Since the regular season began, one of the most obvious goals the Devils faithful hopes to see accomplished is seeing left wing Zach Parise signed to a long term extension, assuring he remains in a Devil’s uniform for a long time. Parise was quoted saying he didn’t expect to be offered a contract between this past summer and the end of the Devil’s 2010-2011 campaign. Despite being open to the idea, it’d be very uncharacteristic of Lamoriello. Lou broke out of his box with the moves he made this past off-season, but is yet to make that highly anticipated effort of securing the next projected franchise face.
Zach Parise has been out of action since late October and recovering from surgery he underwent in November. Parise is expected to be sidelined at least until March and could possibly be out the remainder of the season. It’s unlikely his return could turn this team around the way things are going, but wouldn’t one think the situation could come as a convenience and opportunity for Lamoriello to hammer out a long term deal for the young superstar? Parise could say one thing, but intend on doing another. Since the Devils were dismissed from the playoffs in the first round a third consecutive year, reports circulated that Parise was unhappy in New Jersey. Rumors of Parise being on the trade block prior to his injury could indicate this year’s surprisingly appalling campaign hasn’t helped matters of that nature.
We as fans will never know what’s actually happening behind the scenes. All we can do is speculate based on what we hear and what’s being reported. Having said that, it’s certain the fate of Zach Parise’s future in New Jersey puts the Devils in a versatile situation of extremes. In a perfect world, The Devils and Parise would have agreed on a long term extension after the Kovalchuk debacle concluded. I’m sure I can speak for the majority of the Devils faithful when I express my hopes of seeing this scenario translate to reality. The benefits Parise’s game features are obvious. He’s an established star sniper in the league, an ideal team player, and captain material. All that aside, securing Parise’s long term future has a lot more meaning. Zach is the complete package of what the New Jersey Devils are all about. He continues the Devil’s trend of drafting talent and developing it through their system. The kid’s a class act, gives a hundred percent every shift every night he plays, and is an ideal symbol of continual success for the organization, especially with the career of fading star Martin Brodeur approaching its end.
Right now, you have to wonder if ownership is breathing down Lou Lamoriello’s neck yet again. The Devils have advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs only twice since their 2003 Stanley Cup championship and are currently poised for a lottery selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, whereas at this time in recent years, they’d be in the hunt for first overall in the Eastern Conference. If Lamoriello is unsuccessful in re-signing Parise, whose long term certainty with the team is more significant than that of Ilya Kovalchuk’s, based on the reasons I mentioned earlier, could that be the final nail in the coffin for Lamoriello? Would he be dismissed by ownership, forced to resign, or retire? I’d say it’s improbable, but not impossible. A player like Parise comes around in an organization once in a blue moon and I think I’ve already clarified how much of a no brainer it would be to assure he sticks around New Jersey for years to come.
The repercussions of his departure would be devastating. The Devils have Ilya Kovalchuk locked up for the remainder of his career, Patrik Elias can still play, and Mattias Tedenby is the most promising prospect since Parise and Zajac. Does this make Parise expendable? No. By losing Parise, not only do the Devils lose a forty-goal scorer, but they lose their identity as well. This all comes back to what I said before about Parise becoming the next face of the franchise. Yes, Ilya Kovalchuk will still be around, but his meaning to the organization and how he came about is completely different than Parise’s story. I guess what I’m trying to get at it Parise is someone the Devils can’t afford to lose, at least for nothing. He’s a justification that the Devil’s philosophy of winning and developing talent has remained successful over the years that will keep the team competitive.
As I said, there might not be anything the Devils can do to get Parise to stay in New Jersey. Although the rumors about Parise being unhappy and wanting to play elsewhere, were just rumors, what if there’s some truth to them? How many players have we seen Lamoriello let walk in the free agent market over the past decade for nothing? Given, the Devils may have recovered from the losses in time and those players went on to achieve little, if any success with their new teams, their departures looked pretty bad at the time. Names like Alexander Mogilny, Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, and Brian Rafalski come to mind. Whether Parise signs an offer sheet the Devils refuse to match or walks away in 2012, I can say in confidence he would be the worst loss this team suffers at the hands of free agency under Lamoriello’s watch. I guess if the Devils have a shot at contention that’s a different story, but would you rather see Lou deal away Zach if he’s unwilling to remain in the organization and will walk away for nothing?
Don’t overlook Parise’s trade value and the quantity of potential suitors. Obviously, the return would be huge and the type of return could vary. Whether the Devils intend to rebuild and obtain top prospects and picks or exchange talent for talent, I can’t see them being on the losing end of this type of deal. Hopefully, it won’t come to this. As I keep saying, the Devils would lose more than just a forty-goal scorer, which is a lot to begin with, regardless of whatever they’d have coming in exchange. If Parise has no intention of remaining with the organization however, then there’s so much Lamoriello can do.
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Written by Mike Luciano