We are now in day two of the post Zach Parise era for the New Jersey Devils. And you know what? While it stinks as a fan, you can’t cry over spilled milk, what’s done is done, etc. You just have to accept it and move forward. But, before I do move forward, I’d like to take one more look back, and give my take on what I thought happened here, who might be to blame and what the Devils might look to do going forward.
There is no doubt money was an obvious factor in the process. Parise didn’t try to hide that fact, but let’s get a little perspective here for a minute. While the Philadelphia Flyers were rumored to have offered the most money, I think it is at least a fair guess the Devils’ offer was not as high as Minnesota’s, so while money certainly was a factor, it wasn’t the primiary factor. I truly do believe it wasn’t about the money. There was definitely a lot more at work here. First, GM Lou Lamoriello claimed Parise’s agent never came back to the Devils inquiring about more money for his client. In fact, it was pretty clear that Parise had a difficult time choosing between the Devils and Wild. It seems obvious to me that Ryan Suter and Zach Parise shared the idea of playing together in the NHL for quite some time, but probably figured it was a fantasy that never would happen. However, the offers came fast and furious from all sides. It’s said Parise had interest from 20 teams and received 16 or 17 offers.
During the season, Suter and Parise had thought about it and thought about it, but Suter limited the field by not wanting to come East. His wife is from Minnesota and Suter had no interest to join the Eastern Conference, preferring to stay in the West, and had strong interest from Minnesota and Detroit. For Parise, it seems the only real interest was either to remain in New Jersey or to go “back home” to Minnesota. See the overlap? It seems Parise valued playing with his friendship and returning home, more so than the enjoyment and comfort he had from playing in New Jersey. I don’t think it comes down to much more than that.
However, one thing to remember is the New Jersey Devils never should have let a player of Zach Parise’s caliber come anywhere close to reaching unrestricted free agency, and it backfired big time, as Zach Parise now leaves the only NHL organization he’s been a part of since he was drafted 17th overall back in 2003. It wasn’t hard to see it coming, in fact, I documented it two years ago back in June 2010, that the Devils should have taken care of Zach when they had the chance. When you have a player of Parise’s caliber, you don’t give him a chance to leave.
While the Devils bent over backwards to sig Ilya Kovalchuk TWICE to long-term deals in 2010, they passed on offering an extension to Parise. They passed on extending Parise’s contract, while other teams like the Flyers gave long-term extensions to Jeff Carter and Mike Richards (ironic, huh?) and the Carolina Hurricanes with Eric Staal. There are a host of other 2003 draftees that have been locked up long before they hit free agency, such as Brent Seabrook, Marc-Andre Fleury, Dustin Brown and Dion Phaneuf, amongst others. The Devils had their chance last off-season once again, when Parise hit restricted free agency. Once again, the Devils and Parise only could came to terms on a one-year deal. Well kids, when you play with fire, sometimes you get burnt, and that’s what happened to the Devils, when Parise hit unrestricted free agency and decided to go home, signing a 13-year, $98 million contract to play with the Minnesota Wild, alongside his childhood friend Ryan Suter. I can’t imagine Parise wouldn’t have been willing to sign a long-term deal alongside Ilya Kovalchuk back in the summer of 2010, or even last off-season when he signed a one-year deal. And now, the Devils will be hardpressed to try and replace his skill and leadership.
Now the question for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to answer and address is how are the Devils going to replace Zach Parise? The free agent market is pretty thin, with the likes of Alexander Semin and Peter Mueller leading the way as possible forwards to sign. With the re-signing of Bryce Salvador, its possible the Devils could look to move a defenseman as part of a package to bring in a potential top-9 forward. Or, they can bank on Mattias Tedenby or Steve Bernier grabbing a hold of the opportunity available to them and helping to fill the top-9 spot.
As it stands now, the top 9 forwards will be filled with the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, David Clarkson, Patrik Elias, Jacob Josefson, and Dainius Zubrus, leaving two spots open. One could potentially go to Petr Sykora if he is brought back as a free agent, after scoring 21 goals for the Devils this season. It’s that 9th spot that likely needs to be filled. My guess? At this point, I expect a trade of a D-man (whether it’s Mark Fayne, Andy Greene, Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder I will leave to Lamoriello to decide) for a forward. There might need to be a prospect and/or pick included depending on what forward is acquired, but that’s my guess.
My hope would be the Devils to give Alexander Semin a 1-year deal for maybe $6.5 million to play alongside Ilya Kovalchuk and add his scoring punch to help replace Zach Parise’s offense. I’d say its unlikely to happen, but then again, Lamoriello sometimes does the type of move you least expect.
It’s been a dark week for the New Jersey Devils, but as long as Lou Lamoriello is in charge, you still have confidence that he will do what needs to be done to field a competitive team that is put into a position to be successful on an annual basis and there’s no reason to think he won’t do what needs to get done to ensure the Devils remain in the hunt next season and beyond.
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About the Author: Father, Husband, Fantasy Sports junkie, Section 3 season ticket holder - NJ Devils, New Jersey Devils Writer - HockeyIndependent.com