There is no question that if Zach Parise makes it to July 1st without a contract, and without an arbitrator appointment, he will receive substantial interest from clubs willing to part with draft picks in order to procure his services. To make matters worse for the Devils, the league seems to be conspiring against them, making it even more affordable for teams to utilize the dreaded offer sheet. The new compensation terms will allow offer sheets that pay a player 7.8 million and less to return only a pair of first round picks in the following two drafts. Previously, a contract that size would have cost the signing team four consecutive 1st round draft picks.
Fuelling the fire even further, Darren Dreger reports tonight on the James Cybulski Show that the Devils would not be able to match an offer sheet of 7 million dollars or more. Whether that is because of cap or salary considerations, or both, was unclear.
You can listen to that interview here: http://www.tsn.ca/radio/
Why Would Parise Leave Jersey? Why Would They Let Him?
This is where speculation comes into play, but you have to think there is a reason a player of Parise’s calibre is not locked up yet. It might have something to do with the major injury he sustained this year that saw him miss the bulk of the season. It might be the fact that the same ownership who has sold him on reduced contracts ‘for the good of the team’, and the idea that no player is above the logo (this is the club that gave away Scott Niedermayer’s number the second he left), turned around and signed Ilya Kovalchuk to one of the biggest contracts in the history of the league. It’s hard to imagine that signing not blindsiding Parise. It was reported last summer that Parise attempted to start negotiations with the Devils’ brass on numerous occasions, but was constantly denied. Eventually, he fired his agent and brought in new representation. After paying his dues with the organization, ownership chose to invest the bulk of their money into an enigmatic Russian sniper.
So there is certainly reason to believe that Parise is at least mildly perturbed by the situation. Is that enough to cause the star to depart though? Well, Parise won’t have complete control over the situation. According to Zach himself, the Devils have not even approached him with a contract offer yet. They may not have to though, as they have the right to file for arbitration. Doing so would take Parise off the restricted free agent market. However, the Devils would then have to sign him for whatever the arbitrator awards, or walk away from him and receive nothing. If the arbitrator awarded a salary the Devils could not afford, they would have put themselves in very risky situation.
Read the latest on the situation here: http://crashthecrease.com/2011/05/20/zach-parise-contract-talks-update/
Who Might Be Interested?
First of all, it should be said that pretty much every team would be interested in adding Zach Parise to their line-up. This is a player who has the potential to be one of the top five stars in the NHL. While everyone might be interested, some may actually have the assets, money and cap space to move on that interest. Not only that, but Parise will have a huge say in where he goes, so any team inquiring must also have the necessary allure to convince Parise to turn his back on the Devils.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Brian Burke and Ron Wilson are two of the biggest parts of American hockey, and have had a few experiences with Zach Parise. Ron Wilson claims that in the right system (his own), Parise would easily rival Crosby for the title of best player in the world. The Leafs lack a 3rd round pick in 2012 to make a formal offer sheet, but given Burke’s close friendship with Lou Lamiorello, the two could probably work at a deal and avoid that scene all together. Burke already did this with another friend, Peter Chiarelli, when he acquired Phil Kessel. While the Leafs are not currently looking for a top line left winger, Parise is the kind of player Burke would put ‘the plan’ on hold for. You only get so many chances at a player like Parise. From the player’s perspective, Toronto would quickly make Parise a hockey hero, and put the Kovalchuk snub in the rear view mirror.
Not to be outdone by their Original Six counterparts, the Canadiens are sure to want in on any conversations about Zach Parise. With a nice American base in their top six forwards (Gomez, Gionta, Pacioretty), Parise would fit right in. It’s no secret either that the Habs are desperately lacking scoring punch. The Habs have the assets to make this kind of deal without thinking about it too long, or too hard. They have young players like Josh Gorges, Yannick Weber and Andrei Kostitsyn who they could package with several high end picks and prospects.
New York Rangers
Cap wise, fitting Parise in and signing a top line center won’t be the easiest task for the New York Rangers. However, the Rags have been stockpiling young talent for some time now, and been very prudent with their picks. It’s quite possible they put all their patience and development to use, and cash in for a superstar winger. Tradeable assets (on top of the obvious draft picks required), would include winger Wojtek Wolski, defencemen Mike Del Zotto, center Artem Anisimov, and prospects Evgeni Grachev and Chris Kreider. If they can make the financial logistics work, they have the assets to get the deal done. Would Parise really snub the Devils in such a backhanded manner though? Signing with a divisional rival would be a huge slap in the face. It probably depends on how slighted he feels about the Kovalchuk contract (if at all). Scott Gomez was the last devil to pull that stunt – it didn’t work out so well for him.
New York Islanders
With Moulson, Grabner and Okposo locked up to affordable deals for the foreseeable future, the Islanders have turned to negotiating an extension with the face of the franchise – John Tavares. What better way to convince him to sign on the dotted line than to bring in an elite winger for him to play with. Thanks to the back-loaded nature of the Okposo and Grabner contracts, the Islanders may have cash at their disposal for the first time in a long time. Moreover, the progress the Isles made during the regular season this year was evident to all. At some point, the Islanders are going to have to try and take a big leap forward, and this summer may be the time.
The Blues are in the process of reshaping their roster. High profile youngsters like T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund are negotiating new deals. That said, the Blues face a similar situation that the Islanders do. They’ve been slowly improving forever, and at some point, need to take a risk and try to move the franchise forward, and into the playoffs. Now could be the time, and St.Louis could be another surprise entrant in the Zach Parise sweepstakes. St.Louis is a city few seem to consider, but once players land there, they rarely leave. The Blues might look to deal prospect Vladimir Tarasenko, who reportedly turned down an offer that included guaranteed NHL ice time. He has decided to stay in the KHL for now. Could Parise propel the Blues into the next stage of their development?
Detroit Red Wings
If Niklas Lidstrom follows Brian Rafalski into retirement, the Red Wings will have an enormous chunk of cap space to work with. Obviously, the team will have to spend some money rebuilding their defence first and foremost, but even after doing so, the Wings could probably still fit Parise in without much worry. Is there a more attractive franchise to play for in the league? This club just wins. Year after year they shred the competition, and end up being a threat in the playoffs. Parise would help turn back the clock on the otherwise aging Wings. As for the draft picks necessary for compensation, well, the Red Wings almost never pick in the first round anyways. Would they even notice the absence of the picks?
As you can see, Parise is going to have options. There will almost certainly be a bidding war for his services, Where do you think he will end up this summer? Leave me a comment – Let me know!