Today it's the Fourth of July, a day where Americans and others celebrate the the Declaration of Independence. Today, there was a Declaration of Dependence as left winger Zach Parise signed a 13 year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild as confirmed in this report at NHL.com. The New Jersey Devils tried to retain him, Lou was in constant contact as Parise took a few days to make his choice, but ultimately, the player chose his desire to play at home than to stay in New Jersey. The fan reaction - at least here - ranges from unhappiness to resignation to dismissal and with a little bit of acceptance from now.
What follows after the jump are a few words and thoughts about Parise now leaving the Devils for the rest of his career.
Parise will be dearly missed in New Jersey. He was drafted in the first round by the Devils in 2003 and since breaking into the league, he's played the kind of hockey that fans fall in love with. Parise would skate in seemingly constant motion. Despite his stature, he was fierce around the net and below the dots, where he scored most of his goals. Parise would just generate shot after shot, pile up goals and assists, and could play well in his own end too. A few years ago, he was simply a dominant player - one of the best in the world. Parise was a great player.
Parise had a very good 2011-12, but he didn't hit the highs as he done in the past. He proved that his knee injury wouldn't be an issue. If anything, his responsibilities increased to play on the penalty kill regularly and wear the "C" on his jersey. Yet, his production, shot totals, and rate of possession dropped. He maybe wasn't the best forward on his own line; but Parise was still a valuable player both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Alas, the additional attention, the captaincy, the adoration of the Devils fans who fell in love with his game and his face, the deep playoff run, and whatever offer Lou made to Parise wasn't enough to keep him in Devils red (which apparently really was competitive). According to Rich Chere, the offer was never going to be enough since Lou says Parise told him it was all about playing at home. I'm sure the $98 million didn't hurt, though.
As someone who made a big stink about how much money he could get and whether it would be too much, I will admit that the cap hit turned out to be less than my "too rich for my blood" number. (Note: That post shows how different 2011-12 Parise performed compared to, say, 2008-09 or 2009-10 Parise.) It's at $7.538 million, which is still quite high. High enough to make me question it if he signed with New Jersey for that average value. It's questionable whether Parise can return to being the possession demon who can rack up 75+ points. He might in Minnesota given he'll have support from Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley. As for the term, 13 years is an incredibly long deal. Can Parise even play that long? How long can he play at a high level at to justify that contract? Surely, it has be to structured such that some of the money is front loaded; though details on that haven't come out yet. The bright side from the financial perspective is that the Devils won't have another huge contract on the books. They still have cap space to use either now or during the season. That cap space could turn out to be a plus when Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias, Jacob Josefson, and others need new deals next summer.
Of course, the Devils have a big hole in their top six. I can go on and on about how Parise was the third best forward on the team last season. I don't think the style he plays can be replaced. His minutes and responsibilities need to be taken by somebody else regardless. Again, according to Chere, Lou says they have to go with Plan B. I couldn't tell you what Plan B could or should be. Ilya Kovalchuk can slide back to left wing, though that just moves the hole to the right side. Even if the Devils retain Petr Sykora, do we even want to see him in the top six? I think the Devils should consider at least inquiring about Alexander Semin, the only offensive winger left who could fill in that role. Though that could be costly as well, since, well, he's the only offensive winger left on the market who might produce a large number of points. So I'm not holding my breath on him. As usual, we're just going to have to wait and see. As far as the captaincy, that should wait until the players get back together. There are several candidates. I wouldn't mind if it went to the guy who led his team in scoring in the playoffs despite a disc injury.
So for now, we say goodbye to Zach Parise. Feel what you want; react as you are. Parise made the choice he felt was best for him and I know it hurts. Do know that feeling will pass. As great as he was, Parise is not and never will be bigger than the New jersey Devils. Still, at some point, please thank him for the time, the plays, and the goals you've scored in New Jersey. We shall see him again on November 11, 2012 at the Rock - as the opposition.