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Brendan Shanahan will soon join the Devils, a team he played against last season when he skated for the New York Rangers. ((Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) )

Brendan Shanahan is heading back to the New Jersey Devils, the team he started his NHL career with more than 20 years ago.

Shanahan has been an unrestricted free agent since July after his one-year deal with the New York Rangers expired. He had been looking for a new squad since and had spoken to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season.

"Brendan Shanahan has agreed in principle to join the New Jersey Devils," general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. "He will begin skating on his own and join the team at a date to be determined."

Contract details still have to be worked out in the coming days, but Lamoriello doesn't expect that to be a problem.

The forward, who turns 40 later this month, is 11th on the NHL career goal list with 650. Shanahan spent four seasons with the Devils before joining the St. Louis Blues as a free agent in 1991.

He also played a major role in the Devils' three titles between 1995 and 2003, but wasn't there for any of the championships. An eight-time all-star, Shanahan won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002, the same year he won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada.

Shanahan hoped to remain with the Rangers, who knocked out New Jersey in the first round of last season's playoffs, after becoming an unrestricted free agent, but Shanahan grew tired of waiting for an offer.

He had discussions with the Devils in September, Lamoriello said, but the timing wasn't right to sign him.

"I have tremendous respect for what Brendan can bring and what he has brought," Lamoriello said. "The major impetus of this was to bring [him] to our power play and specialty teams, which has really been a forte of his in recent years.

"We felt extremely strong that Brendan could add to that, plus what he brings to the overall lineup with experience."

Shanahan also talked to the Philadelphia Flyers.

"He certainly will not be rushed into anything," Lamoriello said during a conference call. "The coaches will determine when he is ready. I do not feel that age is a factor. I have had players who were 25 going on 50 and players who were 35 going on 25. I feel that Brendan is in the latter part."

Shanahan scored 23 goals in 73 games last season but finished with only 46 points, his lowest total in a full year since his rookie season of 1987-88. Lamoriello didn't have an explanation for the offensive dropoff, but also didn't express any concern.

He was instead impressed with Shanahan's work ethic and his physical condition.

"He has always been a player that takes care of himself. He looks in great shape. We feel very comfortable with that," Lamoriello said. "Right now we have an opportunity to add a player without subtracting and get a better feel for who we are. We can always get younger players still in here."

The Devils entered Saturday night's game at Los Angeles having lost two straight and three of five, leaving them third in the tight Atlantic Division race with a 23-14-3 record.

They were beaten 4-0 at home by lowly Atlanta on Thursday and have scored only 12 goals in five games.