From 1st Line to Without a Line, What will happen to Dainius Zubrus?


With Ryan Carter’s status is still uncertain, its hard to see him going anywhere else, so when he does signs with the Devils, New Jersey will have 15 forwards under one way contracts. Unfortunately for them, another move must be made before opening night in Philadelphia, which will send one of these forwards out of Newark. Thomas Formoso touched upon two forwards who could potentially move in Damien Brunner & Michael Ryder, but there is a few more options, and in this post I would like to examine the idea of moving Dainius Zubrus.

For the last seven years, the Devils have had Dainius Zubrus on their roster, suiting him up where ever he could fit into their lineup. Last year, Dainius found himself up on the first line for most of the season with Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac, finding himself with quite a bit of opportunities to capitalize on, but only posted 26 points with 13 goals. 26 points for a player on the first line is really nothing to brag about since line-mates Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac posted 67 points with 24 goals and 48 points with 18 goals respectively.

How can a player who posted such lower numbers than the other two be on the same line for an extended period of time? It comes down to breaking Zubrus season down by each  game to see what and where it all went wrong for #8.

Mar 23, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Dainius Zubrus (8) and New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac (19) go after the puck during first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

An interesting reference point was the Christmas break from December 23th to the 27th when examining how Zubrus played this year. Approaching the break, the 1st Line of the New Jersey Devils was lead by none other than the red hot Jaromir Jagr with 33 points and 13 goals. Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus trailed the ageless wonder before the break by a healthy margin, but where the two had pretty even stats with 11 assists each and Zajac being 2 goals behind Zubrus’s 8. Going into the break, the top line’s points per game read Jagr with 0.894, Zubrus posting a 0.5 and Zajac close behind with 0.447. The somewhat close number at this point would lead us to believe that the line was producing at a steady rate, Zajac and Zubrus contributed at the same rate, while  Jagr competed at an elite pace.

Following the mandatory 3 day break from hockey, thing went south for Zubrus and there was no explainable reason as for why. In the next 44 games of the 2013-14 campaign, Dainius only posted 7 points with 5 goals, leaving him unable to maintain his 0.5  points per game, as it sunk to a weak 0.159 in for the second half of the season.

In the next 44 games of the 2013-14 campaign, Dainius only posted 7 points with 5 goals, leaving him unable to maintain his 0.5  points per game, as it sunk to a weak 0.159 in for the second half of the season

Jagr and Zajac did not feel the effect, as the duo played so well together down the stretch, both recording over 30 points it was obvious that Zubrus needed to be dropped. Come the trade deadline, Lou Lamoriello saw that Zubrus was not performing to the level of a 1st liners, and if he could bring someone in who would play better with the duo, the team had a better shot to make the playoffs.

Hours before the deadline, the Devils GM struck a deal with a divisional foe the Carolina Hurricanes, and brought a struggling Tuomo Ruutu to Newark. Ruutu contributed nicely with the Devils as he posted 8 points with 3 goals in 19 games.

Although the spark of offense Ruutu created was nice, it could not make up for the hole they where in record wise due to slumping players like Zubrus, and New Jersey failed to make the playoffs for the third time in four years. After reviewing the struggles Zubrus had in the second half of the season, the Devils should ask if he is worth assuring a roster spot to for the coming years. Dainius is turning 36 this year and has 2 years and 6.2 million dollars left on his current deal. For a player who is not producing, it may be a hard sell in terms of trades, but the Devils have the cap flexibility to eat some of that 3.1 per year.

This is an important factor, since as we watched all summer, Vinny LeCavalier is stuck in Philly because no team will take on his contract in a trade, and the Flyers cannot eat some salary due to how close to the cap they are. There was speculation that the Flyers and Predators where close to reaching a deal after hearing center Mike Fisher will be out for a few months to start the season, but they could not agree how to split LeCavalier salary sources reported.

If Lou is clever, it maybe smart of him to look to take Dainius Zubrus, a natural center, and try to sell Nashville in trading for him. For a player like Zubrus the asking price may not be high, but they could get a decent mid-round draft pick for next year in return, and be able to set the roster for opening night! Whats your opinion?

Comment below on what your thoughts are on Zubrus! Keep or move?