It has been about 24 hours since Zach Parise, former captain of the New Jersey Devils, finally made his decision to go home and play with the Minnesota Wild. After spending seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Parise signed with the hometown Wild for $98 million over 13 years after friend Ryan Suter (formerly of the Nashville Predators) signed for the same. As Puck Daddy mentions, this is similar to when Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne joined up with the Colorado Avalanche in 2003. The difference is that both of those players took huge pay cuts to play together. Both Parise and Suter go from playing for playoff contenders to a team that finished 12th in the Western Conference last season. The Wild have not made the playoffs since 2008.
It is a big blow to the New Jersey Devils. While Parise did not exactly put up great numbers in the playoffs, he did captain the team to the Stanley Cup Finals where they came up just two games short. For all intents and purposes, he was the heart and soul of the team. While his loss will obviously be felt, the Devils have had other big free agent losses (such as Scott Niedermayer) and continued to be a winning franchise.
So, where do the New Jersey Devils go from here? They still have a lot of cap space but will they replace Parise's 30 goals in free agency? Alexander Semin and Shane Doan are the big names left. Despite his age, Doan might be the best fit for the Devils as he plays a gritty, two-way game and is good for around 20 goals per season. Would he ever leave the Phoenix Coyotes, though? If the Devils do not pursue anyone else in free agency, there are trade options such as Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and Columbus' Rick Nash. Both will cost a lot (trade-wise and money-wise), though. The Devils will likely have to look from within and hope that a youngster like Mattias Tedenby can mature and stick with the big club for the whole year. If not, general manager Lou Lamoriello could always pull the trigger on a mid-season trade, as well.
A bigger question now might be who will become the new captain of the New Jersey Devils? Ilya Kovalchuk makes the most sense since he is their best player, is signed for a very long time and was captain already with the Atlanta Thrashers. The team might not want to put all of that pressure onto one player, though. Another option could be veteran defenseman Bryce Salvador who is a good leader for the team and, unlike Parise, actually wanted to remain with the Devils. Other options would seemingly be winger Patrik Elias (a former captain with the team) and winger David Clarkson. It obviously remains to be seen who the Devils will pick but it might be prudent to choose a captain quickly in order to fully move on.
In the end, the Devils will probably be okay. As mentioned, they have had similar free agent exits throughout their history. While the loss of Parise will sting for a while, Devils fans can take comfort in knowing that their team did not shell out a huge contract like that for a player who is very good but not elite.
November 11 should be a lot of fun.
Michael Pellegrini has been a fan of the New Jersey Devils since the mid to late 1990s when they had players like Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk in the later stages of their career.
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