On July 1st, Zach Parise became an unrestricted free agent and on July 4th, the New Jersey Devils lost him to a 13-year $98 million dollar deal to the Minnesota Wild. Parise mentioned at the end of the process that his decision came down to two teams. The Devils, which he captained to the Stanley Cup Final and the Minnesota Wild. The harsh reality is for Devils fans all over the world is that it really doesn’t mean much to us at all that we were one of two because Zach will not be coming back to play in New Jersey except for November 11th when the Wild are in town.
We’ve lost great players before but this takes a lot of wind out of our sails. How do you go about replacing a Zach Parise? Well, you don’t. You cannot replace a Zach Parise. He is an extremely gifted and talented American born player who averaged .81 PPG throughout his career in a Devils sweater and the first Devils captain to lead us to a cup final since Scott Stevens.
Zach Parise said all along that it wasn’t about money and that he wanted to play with where he felt comfortable, with a chance to win. I don’t know if the Devils did match the offer of the Minnesota Wild or if they could have afforded too. His contract details with the Wild over the next 13 years are: $12m, 12m, 11m, 9m, 9m, 9m, 9m, 9m, 8m, 6m, 2m, 1m, 1m. It’s hard to turn away from those numbers although I’m sure with Pittsburgh being in the mix, they might have offered him a little bit more and I could never stomach the thought of him moving within the conference let alone the division. I knew all along if we were losing him, he was heading west.
I do however understand where Parise is coming from. My whole life, I’ve grown up in one area, one town, where most of my family and friends are. I have so many things I love here and with my own process of starting to move out, it’s tough to swallow giving up certain things to set up life elsewhere.
Parise has a lot of ties to Minnesota where he was born and his hockey career blossomed.
“The opportunity to play at home, it really meant a lot to me,” Parise said. “It meant a lot to my family. I grew up here, I love coming back here in the summers and I thought, it would be great to be around here year-round.”
Minnesota is a hockey hotbed. There are plenty of perks to establishing a career there versus in New Jersey. Zach admitted the process was a lot more stressful then he envisioned it to be. It really makes you think long and hard about the decision you’re making and my opinion was that on Monday, when Zach was ready to make a decision, he had it made but I think had a change of heart or need to confirm the decision he was making. Now that pen has hit paper, what’s next for Zach?
“I’ll be going right in the lake after this is over. Shutting my phone off,” Zach said.
Both Parise and the other highly sought after defenseman Ryan Suter signed an identical deal with the Wild on the same day. This is probably one of the most significant things to happen to the Minnesota Wild franchise since the team was formed back in 2000. While the Wild don’t have many great names on the roster, they certainly found faces of the team for the next 13 years.
While I’m hurt and disappointed on his decision, we know life will go on and the team will be fine. We still have quite the roster minus Parise. Elias, Zajac, Clarkson, Kovalchuk, Henrique, Larsson, and Josefson all bring a significant amount of offense to this club. During the 2010-2011 season, the Devils went from basically dead last in the conference to almost reaching a playoff spot but coming short by six points. All of those games played were without Parise except for the first 13 games.
If anything, hopefully those that played with him and worked around him on and off the ice took some notes on how to play hockey at a high level. I’m sure he left lasting impressions on some young players like Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, and Travis Zajac so they have successful careers. It’s tough to go to another team site and see his face in a different sweater wearing a different number. I have no hard feelings from this decision and wish him a long and successful career. He’s a great person and athlete.
“It was very hard. I loved playing in New Jersey. It’s a first-class organization. I can’t say enough about Lou, and the staff, and my teammates. They treat their players great. It was very, very hard to leave. The conversation with Lou went very well. He was very supportive. We were up-front and honest throughout the process. We have a great relationship,” Parise said.
His work ethic and leadership are both top quality. I’m sure the Wild will have a new captain at some point in the likes of Ryan Suter or Zach Parise. As for the Devils, they will also have a new captain. But who?
My thinking is that Ilya Kovalchuk is the new face of the Devils franchise because of his age and being tied up for quite some time. He’s also had experience in Atlanta as a captain but is a different player all around now. Most other players are younger or also UFA’s so giving the “C” to someone we could potentially lose would be another mental scar to deal with.
New Jersey Devils hockey will continue to establish itself with history and accolades for years to come. Change is tough to deal with but we have a lot of good things to hold on to right here in our house at he Prudential Center.