While the New Jersey Devils’ Travis Zajac is certainly not the only one on the team with scoring woes, his struggles definitely begs the question as to whether or not signing the big contract is a blessing or a curse.
The 27-year-old center was a first round draft pick of the Devils in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He became a mainstay on the team during the 2006-07 season after playing two years of college hockey at the University of North Dakota.
Zajac has proven himself and is certainly a major part of the Devils’ future even after coming off of a year where he missed most of it due to surgery on his Achilles tendon, which is why he was awarded a $46 million, eight year contract extension on Jan. 16 by General Manager Lou Lamoriello.
However, during the lockout shortened season, Zajac’s offense has almost been nonexistent.
He has zero goals in the past six games and only one in the last 11 contests. On the season, Zajac has scored four goals and has three assists. Those numbers are the reason why the young Canadian has dropped from centering the top line to the third.
What’s the reason for his scoring anemia? It certainly isn’t due to a lack of effort. Zajac is still one of the hardest working players on the ice.
“I feel good,” Zajac said in a post-game interview yesterday. “I’ve had some good games where things just haven’t gone my way. I still have to find a way to contribute offensively more. That’s part of my job. I have to keep working at it and figure out a way to get that part of my game going here.”
Does the big contract put added pressure?
Zajac has said earlier this year that it isn’t something that he thinks about.
After digging a five to one hole last night and losing again, tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets became a must win. With only 23 left, points can’t be given away.
The Devils started out tonight’s matchup with the Jets well enough, breaking the nine game streak of giving up the first goal. They jumped out to a two nothing lead with Zajac assisting on Ryan Carter’s goal.
However, before the end of the second period, the lead was a memory. As usual, Zajac was strong on face-offs, but the goals remained elusive. In the last nine games, the Devils have been unable to net more than three.
If they had lost in regulation this evening, the team that once topped the Eastern Conference would have tumbled out of a playoff spot.
With Zajac not picked as one of the shootout shooters, the big paycheck is looking more like a curse than a blessing.