Zach Parise wants to remain with the New Jersey Devils. And the Devils franchise really, really wants to keep him.
Can the Devils make this happen?
Sure, but it will definitely not be easy. Consider all the variables:
- The Devils haven’t been able to pay their bills despite the team's on-ice success. A hockey-loving billionaire with deep pockets doesn’t own this team. The lead owner in the current group, Jeff Vanderbeek, has been recruiting at least one more rich guy to give the franchise a much-needed infusion of cash. Failing that the team will be hard-pressed to spend to the NHL’s anticipated salary cap limit of $70 million.
- New Jersey currently has more than $28 million in projected salary cap space. That is the good news. The bad news is that its list of unrestricted free agents includes Parise, Martin Brodeur, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter and playoff hero Bryce Salvador.
- In 2013, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and Marek Zidlicky will be due new deals. All but Henrique will be UFAs.
- Ilya Kovalchuk’s $100 million deal set an obvious contract target for Parise. Can New Jersey commit more than $6 million in annual cap hits in another lifetime deal for another forward?
- Brodeur might or might not retire. Back-up Johan Hedberg is another of New Jersey’s UFAs. What will the Devils do in goal? Would Brodeur return with a cap-friendly contract that helps retain Parise and other key free agents? If Brodeur packs it in, will the Devils go with Hedberg or make a big (and expensive) play for, say, Roberto Luongo?
- The Devils don’t have a lot of front-burner prospects ready to make the NHL jump. The Albany Devils missed the AHL playoffs. So filling in a lot of blanks with low-cost, budget-balancing young pros doesn’t appear to be an option.