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Zach Parise signs with Wild / What’s Next for Devils?

Posted By Mike Mastrandrea On Jul 5 2012 @ 4:04 pm In New Jersey Devils | 1 Comment

New Jersey has been through this kind of thing before.

Scott Neidermayer left to play with his brother in Anaheim in 2005. Brian Rafalski bolted for Hockey Town in 2007. Scott Gomez went across the river for the riches and spoils of New York (at this point, good riddance) also in 2007. Brian Gionta bit at the chance to play in Montreal in 2009. All these big name players the Devils once had were all major contributors and team leaders to the franchise.

Now, in 2012, the Devils captain and 2003 1st round draft pick Zach Parise has left the team he led to a Stanley Cup birth this past season for his home in Minnesota to play for the Wild.

Parise signed a 13 year, $98 million deal on Wednesday, along with friend and former Nashville Predator Ryan Suter. The two apparently have been talking throughout the process and desired to play with each other on the same team, if it were possible. It was in fact possible, and the Minnesota Wild was the team to make it happen. The move makes the Wild immediate contenders in the Northwest Division, as well as the Western Conference. With players like Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, goalie Niklas Backstrom, and now Parise and Suter, the Wild have a nice foundation to make a run now and in the future.

After the decision finally surfaced, Parise revealed that it was between Minnesota and New Jersey, and that it was extremely difficult in making a final decision. What it really came down to for Zach was the chance to play in his home state in front of his family and with one of his best friends in Suter. Parise expressed his love for New Jersey and had no regrets about his time with the team, but he couldn’t pass up the chance to play at home. A report came out saying that if Suter decided to play for Detroit, who offered him $90 million over 10 years, Parise would have returned to New Jersey. Seeing this could only drive all anger for Devils fans toward Suter, but in the end, it worked out perfectly for the two stars and upsetting for those loyal to both the Devils and Predators.

Parise’s deal is a front-loaded one, meaning that he will get the big bucks in the earlier years of his long-term contract. It will look like this over the 13 years:

$12 million, $12 million, $11 million, $9 million, $9 million, $9 million, $9 million, $9 million, $8 million, $6 million, $2 million, $1 million, $1 million. Parise will also get  $25 million in a signing bonus.

Devils fans were heartbroken for the second time in 2 months with this decision, following their Stanley Cup final loss in early June. Parise was the heart and soul of a Devils team that surprised many this year. Parise has been consistent during his time in New Jersey, posting 5 30-or-more goal seasons, and a great leader, as shown by his captaincy this past season. He was the type of player Devils fans have known and loved during their existence as a franchise, and to see him leave is going to sting for quite some time.

Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello stated that there is “no replacement for Zach Parise.” He will be greatly missed in New Jersey, both from a leadership and scoring standpoint, and from this, the Devils have a huge hole to fill as well as a vacant captain spot. Some early contenders for the captaincy this upcoming season are former captain Patrik Elias, blue-liner Andy Greene, and Devil-for-life Ilya Kovalchuk. In my opinion, I believe the captaincy will be given to Kovalchuk. When he signed his 15-year deal, the Devils immediately planned the future of the franchise around him. With Parise now gone, it’s Kovalchuk’s team.

As for the hole in the roster due to the loss of Parise, it is unknown what the Devils will do to fill it. New Jersey has just over $16 million in cap room, so they can be spenders if they choose. Who they will go after and how they do it, through free agency or trading, is the big question. Its obvious the Devils have to do something to attempt to replace the production Parise brought on a regular basis. Some players that come to mind and stand out to me from the remaining free agency crop are Alex Semin of Washington, Shane Doan of Phoenix, Kristian Huselius of Columbus, Peter Mueller of Colorado, and Andrei Kostitsyn of Nashville.

Another route would be via trade, and one name that stands out to me is Bobby Ryan of Anaheim. Ryan has expressed his desire to leave Anaheim, and has preferred Philadelphia, but with General Manager Lou Lamoriello, you never know what he has up his sleeve for his Devils. Ryan is a native of New Jersey, and a return home would be more than ideal for the Devils franchise and its fans. No one can replace Parise, that is a fact, but at this point, New Jersey has to do something to fill the hole Parise dug for them.

Parise returns to New Jersey Sunday, November 11 when the Devils face the Wild at the Prudential Center. Mark your calendars.

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