New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said it didn't come down to money with his free-agent captain Zach Parise, who signed a 13-year, $98-million deal with the Minnesota Wild on July 4.
It came down to going home for the Minneapolis native, or choosing to remain with the only franchise he's ever played for in the NHL.
In the end, Parise chose his home state over the Garden State.
"Our offer was competitive, and we did not at any time have a phone call that we had to change it or it had to go up," said Lamoriello, who said there was never a request for a counteroffer from Parise. "There was never a talk about money after our initial meeting in Toronto. The response was that the money that we offered wouldn't be the issue.
"The decision, based on what Zach told me, was based upon going home and playing with someone he grew up with. Going home was the real focus, and the conversation he and I had, had not thing to do with money."
How did the Devils try to compete with the draw of going home for Parise?
Lamoriello said, "you don't compete with it. You just put forward the experiences they had with you."
The Devils inquired about free-agent defenseman Ryan Suter's interest in joining them, perhaps sensing that Parise and Suter — who also signed with the Wild on Sunday for an identical contract — were a package deal.
There was no formal offer made, and Lamoriello said that Suter made it clear he didn't want to play in the Eastern Conference.
Lamoriello said he's never surprised by decisions like this. When the Devils lost defenseman Scott Niedermayer to free agency in 2005 — to play with the Anaheim Ducks and his brother, Rob — Lamoriello made a competitive financial offer but lost out for personal reasons.
"There's no question we're disappointed. It's a very unfortunate thing when you have a player of his stature that comes through the ranks, is given time, and makes a decision to go elsewhere," said Lamoriello.
The Eastern Conference champion Devils now transition to "Plan B," having cushioned the blow of this loss somewhat with the re-signing of goalie Marty Brodeur, defenseman Bryce Salvador and their entire fourth line. They return some offensive firepower in Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Elias, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and others; but the goals and intangibles that just skated away to Minnesota won't be replaced, said Lamoriello.
"We will do everything we can right now to go to Plan B," he said. "We'll do whatever we can to get ourselves better. [But] you don't replace a Zach Parise. You just don't do that."