Much of the hockey world wonders if the decision to break the bank for unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk was general manager Lou Lamoriello's move or if owner Jeff Vanderbeek stepped in.
It is, after all, an uncharacteristic signing by the Devils.
Nevertheless, veteran forward Dainius Zubrus said he wasn't surprised by what is believed to be a $102 million deal for Kovalchuk.
"I'm not surprised. Three years in a row we thought we had a chance and we were out of the playoffs in the first round," Zubrus said today from his home in Montreal. "They're trying to change things up. It's obviously a huge move."
It leaves the Devils pondering further moves to open cap space. Zubrus said some big names could be on their way out of New Jersey.
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "There's going to have to be something done. I don't know all the numbers, but I'm pretty sure we're over the cap. I don't think anybody knows what will happen, but something will."
Zubrus, who played as well as any member of the Devils in the 2010 playoffs against the Flyers, said he isn't overly worried about being traded. He will earn $3.4 million this season.
"Am I worried? I don't know. It's tough for me to say," Zubrus said. "Do I wake up in the morning and worry if I'm going to be traded? No. I don't think that way.
"I hope I'm not traded. I want to be on this team. I want to stay here. I believe we're a good team. I really like the pickups of (Anton) Volchenkov and (Henrik) Tallinder. I played with Tallinder in Buffalo. Even though it was a while back, I played with Volchenkov in the World Cup. He was younger and didn't play that much. He's a grown man now."
And what about the acquisition of Kovalchuk? Does he fit in with the Devils?
"He's a good player. I think he's a good guy in the locker room," Zubrus said. "Only the results will show if he fits in. Only the hockey part will answer that.
"I'm glad this is over now. It's been taking a while. I'm happy he's with us, obviously. He makes our team better."
Rich Chere: [email][email protected]
Never before have the Devils moved so boldly to sign the top free agent of the summer, and though Kovalchuk was their own player, the reported 17-year, $102 million deal is by far the biggest contract the Devils have ever given to a free agent. Here’s a look at some of the biggest free-agent signings the Devils have made since Lou Lamoriello became their general manager in 1987:
2010 Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils, $102*/17: Outbid the L.A. Kings for 2-time 50-goal-scorer.
2008 Brian Rolston, from Minnesota, $20/4: Hasn’t lived up to expectations.
2007 Dainius Zubrus, from Buffalo, $20.4/6: Signed after Scott Gomez left for the Rangers.
2005 Alexander Mogilny, from Toronto, $7/2: Patrik Elias had hepatitis, so Mogilny was asked to fill in.
2005 Vladimir Malakhov, from Philadelphia, $7.2/2: Was supposed to replace Scott Niedermayer, who went to Anaheim.
2002 Patrik Elias, Devils, $14.75/3: Increase over previous $750,000 salary.
1994 Scott Stevens, Devils, $17/4: Matched offer sheet signed with St. Louis.
*In $ millions