ANCHORAGE - Scott Gomez, Alaska's most accomplished hockey player, has agreed to a two-year contract with the New Jersey Devils and will end his brief holdout.
Sources told the Anchorage Daily News that the deal will pay Gomez $2.4 million.
Gomez, 22, who was a restricted free agent, said he came to terms with the Devils about noon Friday and expected to sign his second professional contract upon his arrival Saturday in New Jersey.
"It's like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders," Gomez said. "I'm excited. I'm like a little kid again. I've got my job, my stall, everything waiting for me."
The deal represents a substantial raise for the 2000 NHL Rookie of the Year, who last season made $700,000 in salary and a prorated signing bonus. Gomez's entry-level contract paid him $2.1 million over three seasons.
Gomez's new deal will make him eligible for salary arbitration in 2004. In arbitration, a player and his team each submit salary numbers to an independent arbitrator, who then determines how much the player will make.
"It's a good deal for me," Gomez said. "I get arbitration in two years. When you're a young guy, arbitration is kind of your real free agency. (The deal) wasn't exactly what I first wanted, but it gets me on the ice, and that's the important thing."
The Devils underwent physicals at their training camp Thursday and began practices Friday. Gomez expects to begin practicing Sunday. He expects his teammates to shower him with good-natured sarcasm over his brief holdout.
Signing a deal and getting to camp is critical for Gomez because the Devils have a new coach in Pat Burns and have undergone significant roster turnover since last season. Gomez is coming off a broken left hand, which he suffered late last regular season.
The Devils selected Gomez, the former East High and Alaska All-Stars star, 27th overall in the first round of the 1998 NHL draft. He made the Devils coming out of training camp in 1999, led all NHL rookies with 70 points, earned a spot in the All-Star Game, helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup and collected the Calder Trophy as the league's Rookie of the Year.
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