Following a season in which they missed the playoffs, there is no shortage of New Jersey Devils players who had disappointing seasons. An injury to goaltender Martin Brodeur did little to help the team, but an inconsistent offense was also at fault for the poor performance. One particular player who needs to start bringing more to the team is center Travis Zajac, who signed a lengthy, expensive contract in January but had trouble scoring with regularity this season.
Zajac’s new deal will pay him more than $5 million per season for the next eight seasons, and the Devils will need more out of him than the seven goals and 20 points he managed this season to justify that deal. Only Ilya Kovalchuk makes more per season, and with 12 forwards still set to be free agents this summer the Zajac deal so far seems like a bad one.
In the Devils’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, Zajac scored seven goals and had 14 points in 24 games. Seeing him manage that same total in twice as many games during the regular season likely isn’t boosting the confidence of management, but with a bloated contract they won’t be moving him anytime soon either. Zajac saw nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game this season, but only got off 82 shots on goal. Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson and defenseman Marek Zidlicky all outdid him in that category, and since only one of those players is receiving a bigger paycheck look for Zajac to try and create more scoring opportunities next season.
When you’re getting paid like you’re one of the best two or three forwards on a team, it comes with a substantial amount of pressure. Zajac did not live up to what the Devils need from him this season, and needs to step his game up in the 2013-14 campaign.