1,024 games played ranks 4th among the Devils franchise, 202 goals rank 3rd most, 550 points also 3rd most, and a game-winning overtime goal in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals that would keep the Devils season alive and kick start a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Travis Zajac was far from an offensive threat, but his ability to lockdown the opposing team’s best player and win a faceoff when you needed it is what made him a good Devil. Zajac was not the star player fans dream about having, but he was a quality NHL player that General Managers love to have on their squads.
Is Zajac going to have his number hung up in the rafters? Most likely not. However, the mark he’s left on this franchise is imprinted all over the franchise’s record books, imprinted into the Rock, and has been a mentor and a friend to all the teammates he’s had over his 15-year career. Every Devils fan can tell you where they were when they watched Travis Zajac put one five-hole on Scott Clemmensen. Undoubtedly the biggest goal of Zajac’s career, but my favorite of his was a garbage goal that came 25 seconds into a matchup with the Rangers back in 2018. Maintaining a playoff spot in early April for the first time since 2012, the Devils were facing the Rangers and needed every point possible down the stretch. I sat in a gas station parking lot watching one of the biggest games of the year on my phone as Zajac slid one past Lundqvist and let out a holler that set the tone of the game. The Devils went on to win 5-2 and clinched a playoff spot the next game, but Zajac’s goal is what made the playoffs seem like more of a reality than a dream.
The 15-year vet was known around the league for his defensive ability, just ask Sidney Crosby. Of course, nobody can contain prime Sidney Crosby, but Zajac did as good of a job as any. Crosby has played the most games against the Rangers, Devils, Islanders, and Flyers. Among those four, Crosby has scored 122 points against the Islanders, 115 against the Flyers, 96 against the Rangers, and 84 points in 74 games against the Devils for the future Hall-of-Famer. While 84 points in 74 games aren’t anything to write home about, remember the Devils were one of the worst teams in the last decade, but thanks to Zajac, he lessened the pain big time.
The two-way centerman, drafted in 2004 at the age of 19, the now 36-year-old Zajac isn’t ready to leave the Devils franchise just yet as he joins the front office as an on/off ice-player development and consulting role. On March 10, Travis’s hometown team, the Winnipeg Jets, come to Newark as the Devils will be acknowledging his career.
“Photo: BRUCE BENNETT / GETTY IMAGES”