The New Jersey Devils finally made a significant move to address their point-starved, cap-crunched roster, placing veteran forward Brian Rolston on waivers Tuesday. And given the reaction of GM Lou Lamoriello, it was not a move he at all wanted to make.
Per Tom Gulitti's Fire and Ice blog, Lamoriello stated the move was necessitated by the financial shackles that have constrained the team since the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk this summer. Neither Rolston's play (four points in 15 games this season) nor his attitude contributed to the decision, according to the GM.
“There is no better person in the room, no one with a more positive attitude,” Lamoriello said. “That’s what makes decisions like this so difficult. But I have to make some decisions. I can’t justify the payroll where we’re at with the results we’ve had and this is one of the decisions.”
With a season and a half remaining on a contract that pays him a little over $5 million per season (according to CapGeek.com), it seems doubtful that any team will claim him at full price. If that's the case, Lamoriello said that Rolston will play with the team Wednesday against Phoenix. However, once Rolston clears waivers, the team will have the option of placing him in the minors and relieve themselves of his $5M cap hit, a huge windfall for a team that has been flush against the cap ceiling all season long. (I forgot Rolston's contract is a 35+ deal, meaning the Devs won't lose his cap hit even in the minors. Thanks to E.J. Hradek for the quick correction.)
The threat of playing in the minors, from which Rolston may never emerge given his albatross-like contract, may help convince the forward to waive his no-trade clause though, allowing Lamoriello to get some kind of return for him. I wouldn't be surprised to hear Rolston's name floated in a few trade rumors in the next few days. If he's placed on re-entry waivers, teams will be able to claim him for half-price and the Devils will have to pay the other half of his salary. And for what it's worth, the estimable Hradek believes the Devils wouldn't even hint at sending Rolston to Albany, as treating a well-liked vet in such a way could hurt them with future free-agent signings.