Zach Parise is a minus-5 with zero points in his last four games, the worst stretch of his postseason at the most inopportune time for the New Jersey Devils. Their season could end with a Los Angeles Kings victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night; conversely, his tenure as a Devil could end as well.
Parise is the most offensively talented and accomplished unrestricted free agent since Ilya Kovalchuk; but unlike his Devils' teammate in Summer 2010, Parise appears to have an entire League's-worthy of options for his next contract.
Parise can expect offers modeled after the nine-year, $60 million contract Brad Richards signed last summer with the Rangers, under which the center is receiving $24 million the first two years, including a $10 million signing bonus last July and an $8 million signing bonus due next month.
Parise, who will turn 28 next month, could attract offers of up to 12 years. He will certainly receive front-loaded, bonus-laden offers from the Rangers and Red Wings, who have millions to spend and the inclination to do so.
The Wild will be in, though Parise might want to think more than twice about going home to join a team in which he would be the best player by leaps and bounds. The Sharks could be in. The Maple Leafs will be, though current general manager Brian Burke doesn't believe in front-loaded deals. The Bruins could become a serious contender. There will be others.
Here's another: The Los Angeles Kings.
Dan Arritt of ESPN believes that not re-signing Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll from the payroll would free up the funds to sign Parise this summer. The departure of Penner and the health concerns about Simon Gagne leave the Kings vulnerable on left wing, i.e. Parise's natural position.
The Kings beating the Devils in the Cup Final and then signing Parise is a "steal your wife and your dog" scenario; Parise to the Rangers, a move whose groundwork was already being laid by his father last round, would be like someone taking the wife, the dog, the house, the car, the shirt off your back and a kidney.
The Rangers have infamously gone after Devils free agents before: Bruce Driver, Scott Gomez, Bobby Holik among them. As Elliotte Friedman reported Monday, Patrik Elias went to the Rangers and had a verbal agreement on a deal before New York refused to give him a no-move clause back in 2006.
Parise's options are open. The sky's the limit contractually, in the last summer under this CBA.
Could he return to the Devils? Lou Lamoriello mixes a strong batch of Kool-Aid for his free agents. Will he return to the Devils? Chances are that when the Kings hoist the Cup in the next week, it will be the last time we see Parise in a New Jersey Devils sweater.
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