The first long-term deal under the new collective bargaining agreement has been signed, and it belongs to Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils.
Zajac, who missed all but 15 regular-season games in 2011-12 before returning and playing a role in the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup Final, will earn $46 million over the next 8 years, according to Nick Kypreos.
“During his time in New Jersey, Travis Zajac has become a solid, all-situation player and one of the core leaders of our hockey club,” said Lou Lamoriello in the Devils' statement, and obviously, Zajac's prominence in said core saw a major bump when Zach Parise, the leader of it, jumped ship in the summer.
Zajac's deal is almost like an object lesson for the new CBA. It's a long-term deal, but unlike the long-term deals we've grown accustomed to, it's within reason, both in terms of term and annual salary. If you've slept through the last six months, you might be rubbing your eyes and wondering what the Hell is going on.
As you'll recall, the terms of the new CBA limit contracts to 7 years, unless the player is re-signing with his current team, in which case, they can entice him to stay with the offer an eighth year. (I can imagine agents the league over petitioning clubs to "make it eight".)
Obviously, New Jersey offered the full eight.
The other big change is in terms of variance from year to year. The difference between two consecutive years of a deal cannot be more than 35 percent, and the variance of any year in the contract must be within 50 percent of the highest year. Hence, Zajac's annual payouts are fairly close together: he'll make $3.5M in the first year, $5M in the second year, $6.5M for the third year through the sixth, and $5.75M in the last two years.
That final number is also the cap hit.
Pierre Lebrun notes that the deal comes with a full no-trade clause, and wonders if that low first-year might have something to do with escrow. Or maybe it's because the Devils expect to be a little less broke in two years?
Obviously, there's no longer anything for us to freak out over or judge, which is a little disappointing. (Unless you think Zajac is overpaid and won't be as good without Parise, which might be true, but what else are you going to do, run the risk of leaving Ilya Kovalchuk without a centre?)
But Zajac's contract is evidence that one of the former CBA's great loopholes is officially closed. And the new one has yet to be found.