Devils Update: Making noise before the season starts

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By Steve Palumbo

For any red-blooded New Jersey Devils fan, a whisper of news about the team is news in itself. But, it seems as though these are not your grandma’s Devils or General Manager Lou Lamoriello. In the past week, since the end of the NHL lockout and the start of training camp, the Devils have signed their top-line center to a max contract, welcomed back their superstar Russian sniper, named a team captain and all this before the ice at Prudential Center is even frozen.It is almost too much for most fans to handle all at once.

Coming off a season in which the Devils came within two wins of the franchises fourth Stanley Cup, followed closely by the departure of the team captain a fan favorite, Zach Parise – then the lockout. To say this has been anything less then a cheap carnival roller coaster for fans in Newark is an understatement of epic proportions. Fortunately,  a good fans memory is short and their mood is regulated by what is happening right now – not what transpired months ago.

On Tuesday, Ilya Kovalchuk returned to New Jersey and joined his teammates at training camp. The Devils winger was given permission to to arrive late to camp so he could participate in the KHL All-Star game. Prior to his return, Russian media made it appear as though Kolvachuk was not ready to come back to North America and was contemplating playing out the season in Mother Russia. Many Devils fans believe that anything bad that can happen, will happen and a mild panic ensued. Thankfully, Kovy put that nonsense to rest once he returned to the Devils.

“I never thought about wanting to stay because I have a contract,” Kovy said. “How could I stay (there) when I have a contract here?” - Duh!

On Wednesday, Lamoriello made sure he wouldn’t be doing the same song and dance next summer with another high profile free-agent in Travis Zajac. The Devils GM locked up the 27-year-old with an eight-year deal for $46 million (an average/salary cap hit of $5.75 million per season). The deal also includes a full no-trade clause. Say what?

The eight years is the longest allowable under the new CBA for a player re-signing with his team. (Players signing with a new team can sign for up to seven years.) Zajac becomes the first player in the NHL to reach an agreement of this magnitude under the new CBA. Those people that think Lou overpaid are the same people that would blast Lou in July if Zajac left to sign with the Winnipeg Jets.

That two questions marks answered in just two days! How could it get any better? How about naming a captain on Thursday?

Devils coach Pete DeBoer killed the suspense after the teams practice by announcing  that defenseman Bryce Salvador had been named captain. Patrik Elias and the aforementioned Kovalchuk will keep the “A’s” on their chest. Salvador becomes the 10th captain in team history, replacing the departed Parise.

New Jersey started last season with so many questions. How would Parise’s contract situation affect him and the club? Would Parise come back? How would the team respond the another head coach? Can the Devils get back to the playoffs? Is Kovalchuk finally going to be an impact player for the Devils?

This season the only question is how much effect will the loss of Parise have on the team, but is that even a worry? They have played without him before and quite frankly the team could actually be in a better spot now than a year ago. The old adage goes, “no news, is good news.” That’s crap. I like news and so far this has been a week of great news in New Jersey. A win in Saturday’s opener would be the icing on what is already shaping up to be a heck of a cake.

Steve Palumbo
Hockey This Week
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevepalumbohtw
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