In yet another sign of change for the Devils and a push towards the roster getting younger and freeing up some cap space, Dainius Zubrus was placed on unconditional waivers on July 29 with the purpose of terminating his contract. According to NHL.com via war-on-ice.com, he was set to make $3.1 million this season, the final year of his contract.
The 37-year-old winger, a native of Elektrenai, Lithuania, will now be a free agent and it will be interesting if he opts to retire or try one last charge for that elusive Stanley Cup. He made the Finals with Philly in 1997, his rookie year (after being drafted 15th overall in the first round of the 1996 Entry Draft) and with the Devils in 2012, but came up short both times.
Zubrus played eight seasons with the Devils and 18 total NHL seasons. In addition to the Devils, he also played for the Flyers, Canadiens, Capitals and Sabres. His career totals include 225 goals and 359 assists for 584 points in 1,243 games. He also has 771 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he has 11 goals, 24 assists for 35 points in 92 games to go with 72 penalty minutes. His plus/minus in the playoffs is also an even 0.
After coming to the NHL as an 18-year-old, having never played a game in the minors, Zubrus would go on to become as steady an NHL player as a team could ever hope for. He would become consistent and reliable, a consummate professional, something Devils fans have seen over the last eight years of his career. The problem is just that Father Time caught up with him, he got a little bit slower of foot and the team is now in the middle of a of a rebuild/restructuring phase.
Now the Devils have a lot of new parts coming in and they want to see what those parts can do. Managing the salary cap is also a part of this, as it gives the Devils a little more room to work with either through trades or free agency.
Zubrus has been a fixture with the Devils for almost a decade and this was not an easy decision for GM Ray Shero to make. “It’s always hard. He’s been here a number of years and he’s been a good contributor,” Shero said to NJ.com. “He’s a big boy.” Shero continued, “We had a good conversation and (he) said he understands. It’s not the easiest part of the business, but these are decisions you sometimes have to make.”
Although Zubrus was not one of the Devils’ huge stars over the last eight years, fans understood what he meant to the club. He was a role player, someone who was plugged into the lineup to serve a purpose and he did that well. At this stage of his career, we will see what happens. But no matter what, Zubrus’ place in Devils history is firm. As a great contributor to the 2012 team, his time with the team will be looked at fondly.
If he does not intend to retire, here is hoping he can catch on with a contender and get his Stanley Cup ring. He tasted success early on in his career, but was only able to come close one other time. If he sticks around, let’s hope he gets another chance at a championship.