32-Year-Old Center – New Jersey Devils
Travis Zajac Contract Information:
Signed to an eight-year deal by the Devils worth $46 million in January of 2013.
Zajac (pectoral) will be on the ice for his season debut against the Maple Leafs on Thursday evening.
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Travis Zajac: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Zajac bounced back with 44 points last season after a dismal 2014-15, but still came up short of the 50-point mark for the sixth straight campaign. His game is unlikely to improve at age 31, but a lack of quality alternatives down the middle in New Jersey will likely keep the veteran center in a top-six role. There are higher-upside options to be found in the same range, but filling out your roster with a decent two-way center with some scoring punch on a middling team isnít the end of the world.
Zajac has fallen off dramatically since posting back-to-back 60-plus point seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Still just 30 years old, Zajac has inexplicably regressed rather than improved during his supposed prime years, falling all the way down to 11 goals and 25 points in 76 games this past season. The center did strike twice shorthanded and scored four power-play goals, but his frequent bagels in the scoring column didnít make him worth owning in anything but the deepest of leagues. It's hard to think he will sink any lower in 2015-16, but he can't exactly count on the forwards around him to elevate his game, either. A role as the Devils' second-line center likely awaits him again, though that top-six role won't mean much until he shows he can provide points on a more consistent basis.
Expecting Zajac to be a 50-plus point player may be a longshot despite the fact that he is the teamís No. 1 center. Much of what he does on the ice is not measured statistically, as he is a sound two-way center often matched up against the oppositionís top lines. His consecutive 20-plus goal and 60-plus point campaigns from earlier in his career are the outliers, as he has failed to crack 20 goals since 2010. Heís scored a modest 25 goals the last two seasons despite missing just two games in that span. Zajac will see first-line minutes with a hodge-podge of wingers, but he wonít produce like a No. 1 center offensively. Those in deep leagues with multiple center positions will want to seek him out late in drafts or on waivers, just be aware that he may challenge 20 goals in a good season.
Like most of New Jersey's forwards, Zajac struggled to produce consistently last season, putting up a scattered 20 points and a mere 82 shots on goal in 48 games. He's still penciled in as one of the Devils' top two centers but he has yet to duplicate his 67-point season from 2009-10. Zajac is a steady defensive player who needs to shoot the puck more, but he's still guaranteed to see time on the team's top scoring lines. Zajac could be a good buy-low candidate this fall, remember his name in the late rounds on draft day.
After suffering a torn Achilles tendon last summer, Zajac missed all but 15 games this past season, attempting a comeback around Christmas that was short-lived before he got back on the ice for the seasonís final seven games. He was solid in the playoffs with 14 points in 24 games, but the Devils will be eager to have their steady pivot for a full season. Depending on whom Zajac skates alongside, he should challenge 50-55 points and 20 goals.
Zajac had a forgettable season, posting 44 points, his lowest output since the 2007-08 season. One can argue that the absence of Zach Parise the majority of the season affected Zajac's production, however, Zajac was a prime bounceback candidate prior to tearing his achilles tendon during off-season workouts in August. Surgery to repair the injury was successful and heís slated for a return in early-to-mid November. Ironically, Zajac had played in over 400 consecutive games, but will now have to wait to redeem himself. Cracking 60 points might not be reachable with missing the first six weeks of the season, but on a per-game basis, Zajac has been roughly between .70 and .75 during his productive years. Heís a consistent player when healthy, save for last year, and itís likely that last seasonís campaign was the down year for the underrated pivot.
Zajac's development as a budding center continued last season as he posted career-best totals in goals (25) and points (67) to go with a plus-22 rating. His chemistry with Zach Parise is essential to his success and all signs point to him posting another career season. Look for similar goals totals as well as a strong plus-minus and a handful of power-play points.
The breakout year the Devils were expecting from their third-year pivot happened last season and he likely was a huge value for owners that snagged him in the late rounds or via free agency. Posting 62 points and a plus-32 rating, Zajac showed great chemistry for Parise and veteran Jamie Langenbrunner. Sixty points and 20 goals should be attainable for Zajac again as heís slated to center the teamís top line. Heíll provide great numbers in the plus-minus department, as heís a strong two-way player.
Zajac was a disappointment in his sophomore season posting just 34 (14-20) points after putting up 42 as a rookie. It's not like he didn't have the chances, as he saw significant time with scoring lines and the power play unit. He could be worth a look in the later rounds of deeper leagues, but expecting anything more than 40 points is too much.