And the first marquee contract of the new CBA goes to the New Jersey Devils!
Some interesting observations accompany the eight-year, $46 million contract extension signed by center Travis Zajac on Wednesday.
But first, let’s break down the deal:
2013-14 $3.5 million (includes $1 million in signing bonus)
2014-15 $5 million (includes $1 million in signing bonus)
2015-16 $6.5 million
2016-17 $6.5 million
2017-18 $6.5 million
2018-19 $6.5 million
2019-20 $5.75 million
2020-21 $5.75 million
The contract also includes a full no-trade clause throughout and, of course, is not front-loaded like the back-diving deals of the past CBA; the salary variance rule in the new CBA having its impact right off the hop.
Also, notice how the lowest salary amount comes next season in 2013-14 at $3.5 million? My guess is, Zajac’s camp, led by agent Kurt Overhardt, figured to protect against possible escrow payments. Certainly with the salary-cap allowance going down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million next season, escrow is a real possibility depending on how hockey-related revenue grows.
So a smart move by Overhardt and overall a heck of a contract done by the veteran agent.
Not sure most people would have pegged Zajac at $5.75 million a year. But I think it speaks to the respect Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has for his No. 1 center, and a strong belief that Zajac’s best hockey is front of him. I agree on that.
Even more importantly, this is a franchise that just lost its captain and superstar in winger Zach Parise. The Devils played out the string with him last season until he walked at the 11th hour into unrestricted free agency and signed with Minnesota.
That memory was obviously fresh in Lamoriello’s mind when tackling Zajac’s situation.
From a CBA perspective, it will be interesting to see if this deal sets a trend.
For starters, does this mean the eight-year contract term maximum in the new CBA (seven years if he’s a player changing teams) will act as a magnet?
Tough to say after only one deal. I think it’s still going to depend on each player’s respective position. In fact, my understanding is that center Jamie Benn in Dallas is actually looking for a short-term deal with the Stars.
So time will tell if this truly represents a trend, core players signing to the max eight years to stay on board.
Speaking of Benn, I wouldn’t get too carried away with how Zajac’s contract might affect the Stars’ ability to re-sign their star center. For starters, Zajac was slated to be an unrestricted free agent in July, while the younger Benn is a restricted free agent. So it’s not an apples to apples comparison. Still, I’m sure it was noticed in the Stars' front office. Just like it was in Colorado, where the Avs are trying re-sign restricted free-agent center Ryan O'Reilly.
No matter how you slice it, an intriguing early signing by the Devils in the early days of this new CBA.