For Travis Zajac, it’s gotten to the point where I’m not even mad, I’m impressed. It’s tough to avoid points when you get that much ice time.
Since the New Jersey Devils signed the young center to an eight-year, 46 million dollar contract ($5.75M cap hit through 2021) on January 16th, he’s been nothing short of hot garbage.
I mean, the phrasing is a little harsh, but seriously, let’s talk:
He averages over 20 minutes of ice time a night, a number only surpassed by Ilya Kovalchuk amongst Devils’ forwards. And, he’s played in all 27 of the Devils games this season. Some quick math, and that’s 540 minutes, or nine hours on the ice.
He has four goals and four assists for eight points, good for tenth on the team. That’s tied with Steve Bernier, and trailing Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter, who combine to earn 36% of Zajac’s salary (totalling $2.112M between them).
The last time he scored was February 24th, nine games ago, and incidentally, that was the last game in which he finished as a plus player. He’s racked up a plus-minus of minus-10 since that game, only peppering in two assists along the way.
You don’t give a guy a max-term deal at near six mill a season to not be your first line center, but here’s what we’re looking at as of today (from DailyFaceoff.com):
Instead, 22-year-old Andrei Loktionov (recently acquired for a fifth-round pick, makes $816k on his entry-level deal) is the guy lining up beside Ilya Kovalchuk, and sophomore Adam Henrique (854k, entry-level as well) gets Elias.
He has no goals and a solitary assist on the powerplay. He’s only been used in a single shootout (missed). He’s in the bottom half of the team in hits and blocked shots, if you value those stats.
He really only has few things going for him right now: he’s winning a lot of faceoffs (56.8%, to be exact), he’s driving play alright (9th on the team in Corsi, 9.82), and his shooting percentage is low-ish at 7.5%, so we could expect a mild uptick there (that contributes to his 979 PDO). But the black and white (and red) or it is, it’s been a nightmare season aside from that whole getting rich thing.
The Devils have posted a couple wins after a rough stretch where they went 0-5-1, but they still have a tenuous grasp on a playoff spot, and need their best players to be their best players. If they hope to hang on and squeeze in, they’re gonna need more from Zajac.