Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Devils sign Dainius Zubrus

I go out for a bit on a beautiful day in New Jersey and guess what happens? A big signing, that's what!

The Devils have signed Dainius Zubrus to a 6 year $20.4 million deal, as reported by TSN. Thanks to Superfan #99 in a comment in the previous post to alerting me to this deal.

Now this is a great signing. Zubrus is 29 years old and he can play the center or right wing positions. He may be better on the wing, but he definitely produced while centering Alexander Ovechkin's line in Washington. He's got some offensive skill, but he's more of a playmaker as his low goal and shot totals would suggest. His numbers were definitely helped by playing with Alexander Ovechkin in Washington for the past two seasons; so perhaps high point totals won't be in the cards. But he definitely displayed some skill in his brief time with the Buffalo Sabres, with 4 goals and 4 assists in 19 regular season games and 8 assists in the playoffs. Furthermore, he's a huge player - 6'4", 224 pounds - so those concerned with the Devils being a bit too small should have those concerns allayed.

But what makes this a great signing isn't his numbers but the contract itself. He's pretty much signed long term, likely for the rest of his career, but it's a very cheap 6 year deal. It's an average of $3.4 million per year; definitely a great bargin if he steps up his game with the Devils. If he falters, the contract is not such an albatross for trades nor does it kill the Devils' salary cap. Shrewd signing, at a first glance, in my opinion. Especially since I thought Buffalo would move heaven and earth to keep someone who can play center after seeing Chris Drury and Daniel Briere leave the team.

ONE MORE THING: I can't believe I didn't figure this out sooner. Consider these lines:


See, what makes Patrik Elias special is that he can set up plays as well as being the finisher of plays. Suppose Zubrus centers Elias and Gionta. Elias can dictate the play while Gionta buzzes around the slot; Zubrus can more than complement that with his size along the boards or be used as an additional playmaker (not like Gomez where he was a solid playmaker first and foremost). Since Zubrus has centered a first line in Washington for two seasons, he can definitely handle the minutes and the workload - only he doesn't have to be the top guy on the line. He just needs to mesh well with Elias and Gionta, if he does I think that line will work wonders. Plus, the PZL line can remain together and effective with their already solid chemistry. The more I think about this, I like this signing more and more. Especially the contract - the Devils have well over $10 million in cap space remaining with this signing. Time to pay Parise and Martin!


Like you, I am quite glad the Devils made a splash of their own in free agency. But I am hard-pressed to be as excited about it as you are. I doubt that Elias-Gomez-Gionta will be the same as Elias-Zubrus-Gionta. It won't be. Will Zubrus help? For sure. But how much? Hopefully along the likes of what you're thinking.
How about these combinations:


John, I also like Zubrus on the top line. It kind of reimagines the A Line, with Elias getting to run the show, Gio playing the "sniper" (for lack of a better word) and Zubrus as the big, but still skilled, body. I feel like Patty's struggled a bit finding his game when he's playing on a line with a puck possession center, and letting him be the one dictating things should bring about an improvement on last year. And if things don't work out with those three together? Zubrus is a guy who you don't shrink in horror at the thought of moving him down a line, unlike Gomez. He just brings so much flexibility to the lineup -- and as you pointed out, barely costs anything. This is a delightful, delightful signing!
Thanks for all the comments. Now to address them:

Tim Mo: Elias-Zubrus-Gionta will definitely not be the same as the EGG line. Gomez and Zubrus are different players who have different strengths. I think it's a signing worthy of excitement because Zubrus could actually play on the first line, handle those minutes and playing with the best scoring talent. But you're right that it definitely won't be like the EGG line.

Anon: No offense, but those lines don't make much sense. Zajac did too well last season to be moved to wing; and Parise isn't a right winger. Plus, I don't think Viuhkola will make that big of a splash in camp to center the second line.

Schnookie: Thank you. You are right in pointing out that if Zubrus doesn't do well, there's no issue in moving him down a line or two.
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