NHL notebook: Zajac gets 8-year deal from Devils

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 7:06 p.m.

After losing Zach Parise to free agency, the New Jersey Devils didn't make the same mistake with center Travis Zajac.

Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract with the Devils on Wednesday, ending any chance that New Jersey would lose its No. 1 center after this season.

Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said the two sides had started to work on the new contract before the NHL lockout began in September. They finished it after the league and its players finalized a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement earlier this month.

An Achilles' injury limited Zajac, 27, to 15 regular-season games last year, but the Winnipeg native stepped up in the playoffs and scored seven goals in helping New Jersey reach the Stanley Cup finals.

Zajac scored 20 goals in 2008-09 and 25 the following year before slipping to 13 in 2010-11. The injury limited him to two in the regular season last year.

Kovalchuk returns to Devils

Superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk is back with the New Jersey Devils.

The high-scoring Russian participated in a scrimmage against the Devils' top minor league team Wednesday, scoring a goal and adding an assist.

While there was much speculation whether Kovalchuk would return to the Devils after playing in the KHL during the NHL's lockout, Kovalchuk said there was never a doubt in his mind that he would play for the Devils if a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.

Blues' GM gets 5-year deal

The St. Louis Blues, coming off a 109-point season, signed general manager Doug Armstrong to a five-year contract extension.

Armstrong was the NHL general manager of the year last season as the Blues won their first Central Division title since 2000.

Local players demoted

The Anaheim Ducks returned goaltender John Gibson, a Whitehall native, to Kitchener (OHL) and sent defenseman Nate Guenin, a Hopewell graduate, to Norfolk (AHL).

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