they were called the Atlanta Thrashers they only made the playoffs once and were swept by the Rangers, while the Jets lone appearance saw the Ducks sweep them. Bryan Little and Mark Scheifele could use some help down the middle and Zajac could round out the third line.
In a time of rebuild, moving Travis Zajac would be sending the last of an older era on its way. It would free up room cap wise for the Devils, and give some of their younger centers a chance to shine. There are teams that could use his services.
Not only that, but there is the prospect of what the Devils might get in return in a trade for Travis Zajac.