Devils Sign Zajac to 4-year extension…

The New Jersey Devils and Travis Zajac agreed on a new 4-year, $15.55 million deal on Wednesday, avoiding a potentially ugly arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Friday. This is a great move to secure their no. 1 center and Zach Parise’s setup-man, for the next four years, and Parise is locked up for the next three. The next move is to add some more depth up front by possibly re-signing Brendan Shanahan and perhaps adding free agent Michael Peca — both on one-year deals. GM Lou Lamoriello has already stated that Rod Pelley will take over John Madden’s role next season, but if he can ink Peca to a one-year deal for say, a million, he should do it and allow Pelley to develop a little more, perhaps as the 4th line center. Then the lines could potentially look like this:

Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner
Elias-Rolston-Zubrus
Shanahan-Peca-Clarkson
Pikkarainen-Pelley-Pandolfo

That’s not bad, and could be better with another player added for depth or if a well-constructed trade can be worked out with a team like San Jose (Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo) or Boston (Phil Kessel).

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New Coach is an Old Friend

The New Jersey Devils have announced that Jacques Lemaire, who led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup in 1995, (and coached the team from 1993-98) will return as he successor to Brent “quitter” Sutter. Personally, I like the move, because I feel it will give the team some stability — after about 5 coaches in the last six seasons. Maybe he can fix whatever was wrong with Brian Rolston last season — Rolston enjoyed some of his best seasons playing for Lemaire’s Wild in Minnesota, but struggled mightily under Sutter, providing zero offense. John MacLean was passed over again for the head coach job, and now he will be the head coach for their AHL affiliate in Lowell. Good job Lou Lamoriello, now start adding some players!  Alex Tanguay is still out there, Mike Grier, Manny Malhotra, and Robert Lang are available too as unrestricted free agents….or swing a trade with Boston for Phil Kessel

Danis Signed

Word came down today that the Devs have signed free agent goalie Yann Danis (formerly of the NY Islanders). According to various reports GM Lou Lamoriello has said this does not neccessarily mean that Kevin Weekes is out of the picture. Danis could split time in the AHL with Jeff Frazee or he could be the French-speaking backup goaltender that Martin Brodeur has lacked throughout his career. Either way, its a solid signing that gives the organization some depth at the position…Marty can’t play forever. In other news forget about Brendan Morrison coming back, TSN.ca is reporting that the center has signed with Washington for one year. Some of today’s articles have suggested the Devils are interested in Sergei Zubov — a soon-to-be 37-year-old defenseman, who has battled injuries for the last three seasons…if Zubov is signed he would bolster the PP and perhaps force Lamoriello to package a defenseman with a forward (Dainius Zubrus, Brian Rolston?) to make some more additions to the roster via the trade route…stay tuned…

View from the Ice

* The NHL’s free-agency period began on July 1 and with so many players involved in hockey’s version of musical chairs, at times it can be difficult to keep track of all of the movement. Here is a list of the biggest signings/trades that have taken place over the first seven days.

Old Faces in New Places:

Jay Bouwmeester Traded to & then signed with Calgary (from Florida)

Jordan Leopold — Traded to & then signed with Florida (from Calgary)

Scott Gomez — Traded to Montreal from NY Rangers

Christopher Higgins — Traded to NY Rangers from Montreal

Mattias Ohlund — Signed with Tampa (from Vancouver)

Colton Orr — Signed with Toronto (from NY Rangers)

Craig Anderson — Signed with Colorado (from Florida)

Marian Hossa — Signed with Chicago (from Detroit)

Ty Conklin — Signed with St. Louis (from Detroit)

Matt Walker — Signed with Tampa (from Chicago)

Dwayne Roloson — Signed with NY Islanders (from Edmonton)

Tomas Kopecky — Signed with Chicago (from Detroit)

Steve Montador — Signed with Buffalo (from Boston)

Mike Knuble — Signed with Washington (from Philadelphia)

Donald Brashear — Signed with NY Rangers (from Washington)

Brian Boucher — Signed with Philadelphia (from San Jose)

Jaroslav Spacek — Signed with Montreal (from Buffalo)

Nikolai Khabibulin — Signed with Edmonton (from Chicago)

Scott Clemmensen — Signed with Florida (from New Jersey)

Ian Laperriere — Signed with Philadelphia (from Colorado)

Michael Rupp — Signed with Pittsburgh (from New Jersey)

Hal Gill — Signed with Montreal (from Pittsburgh)

Mike Cammalleri — Signed with Montreal (from Calgary)

Pavel Kubina — Traded to Atlanta from Toronto

Garnet Exelby — Traded to Toronto from Atlanta

Greg Zanon — Signed with Minnesota (from Nashville)

Vernon Fiddler — Signed with Phoenix (from Nashville)

Mike Komisarek — Signed with Toronto (from Montreal)

Steve Begin — Signed with Boston (from Dallas)

Samuel Pahlsson — Signed with Columbus (from Chicago)

Mathieu Garon — Signed with Columbus (from Pittsburgh)

Marian Gaborik — Signed with NY Rangers (from Minnesota)

Brian Gionta — Signed with Montreal (from New Jersey)

John Madden — Signed with Chicago (from New Jersey)

Fredrik Sjostrom — Signed with Calgary (from NY Rangers)

Jason LaBarbera — Signed with Phoenix (from Vancouver)

Martin Havlat — Signed with Minnesota (from Chicago)

Nikolai Antropov — Signed with Atlanta (from NY Rangers)

Adrian Aucoin — Signed with Phoenix (from Calgary)

Karlis Skrastins — Signed with Dallas (from Florida)

Rob Scuderi — Signed with Los Angeles (from Pittsburgh)

Mikael Samuelsson — Signed with Vancouver (from Detroit)

Shane Hnidy — Signed with Minnesota (from Boston)

Ryan Smyth — Traded to Los Angeles from Colorado

Tom Preissing — Traded to Colorado from Los Angeles

Kyle Quincey — Traded to Colorado from Los Angeles

Tyler Arnason — Signed with NY Rangers (from Colorado)

Andrew Raycroft — Signed with Vancouver (from Colorado)

Alex Kovalev — Signed with Ottawa (from Montreal)

Jeff Taffe — Signed with Florida (from Pittsburgh)

Francois Beauchemin — Signed with Toronto (from Anaheim)

Jonas Gustavsson — Signed with Toronto (from Swedish Elite League)

Jeff Woywitka — Signed with Dallas (from St. Louis)

Stephane Veilleux — Signed with Tampa (from Minnesota)

Dany Sabourin — Signed with Boston (from Edmonton)

* Calling it quits…Next year: Both Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne and Boston’s Mark Recchi signed one-year deals this past week and then promptly revealed that next season will be their last in the NHL.

* Hero on the shelf: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Maxime Talbot underwent surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder Tuesday, and his recovery is expected to take four to five months. The 25-year-old, who scored both goals in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory over Detroit in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, had played through the injury “for quite a while” according to GM Ray Shero. Talbot will miss training camp and the start of next season.

* “For how good the hockey team is and I really believe it has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. With the addition of (Marian) Hossa and the experience last year, it’s a group with a lot of skill and talent and hungry kids who want the Cup. They have all the elements of making a run at it for this year and years to come. I had no problem giving up security for a chance to win. Something the team needed was my experience and someone to do the job I’ve done with the Devils for the last nine years; I’ll do anything to help the team win.” — John Madden has high hopes after signing a one-year deal to play in Chicago.

* “It’s not the first trade for me. It’s just part of the life, the way I look at it. I don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, they didn’t sign me, I’m going to try to do damage (to them).’” — Alex Kovalev after leaving Montreal (who replaced him with Brian Gionta) to sign with Ottawa.

* “Nowhere, he’s an Ottawa Senator.” — Ottawa GM Bryan Murray in response to where Dany Heatley (who publicly requested a trade) is going.

* “I am very excited to be able to retire a Philadelphia Flyer and I am looking forward to many years with the Flyers logo on my chest.” — The newest Broad Street Bully, Chris Pronger meets the Philadelphia media after inking a seven-year extension.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.
Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com is a contributor to Maxhockey.com & IslesNation.com