Friday, July 15, 2011
Larsson signs, Janssen comes back, Leblond traded
After an offseason of inactivity other than the re-signings of Andy Greene and Johan Hedberg, the Devils have made a series of small but good moves in the last forty-eight hours. The wheels started turning last night after New Jersey somehow managed to coax a fifth-round pick from Calgary for enforcer Pierre Luc-Letourneau Leblond. Granted, current Flames and ex-Devil coach Brent Sutter knows Leblond a little but geez, getting any draft pick at all is a gift for a guy who was basically blacklisted after his ill-timed selfish fight that resulted in a suspension while the Devils had a short roster early last year.
With Leblond gone and no true enforcer on the team, the Devils inked one-time fan fave Cam Janssen to a two-way contract hours later, and continues the Lou Lamoriello tradition of bringing back ex-players (particularly ones who have a good atitude). Also, in 'trading' out Leblond for Janssen, the Devils avoided having to pay Leblond's $500+k salary, which he would have gotten whether he was in the NHL or AHL this year, while Janssen only makes his money if he's on the NHL roster.
Surely the biggest move came down this morning however, when the Devils managed to sign fourth overall pick Adam Larsson at the eleventh hour to an extremely team-favorable contract. While Larsson is getting the entry-level max salary at both the NHL (950k) and AHL (70k) level, he will not be receiving any individual bonuses, by far the biggest obstacle in getting the prized defenseman inked before today's soft deadline of 5 PM - after which the Devils would have had one more month to sign Larsson for this season, but at the cost of a hundred thousand dollar transfer fee to his Swedish team.
Lamoriello went out of his way to praise the teen defenseman, who made the decision to forego the bonuses that almost every other top pick gets, because it isn't in line with team policy. During his 20-plus year career with the Devils, Lamoriello has never put performance bonuses into an entry-level contract and the fact that Larsson was a top five pick wasn't going to change that philosophy. Particularly with the fact that bonuses could have bumped Larsson's cap figure beyond $3 million, which would have made it prohibitive to have him on the NHL roster this year. Of course Larsson's agent J.P. Barry wasn't happy about the deal but was overruled by his client, who not only wanted to be in the NHL as fast as possible but also be one of the guys. As the Devils' GM put it:
“He understands what that means,” Lamoriello said. “He does not want to be different than the players in that room and he made a decision to forego all of those bonuses to get this signed, to get his career underway and to become a Devil and just get ready for training camp…He deserves all the credit in this.”
Personally I have to admit, between the fact that Hedberg and Greene both took less money to come back and Larsson taking less to try to get here as fast as possible makes me more excited about the team. Granted, it would be nice to have Zach Parise locked up long-term (not to mention an actual head coach) but I expect it to come down to early August with last-minute Lou. But hey, if that turns out as well as the Larsson contract, let him take all the time he wants!