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Reviewing Zach Parise's future with the Devils

The Devils have had a fairly quiet off-season to date, and for many fans of the team, that comes as a relief, especially after the saga involving Ilya Kovalchuk last summer.  There is one critical piece to the Devils that is still unsigned: Zach Parise.  Although Parise's 2010-11 season was cut to just 13 games due to a knee injury, Parise has proven to be an elite hockey player when he's healthy after seasons of 94 and 82 points prior to last season.

There is no breaking news regarding the current restricted free agent, but I'd like to take the time to review Parise's immediate future with the team.  First of all, Parise will play for the Devils in 2011-12.  The question remains, however, for how much longer beyond 2011-12.  Parise and the Devils have three different options for next season, which are detailed below.

  • Arbitration - Zach Parise is scheduled for an arbitration hearing on August 3rd if he and the Devils cannot agree upon a contract prior to that date.  As In Lou We Trust points out, arbitration hasn't gone the Devils' way over the years (add to that the rejected Ilya Kovalchuk contract last summer as well.  It is also worth noting that the Devils signed Travis Zajac prior to his scheduled hearing in 2009).  Parise's salary (not cap hit, salary) was $5 million last season, and the arbitrator could keep the figure close to that number.  After all, Parise is coming off an injury-plagued season.
  • Sign a 1-year contract - The second option for Parise and the Devils is to forego arbitration and have him signed to a one year contract before the August 3rd hearing.  When General Manager Lou Lamoriello signed defenseman Adam Larsson to an entry-level contract just hours before the deadline to sign drafted players, he was quoted as saying that if time is available, it should be used.  Signing Parise to a one year contract allows Parise to prove that he has fully recovered from his injury last season and allows the Devils to avoid making a risky long-term investment in a player who sustained a significant injury last season.
  • Signing a long-term contract - The final option for both sides is to get Parise signed to a long-term contract immediately.  Again, this would have to occur before the August 3rd arbitration hearing.  This would seem to be the least likely of the options, as it would be viewed as a risky signing by many.  If Parise is signed to a long-term contract in the near future, it may resemble that of Ilya Kovalchuk's 15-year/$100 million contract that was approved last summer.
Lou Lamoriello is not specific with the media, so nobody outside of Parise, his agent and the Devils know exactly what the thought process if right now, but Parise has made it public that he would like to avoid arbitration if at all possible.

(photo taken from http://the5hole.com/2011/03/02/zach-parise-ready-to-start-skating-again/)

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