By Dave Turner
If I had told you that the Devils would finish 9th in overall power play percentage in 2013-14 without No.17, a year after finishing 21st overall WITH Ilya Kovalchuk, you’d think I was crazy.
Well, as perplexing as it may seem, the Devils did finish in the top-ten in power play percentage during the regular season. A lot of that was in part to Marek Zidlicky and his ability to both distribute and shoot the puck. With that, the Devils announced yesterday that they have signed the Czech defenseman to a one-year contract worth up to $4 million. He will receive $3 million base salary and can reach another million in bonuses if he plays 25 games this upcoming season. He also has a no-trade clause.
From the back end, Zidlicky was a catalyst. Defensively, his numbers aren’t great. Considering that he pumped in 42 points, his Corsi numbers point to the fact that he wasn’t great defensively. Opposing teams still attempted a good amount of shots while he was on the ice, compared to what he produced.
That being said, Zidlicky was an important part of the team and will need to be once again in 2014-2015. Though the penalty minutes are high and his defensive shortcomings are apparent, the Czech D-man can do things in terms of moving the puck that no one else on this roster can do. For a team that is constantly starving for any sort of offensive production, his defensive downside is worth the tremendous upside he brings in the other team’s zone.
Despite the repercussions of his aggressive play of offense and the surplus of penalties he takes, the Devils need him. There’s a reason why they gave him the $4 million. If they didn’t think he was worth keeping around, they wouldn’t have signed him so early on in the offseason.
I’m not going to tell you that everything is going to be rosy with Zids out of the back end this season. He’ll be 38 on February 3rd and at that juncture, his level of play and ability to stay healthy always creep into the picture. 42 points is a very strong season for a defenseman and considering that the Devils will go into the 2014-2015 season as a team that will continue to lack goal scoring, it might be lofty to expect him to crack the 40-point margin again. 35 points would be a good season from him.
The contract is one that certainly allows for him to be at ease, but for the Devils to be protected against an injury. He has a $1 million dollar bonus if he plays 25 games, yet he has a no-trade clause.
For the former Minnesota Wild defenseman, who reportedly took a shorter deal to stay with the Devils last season, it’s a welcomed respite from the mass-exodus that has taken place in New Jersey over the last three seasons. Clearly, the fact that he has taken shorter pacts and signed so quickly proves that he wants to be here in NJ.
With Zidlicky back in the fold as the point man on the power play, now it’s up to Lou Lamoriello and the Devils to start piecing together a roster that can guide this team back to the playoffs. Jaromir Jagr and Zidlicky were the first part; now it’s on to the draft and the July 1 free agency period.