Travis Zajac signed a one-day deal with the New Jersey Devils this past season so he could retire with the team whom he spent more than 1,000 games with. Zajac was the last of his era. It was the waining connection to a team that went to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Martin Brodeur is long gone. So are Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, and Adam Henrique. Andy Greene was the last player from that era who lasted on the team, but he was traded to the New York Islanders the season before.
The Devils brought Zajac in to help coach practices this season. He helped the team out in training camp, and then he came back in January to do the same. He would help coach drills, and it almost felt like a tryout at the time. In reality, it might have been Zajac still lives in the area and Lindy Ruff has a good relationship with him, so he asked him to come in to change things up when the Devils were a little desperate. Either way, Zajac was getting to know the coaching ranks.
Zajac spent a few games under Lindy Ruff before he was traded to the Islanders. He learned what his coaching style is, and the Devils clearly felt he could come in and teach these guys after he retired. He was another player who changed roles as his career progressed, so he knows what it’s like to be a first-line center like Jack Hughes or a third liner like Jesper Boqvist. He knows how to excel on the first power play and the penalty kill. He would be a great asset to this team’s coaching staff.
Zajac could come in and make a huge difference almost immediately. Whether it’s Ruff returning for another year or a whole new coaching staff, Zajac is a perfect fit. He’s stayed in New Jersey, as many former Devils do. He can easily become a coach without making major changes to his lifestyle.