He may be 36 years old, but Bryce Salvador found he was more in demand than ever before when NHL free agency began on Canada Day.
But after weighing multiple offers from a plethora of teams, the veteran 6-foot-2, 220-pound defenceman followed goaltender Marty Brodeur’s lead and chose to stay with the New Jersey Devils, signing a new three-year contract worth US$9.5 million on Tuesday.
Coming off a Stanley Cup final appearance and the best playoff performance of his career, Salvador had hoped to stay put and was happy that the Devils’ deal matched the best offers he had received from other NHL clubs.
“Right from the start, (re-signing with New Jersey) was my first choice, but I didn’t know if it was going to work out that way,” Salvador said via cellphone from Minneapolis where he trains in the off-season. “There were a lot of unanswered questions there ... but yeah, I’m happy the way it worked. It was quite flattering the offers that were out there and the interest from around the league. To go from where I was two years ago to having this kind of a response was flattering.”
After missing the entire 2010-11 season with a serious and rare inner-ear concussion, Salvador returned to the league in style in 2011-12, playing in all 82 regular-season games in his 10th season in the NHL, notching nine assists and 77 penalty minutes with a solid +18 plus/minus rating. The usually defensive-minded defenceman then turned it on in the playoffs, firing four goals and racking up 14 points with a +9 plus/minus rating in 24 playoff games to finish second among all NHL blue-liners in playoff scoring as New Jersey knocked out Florida, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers before falling to the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the Stanley Cup final.
“It was a great season and it’s been an interesting past few years and I have learned a lot personally and I realize I have a lot of hockey left and that’s the encouraging thing,” said Salvador, who played all of his minor hockey in the Wheat City before leaving when he was 16 to join the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. “I feel good.”
Salvador said it was easy coming to terms with New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello.
“My relationship with Lou, I said I would come back to him before I signed anything and that was the case ... I was about to make a decision and called Lou and we talked and they valued me the same as the offers I was getting. And Marty re-signed, so that was great, too.”
In addition to Brodeur, the Devils also signed backup netminder Johan Hedberg as well as defenceman Peter Harrold and the fourth line of Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter.
The big question, however, remains whether unrestricted free-agent captain Zach Parise will re-sign with the Devils.
“Yeah, that’s the hundred million dollar question probably, right?” said Salvador.
ICINGS: Former Brandon Wheat Kings left-winger Rob Klinkhammer, who played half a season for Brandon in 2007, has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 4, 2012