Sun 2 Jul 2006
He pulled off the impossible. There’s a reason Lou Lamoriello is regarded as one of the best NHL executives. A year after failing to re-sign Scott Niedermayer, the Devils’ Team President and GM redeemed himself in a huge way this past weekend by re-signing forwards Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner.
With questions regarding how much room he had to work with due to last summer’s contract busts with Alexander Mogilny ($3.5 million) and Vladimir Malakhov (3.6) which they’re reportedly still on the hook for, Lamoriello delivered as promised by doing whatever it took to bring back his star left wing Elias along with Langenbrunner.
Ignoring the obvious dilemma in regards to where his team might stand with the $44.5 million cap, Lamoriello was able to reach agreement on a seven-year contract with Elias worth $42 million.
Regarded as the number one free agent on the market, the 30 year-old Czech who helped the Devils win two Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003 was highly coveted by the Rangers and Canadiens.
Despite reportedly being offered more money per season by both teams, Elias chose to stay with the team which selected him in the second round 51st overall in 1994.
Apparently, the biggest issues were getting two extra years and a no-trade clause included in the deal. The longterm security gave the Devils an edge, allowing them to get their star player at a discount ($6 million per year) when he could’ve gotten even more.
Despite missing the first half of the ’05-06 season due to hepatitis, Elias helped lead the Devils back to the postseason for the ninth straight year and to a sixth Atlantic Division.
In just 38 regular season games, he totaled 16 goals to go with 29 assists for 45 points and a plus-11 rating. That kind of production continued in the playoffs when the two-time NHL All-Star finished with 16 points (6-10-16) in only nine games, including a magnificent first round performance in the Devils’ sweep of the Rangers- tallying five goals and 11 points.
Such clutch play along with being viewed as one of the game’s best made him a high commodity. Fortunately for the Devils, he opted to return.
In 596 career NHL games, Elias has 223 goals and 281 assists for 504 points.
Also returning will be Langenbrunner. Originally acquired from Dallas along with Joe Nieuwendyk in exchange for Jason Arnott, Randy McKay plus a 2002 first round pick (dealt to Columbus, then to Buffalo-Dan Paille) back on March 19, 2002, the 30 year-old Minnesota native inked a five-year deal worth $2.8 million per season.
In three-plus seasons with New Jersey, Langenbrunner has totaled 140 points (54-86-140) in 225 games.
The checking winger finished the 2003 postseason with 11 goals and seven assists for 18 points along with a plus-11 rating to help the Devils win their third Stanley Cup.
“I have been fortunate to play in this league, and for the last nine or 10 years to make the playoffs and to have a chance,” Langenbrunner told the AP after his 53 points ranked him third in Devils scoring this past season.
“That’s all you want. You don’t know what is going to happen next year, but staying with the Devils I think gives me a shot.”