The New Jersey Devils re-signed potential free agents Jay Pandolfo and Bryce Salvador on Tuesday but said goodbye to forward Sergei Brylin, who won three Stanley Cup titles and spent 13 seasons with the NHL club.
Just hours before bidding could begin on other teams' free agents, the Devils came to terms with Pandolfo and fellow forwards David Clarkson and Barry Tallackson, along with sturdy defenceman Salvador - who came to New Jersey at this year's trade deadline.
Salvador signed a four-year deal worth US$11.6 million while Pandolfo got a three-year, $7.5 million contract.
After several discussions and much agonizing by general manager Lou Lamoriello, the decision was made that the Devils couldn't afford to bring back Brylin and Pandolfo. So Pandolfo returned, and New Jersey declined the $1.52-million option it held for Brylin.
"The role that they play and the style they play with what we have to do with our offence, I don't think we could keep both at this point," Lamoriello said. "It was a very very difficult situation to make the decision.
"In both best interests to give him an opportunity, we did not exercise our option."
The Devils also parted ways with forward Arron Asham, who became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday when the shopping season started, and signed prospects Matt Halischuk and Vladimir Zharkov.
Brylin, who was selected by the Devils with the 42nd pick in the 1992 draft when he was 18, had 129 goals and 308 points in 765 regular-season games. He added 15 goals and 19 assists in 109 playoff games, and was a member of Devils championship teams in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
"We need a lot of time to explain what he's brought," Lamoriello said. "He played the '95 Stanley Cup game, the final game, where he was second star and then spent the next year-and-a-half in the minors.
"He came back and played on two other Cup teams and was an integral part. That's the tough decisions that you have to go through, and you've got to be very, very careful where your heart and your head are. I can't say enough of what he's brought and who he is as a person and his character."
Pandolfo, 33, had 12 goals and 12 assists in 54 games last season, his 11th in the NHL - all with the Devils. In 706 career games, the checking forward has 90 goals and 114 assists. He had played in 307 consecutive games until a groin injury forced him to miss 28 last season.
He was a member of New Jersey's two most recent Stanley Cup championship teams.
"This was a time in his life where he had to make a decision, we had to make a decision," Lamoriello said. "We're delighted to have Jay back, he wanted to be back, we wanted him back.
"You find a way."
Salvador, 32, had no points in eight games after being acquired from St. Louis on Feb. 26 for Cam Janssen. He scored one goal in New Jersey's first-round, five-game loss to the New York Rangers.
He has posted 16 goals and 47 assists in 455 NHL games.
"We looked at the defencemen who were available, we looked at the style that we play, we looked at the young players coming in," Lamoriello said. "We felt that Salvador with his experience and his character was just someone that we want in our organization. It was unanimous through our whole coaching staff."
Clarkson, 24, had nine goals and 13 assists in 81 games with the Devils - his first full NHL season. He led the team with 183 penalty minutes.
Tallackson, 25, just finished his third pro season with the Devils. He had 22 goals and 23 assists last season with New Jersey's AHL Lowell affiliate, and went without a point in three games with the Devils.