It’s hard to believe that after all of the favorable and recent maneuvers made by Lou Lamoriello (finally convincing Brian Rolston to waive his no-trade clause and, even more remarkably, finding a team willing to relieve the Devils of his contract - thereby freeing up over $3 million in cap space for the 2011-2012 season; inviting Zach Parise to sit at the Devils’ draft table during this year’s draft; refusing to name a another captain after Jamie Langenbrunner was traded in January 2011) that the Devils and Parise have only agreed on a one year, $6,000,000 deal. While no other terms of the deal have been disclosed, based on the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Parise is not free to sign another, longer extension until January 1, 2012 and remains eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2012. Also, since one year deals are forbidden to contain a no-trade clause, this deal doesn’t contain one.
While this deal essentially just extends the negotiating period that the two sides have been in by avoiding the arbitration hearing which was scheduled for August 3rd, it’s still a disappointment for this Devils fan. After I got over my initial shock and letdown that no long-term deal was reached, I have to admit I became angry. And, no, not at Lamoriello…but at Parise (and his agent). Here’s why…
Realistically, the Devils have until the trade deadline in February to sign Parise to a long-term deal unless they risk the chance of him hitting free agency and bolting…leaving the Devils with nothing in return. If the trade deadline approaches and Parise still isn’t signed, I think the Devils will have no choice but to trade him as a rental to some other team (not unlike the way Ilya Kovalchuk was traded to the Devils in 2010) in order to ensure that they receive something of value in return for him. Otherwise, the risk that Parise could walk on July 1st is just too great. This deal also only works in the Devils’ favor if they are willing to negotiate with Parise during the regular season (something the Devils rarely do).
I understand that it’s the player’s right to hold out on signing any deal unless that player feels he is receiving the amount of money he thinks he deserves. And, regrettably, I wasn’t a fly on the wall during these negotiations, so I have no idea what was discussed. However, it’s obvious that Parise signed a contract with the shortest term possible – one that conveniently avoids an arbitrator determining what he is worth and one that carries him through this year until he attains UFA status. Let’s not forget that Parise was injured for the majority of the 2010-2011 season and underwent knee surgery. He hasn’t played enough since then for anyone to know if and how much that surgery has affected the quality of his skating or play. There’s a big question mark surrounding Parise after this past season, and this one year deal provides him with the opportunity to prove to the entire hockey world that his play hasn’t been negatively impacted by his surgery. To put it another way, it affords Parise the chance to “up” his value as far as the Devils and any other team is concerned. Because of the question mark surrounding Parise, one could argue that this one year deal also gives the Devils a chance to evaluate Parise. And that’s certainly true. But I really do not think, based on every indication provided by Lamoriello since the beginning of the summer, that the Devils wanted Parise to sign anything less than a long-term deal.
On July 19th, Tom Gulitti reported here that Parise was looking to see what kinds of deals Steven Stamkos and Brad Richads signed and then find comparables to try to receive a similar deal. That’s all good and great if Parise’s play and other intangibles are, in fact, comparable to those of Stamkos and Richards. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if that’s indeed the case. But despite the insistence of both sides that this one year deal is the best possible outcome right now for both parties, I nevertheless have a bad feeling about this as far as the Devils are concerned. Maybe it’s that the nightmarish memories of what happened with Scott Niedermayer and Scott Gomez are rearing their ugly heads, but unless a deal is reached by the trade deadline or Parise is traded for something of value, I really don’t see this ending well for the Devils. I hope I'm wrong.
As mentioned above, the Devils rarely negotiate contracts with their players during the regular season. Two notable exceptions to this policy have been the contracts that were negotiated with Scott Stevens and Martin Brodeur.