While nothing is imminent, the New Jersey Devils’ decision to buy out Dainius Zubrus has set the table for them to make a trade or free agent signing.
“It really wasn’t about Dainius himself,” Devils GM Ray Shero told The Record. “It was more about the roster spot/flexibility moving forward. … If something comes along and we don’t have a roster spot – not so much the 23-man roster, but up front in terms of let’s say you’re carrying 13 forwards, 14 forwards and you don’t have any spots – then you can’t do anything.”
It certainly wasn’t about freeing up cap space given that Zubrus’ $3.1 million cap hit for 2015-16 will count fully against the team’s books even after the buyout because he was a 35-and-over signing. The Devils are still saving roughly $1 million of this way, but Shero insisted that this wasn’t a financial decision.
There are still teams that are looking to get into a better cap position, such as the Chicago Blackhawks, that Shero might have his eye towards as he clears some room on the team’s roster. There’s also some noteworthy free agent forwards left, including Stephen Weiss, Martin Erat, Tomas Fleischmann, and Jiri Tlusty.
Failing that it gives the Devils an opportunity to have one of their younger players on the roster as New Jersey looks to show signs of progress offensively after spending three straight seasons in the bottom-five in the NHL in terms of goals per game.