In a word? Good.
Might be too damn bad for those fans that have perennially pointed to his production, or lack thereof, in refusing to adequately appreciate his underrated-but-undeniable impact on the vast majority of the thousand+ games he's played for one franchise. Regardless, Travis Zajac refusing the potential opportunity to take his subtly solid skillset somewhere that could actually make use of it when it matters may have saved the New Jersey Devils from themselves. That’s more than likely a sizable overstatement, as #19 could theoretically be closer to the 'Ring of Honor' than the active roster by the time this godforsaken group totally turns things around anyway, but it hardly offsets how understated his contributions have been for well over a decade.
It’s impossible to predict what a player who does all the little things at a high level could be worth to a prospective playoff team as the deadline approaches. However, the hefty contract that Travis Zajac is carrying through next season leads me to believe that he’s more invaluable to a young team that already lacks leadership than he is valuable to suitors that presumably aren’t open to paying a premium for someone who is optimally a bottom-six option. The way I see it, with a once proud organization currently in a state of (what the…) flux, losing a veteran who consistently sets the perfect example and - bless his big, stupid heart - actually wants to stay in New Jersey would be a bigger subtraction than any addition you could reasonably expect to get in return.
To be blunt about it, what we’ve seen out of the Devils this year is something that’s trending dangerously close to being considered Oilers East, but without the transcendent, equalizing force that is Connor McDavid. Point being, with things being about as stable as a three-legged table as is, moving a proven pillar of consistency whose latest act of getting his hands dirty was in planting the seeds of defensive security that have allowed Blake Coleman and Nikita Gusev to flourish offensively seems silly. Travis Zajac just finds a way to make things work, despite there being very little wizardry to his game. Therefore, I think it goes without saying that a team that canned their head coach, traded their best player, and gave their GM his walking papers all before the All Star break of a once promising season could probably benefit from the prolonged presence of a player that's long helped remedy chaos by playing the right way.
The gift and the curse of intangibles is that they can’t be measured, but what can be counted - on JPP’s fuse-lighting hand, no less - is the amount of versatile, experienced, and trustworthy commodities throughout a developing Devils’ lineup that certainly isn’t going to mentor itself. Nico Hischier might be wearing the 'C' before you can say "boo", as he is progressing towards the captaincy at a rate that makes Taylor Hall's fall from the good graces of Devils' fans seem slow. At the end of the day, however, he's just a kid with one absolute pummeling of a playoff series under his belt that could continue to learn a lot about being an unwaveringly positive influence on the room from a guy who continues to go through hell with the Devils while still proudly calling New Jersey home.
I wouldn’t have blamed Travis Zajac for a split second if he decided he were open to giving himself a realistic chance at winning a Stanley Cup elsewhere, even if that elsewhere did hit a bit too close to home. With that said, I appreciate the hell out of him being stubbornly loyal, far more than likely to a fault, towards a franchise whose rafters are lined with evidence, albeit circumstantial, of that sort of thing mattering to the process of building a winning team.
"New Jersey is where I want to be" might inspire more optimism coming from the mouth of a player that represents the Devils' foreseeable future, as opposed to a predominantly depressing past and present, but I'm just glad someone finally offered such a desire something a little more convincing than lip service.