Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Gomez Rewarded Five Million, Wins Arbitration

It took a while but Scott Gomez won his case against the Devils. After almost two extra days, it was finally decided when an arbitrator ruled in favor of him- rewarding the 26 year-old center $5 million late Tuesday.

Coming off a career season in which he established new highs in goals (33) and points (84) in 82 regular season games, the former 1998 first round selection reportedly asked for $7 million after earning $2.2 in '05-06. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello countered with $4 million. So it wasn't a total loss for the GM despite the outcome.

"He's been an integral part of our success, no question," Lamoriello said Tuesday night after finally finding out the results. "He's an excellent hockey player, but we have a lot of excellent hockey players. So we'll do the best that we can."

The team executive is now on the clock. He'll have 48 hours to decide whether to accept the decision or allow Gomez to walk as a UFA.

Over his first six seasons, Gomez has been an integral part of two Devils' Cups in 2000 and 2003. For his career, he's tallied 103 goals, 287 assists for 390 points in 476 regular season games. In the postseason, he's registered 51 points (17-34-51) in 86 playoff contests. This past year, the number one pivot had five goals and four assists for nine points in nine games.

Despite what the Alaskan native brings to the table, it won't be easy for Lamoriello due to where his team's current payroll is. At present, the Devils are almost at the cap limit of $44 million (43.9 committed to 18 players). If Gomez' salary is accepted, it would put them way over with Group II FA's Brian Gionta, David Hale and Paul Martin still unsigned.

Under the current CBA agreement, a team is permitted to go 10 percent over the cap during the summer but must return to it by the beginning of the season. The '06-07 season gets underway October 4.

There's no question that if the Devils retain Gomez, they'll have to make some cost cutting deals to meet cap requirements. Part of that process could include finding takers for 2005 free agent failures Vlad Malakhov, Dan McGillis and Alexander Mogilny. The trio are set to make a combined $9.3 million.

While New Jersey could send down McGillis without being charged the cost ($2.2 million) due to his age (34), the same can't be said for Malakhov and Mogilny. The pair of 37 year-old Russians' entire contracts would count towards the cap because each signed multiyear deals when they were 35 or older. Even if both were released or sent to the minors, the Devils would still be on the hook for $7.1 million.

The one issue which Lamoriello might contend is whether or not Malakhov officially retired last December 19. If that was the case, New Jersey would get his $3.6 million salary off their cap. Don't count on it.

In the mean time, the Devils President and GM promises one thing.

"When the first day of the season comes, we will be where we need to be," he said.

The question becomes who will be on the roster. Stay tuned.

The AP contributed to this article.

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