On Monday, New Jersey Devils overlord Lou Lamoriello rhetorically threw up his hands and said "I got nuthin'" when it came to restricted free agent center Travis Zajac(notes) potentially avoiding arbitration with a new contract.
You know those stories about the wills of grown men being shattered by the awful truth presented in a salary arbitration hearing? It's been sort of a hobby for Lamoriello over the years, as In Lou We Trust wistfully recalled in its rundown of some of the Devils GM's greatest hits.
The following players went through the arbitration process with Lamoriello: Claude Lemieux(notes), Brian Rolston(notes), Bobby Holik(notes), Scott Niedermayer(notes) and Scott Gomez(notes). All of them were either traded or left the franchise as free agents soon after. Holik, who sought comfort with the enemy by signing that historically awful contract with the New York Rangers the following summer, sounded like someone just kicked his puppy after arbitration with Lamoriello:
"The arbitration process itself has changed the way I look at a lot of things. I've learned how they look at me. Every player should go through it and find out that this is a business and nothing else."
While Lamoriello sharpened his knives for Friday's hearing with his latest arbitration case, Camp Zajac decided to avoid all that unpleasantness by signing a multi-year contract with the Devils, according to Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice. ("Four-year contract for a total of $15.55 million or an average -- and cap hit of -- $3,887,500." Wow.) Smiles all around; no reliving the tremendous sophomore slump the center had before rebounding with a career year in 2008-09.
The signing comes one day after Tomas Plekanec(notes), a somewhat comparable player, inked a one-year contract worth $2.75 million with the Montreal Canadiens. His numbers two years ago (29-40-69) were in the neighborhood of Zajac last season (20-42-62).
So with this out of the way, the Devils can start addressing their other pressing needs this offseason. Like clutch and grab drills for Lemaire. Like finding a winger to replace the points that skated away with Brian Gionta(notes). Oh, and filling out the roster for New Jersey Devils Dance Team at tryouts. (H/T Jon M.) Unlike Lamoriello in an arbitration hearing, knee pads are required.