Zach Parise‘s new contract shouldn’t give Devils fans a sense of relief, and it shouldn’t give everyone else the idea that Parise is going to live out the rest of his hockey playing days in New Jersey, because he very well might not.
While the one-year deal may have been the best option at the time, and it certainly has its positives, it has its drawbacks and both sides might be paying for that come next July.
That’s right. On July 1, 2012, if the Devils and Parise fail to come to terms on a multi-year deal during the 2011-12 season, he’s going to be a free agent. It’s a gamble, but one that both sides were apparently willing to make in order to avoid arbitration. That’s the only positive of this one-year deal — both sides avoided arbitration. If things had fallen to arbitration, the Devils and Parise probably would have been partaking in a hurtful volley of insults, which could have made contract negotiations even worse.
But that’s not going to mean anything if the two part ways come summer 2012. Here’s the thing: Parise’s short-term deal means the star winger’s return is contingent upon two different factors. Primarily, it depends on how much cap space the Devils free up before next July. Secondly, it depends on how Parise plays during the season. Don’t forget, Parise is coming off a brutal knee injury and surgery that saw him sidelined for most of the 2010-11 season. So If Parise slips up a little during the 2011-12 season and doesn’t put up good numbers, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello might not be willing to take a chance on Parise. It’s hypothetical, but possible. Hockey’s a business, and Lamoriello will do anything he thinks can help the Devils win again.
There’s also the possibility that Parise might not be happy with his new role on the team, whatever that may be. It’s up to head coach Peter DeBoer to determine that, but the knee injury might play a factor in that decision. Even though Parise deserves to be the captain and a first-line left wing who gets the most playing time, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. The Devils are a team in transition, and players will probably be moving around a lot, playing with different lines. And then there’s Ilya Kovalchuk, whom Parise is going to have to share his playing time with.
Since the Devils drafted the 27-year-old in 2003, he’s only been a free agent once before — that was in 2007, when Parise was a restricted free agent. But the Devils and Parise got out of that mess by agreeing to a four-year deal in August 2007. So Parise has never been a UFA before, and he might want to test out that market.
Those factors could also be reasons why both sides decided on the one-year deal — so that they can find answers to questions about Parise’s knee, his role on the team, and others. Even if they didn’t want to, they’re going to have to anyway, thanks to the contract.
So there’s still a long way to go before Devils fans can sleep in peace at night, knowing their precious star is locked up tight, and there’s still a long way to go before other fans grumble because their team hasn’t gotten a shot at signing the talented forward.