Travis Zajac (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the rumor mill and some believe they could be looking to acquire center Travis Zajac from New Jersey. Zajac and new Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello have a strong tie, but the veteran pivot’s cap hit could be an issue. In Boston, the injury to Dennis Seidenberg could mean the Bruins look at veteran replacements to start the season.
It hasn't taken long for speculation to arise tying Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (and former New Jersey Devils GM) Lou Lamoriello with a player on his former team. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports “more than one NHL exec” believes Lamoriello would love to acquire Devils center Travis Zajac.
The 30-year-old Zajac was selected 20th overall in the 2004 NHL draft by Lamoriello, and within two years made his debut with the Devils, netting 42 points in 2006-07. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound center's two-way play swiftly made him a key forward. In Jan. 2013, Lamoriello re-signed Zajac to an eight-year, $46-million contract.
Since reaching a career-high 67 points in 2009-10, however, Zajac's production has declined. Last season was the nadir, tallying only 25 points in 74 games while being demoted to checking line duty. Part of that decline can be blamed on the Devils lack of offensive depth, but it doesn't fully explain the dramatic drop in his offense.
With Zajac earning an annual average salary of $5.75 million through 2020-21, current Devils GM Ray Shero might be willing to clear that contract from his books. Such a move, however, would leave a gaping hole at center for the rebuilding Devils.
If Lamoriello is truly keen to acquire Zajac, perhaps he'll offer up Tyler Bozak in return? The 29-year-old has long been a fixture in the Leafs trade-rumor mill, and there's some question about his ability as a top-line center since former high-scoring linemate Phil Kessel was dealt to Pittsburgh in the off-season.
Bozak, however, has only three seasons remaining on a contract with an annual cap hit of $4.2 million. He and Zajac must also be willing to waive their respective no-trade clauses. Unless the Devils are willing to pick up part of Zajac's salary, it's unlikely Lamoriello will get the green light from the rest of the Leafs brain trust.
SEIDENBERG INJURY COULD MEAN TRADE IMMINENT FOR BRUINS
The Boston Bruins already-thin blueline suffered a significant hit when recent back surgery sidelined veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg up to eight weeks. The Boston Herald's Stephen Harris reports Bruins GM Don Sweeney will continue analyzing the young rearguards within his system to see if any prove capable of stepping up to fill in for Seidenberg.
Should those youngsters fail to get the job done, Sweeney acknowledges he could look toward the trade market for help. He told Harris he's monitoring the roster of other NHL clubs to assess trade possibilities.
CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty believes this could spark another round of rumors linking the Bruins to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. The 30-year-old's eligibility for unrestricted free agency next summer made him a fixture in the off-season rumor mill. While Byfuglien's future in Winnipeg remains cloudy, the Jets are unlikely to part with him right now.
Making a trade isn't Sweeney's only option. He could consider the UFA market, as veterans Lubomir Visnovsky and Ryan Wilson are currently on professional tryouts with other clubs. SI.com's Allan Muir suggests the Bruins GM could also look toward the waiver wire.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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