With time running out before the Devils and Adam Larsson were scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Wednesday, the two sides came to terms on a long-term extension that will pay the former #4 overall pick just over $4 million per for the next six seasons, buying off his first three UFA seasons and giving the young Swedish defenseman some security after four up-and-down seasons as a Devil. Perhaps the best thing about this deal is Larsson will only be 28 at the end of it. There was talk about agreeing to a two-year bridge deal if the sides didn’t come to terms by the end of the weekend so there was a time concern, fortunately both sides were able to come to an agreement that serves everyone.
Amazing how much things have changed over the span of several months. Last season, Larsson was kept down in Albany for the second half and played this season on a one-year show-me deal. Early in 2014-15 he was still a frequent healthy scratch under former coach Pete DeBoer. Although Larsson was able to carve out a niche on the PK in the fall after an injury to Jon Merrill, it wasn’t till after there was a coaching change where Larsson was finally allowed to establish himself without looking over his shoulder. He responded with a good second half, paired with Andy Greene on the Devils’ top pairing – and even increasing his point production dramatically on an offensively challenged team.
Now that Larsson’s back in the fold, the Devils’ only matter of concern left from a player contract standpoint is inking first-rounder Pavel Zacha before next month’s August 15 deadline where if he doesn’t sign by then, he won’t be able to sign or play in the NHL this year. It really shouldn’t be a problem although one deadline was already missed this month where now the Devils have to pay his Czech team 100k to let him out of his contract assuming he gets signed before next month’s deadline. There’s some worry that neophyte agent Patrik Stefan (yes the former #1 overall pick) is being difficult, but really this negotiation shouldn’t be that tough given the rookie wage scale and the fact they’re only haggling over bonuses at this point – which is one area that’s already changed under new management since Lou Lamoriello was steadfast against giving draft picks bonus money, including Larsson himself, who was the only top ten pick in recent years to sign a contract without them.
Speaking of Lou, his departure this week also put things on hold with the Larsson and Zacha negotiations, and although GM Ray Shero hired an assistant (former NHL player and fellow Penguin exec Tom Fitzgerald), he still needs to appoint a new director of scouting to replace David Conte, and that director will quite possibly need to get their own staff in place as well. There doesn’t seem to be as much of a hurry to find a new team president, according to co-owner Josh Harris, speaking at a press conference after Lou resigned to work in Toronto. Which makes one wonder if they didn’t see a president as being that important, then just how ceremonial had Lou’s job become? At least his successor can work without a shadow over him now – real or perceived.