Anytime a team has a good showing during the post season (or, god forbid, wins the Cup: see the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks), it’s no surprise to see the roster go their separate ways. In a successful post season, the team as a whole usually does well, and players need to be compensated for good performance. To most NHL clubs trying to navigate cap space, this is simply not affordable.
Now consider the Devils: a team with a lengthy post season run and a long history of debt and money issues. A team that is now composed of a roster that 1) took the team to within two games for the Stanley Cup and 2) is full of UFAs/RFAs that need to be paid for the 2012-2013 season.
Yeah, ouch. The club needs to navigate this, and fast.
Consider the facts.
Cap Space: $28,045,834. Eh, not bad.
UFAs (past season’s cap hit):
Zach Parise (F) – $6,000,000
Martin Brodeur (G) – $5,200,000
Bryce Salvador (D) – $2,900,000
Alexei Ponikarovsky (F) – $1,500,000
Johan Hedberg (G) – $1,250,000
Captain Zach Parise is perhaps the biggest story right now, maybe only behind the sadly ongoing tale of the Rick Nash Derby (and I feel for you, Rick Nash, but only because Scott Howson is terrible.) Teams want him and teams are willing to give a lot for him, or so the story goes. The leaders in the Parise race are the Minnesota Wild and the Detroit Red Wings.
The idea with the Wild is that they are Parise’s home turf. Zach was born in Minnesota and his father, J.P. Parise, has not wasted any time in calling Zach a home-grown Minnesota player, along with courting Zach with any team that came calling. (Sorry, Rangers, but Zach answered that call with an unequivocal “No.”)
The Wild are going to offer Parise a large amount of money. A large, large, large amount of money. How do we know this? We know this because former Minnesota North Stars’ GM Lou Nanne got on radio and told us, carefully tiptoe-ing around the rules that say a team can’t contact a player before July 1st. And he’s not actually officially affiliated with the team, so hey! No harm done, right?
Besides the fact that I, as a Devils fan, think is heinously wrong and not cute at all I can’t see it happening if Parise wants to win. The Wild do have some good pieces in place, but they are not an up-and-coming Cup contender in the next few years. And Parise is not that young anymore. His words so far seem to indicate that he is leaning towards re-signing with the Devils. I won’t blame him if he takes the money offer and goes off to Minnesota, but I think the lure of a guaranteed yearly showing in the playoffs under what appears to be steady coaching following this season will be difficult to part with. Going back to the example of Rick Nash, a star player languishing in mediocrity for years does not a happy, productive player make.
As for the Red Wings? They need to busy themselves with signing Suter and plugging that hole in their blue line. He doesn’t want to head to the Eastern Conference anyway, so Suter’s intentions are obvious.
Goalie and undisputed face of the franchise Martin Brodeur is an interesting case. I can’t see him signing anywhere but with the Devils. I could also see him taking a significant pay cut in what could be his last season to assist the team with signing Parise. Why? Because the Devils are Brodeur’s team, and he wants the best for them.
Bryce Salvador had an exceptional showing in the post season with 4 goals, 10 assists in 24 games, after showing only 9 assists in 82 regular season games. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello called his offensive prowess a “pleasant surprise.” However, this pleasant surprise means that Salvador needs to be compensated more than if he’d had, let’s say, a lukewarm post season performance. Maybe somewhere in the area of $3,200,000? But Salvador said it himself: “They have a lot of decisions. I probably fall after Marty and Zach.”
Personally, I’d love to keep Salvador. He shows a calmness and consistency on our blue line that is absent with the younger members of the defense, who are still in the process of learning.
I think Ponikarovsky will be signed again at roughly the same amount. Maybe two years?
Back-up goalie Johan Hedberg put up great numbers this season. I’d like to see Moose back again as a Devil; he will be back in the NHL next season, but the only question is where. The debate is whether the Devils should bring up one of the goalie prospects (say, Wedgewood) to give them experience and preparation for backing up Brodeur once he retires. If the Devils choose that path, Hedberg will go. For his part, Hedberg says that he would like to return to the Devils, but would like to speak with Lamoriello again – probably to discuss that very question.
Ryan Carter (F) – $750,000
Petr Sykora (F) – $650,000
Peter Harrold (D) – $550,000
Cam Janssen (F) – $525,000
Steve Bernier (F) – $525,000
Stephen Gionta (F) – $512,500
Sykora says he sees re-signing with the Devils as a ‘priority.’ I can easily see Carter, Harrold, and Gionta coming back to the starting lineup.
(UFAs not on the active roster: Brad Mills (F) – $525,000, Jay Leach (D) – $525,000, and Tim Sestito (F) – $525,000.)
RFAs (past season’s cap hit):
Here’s the one: Mark Fayne (D) – $542,500.
Despite my personal feelings about Fayne’s performance at critical times (let’s call them Fayne Fails™), Fayne has said he sees no problems in being resigned. He probably will be.
(RFAs not on the active roster: Timo Pielmeir (G) – $766,667, Matt Corrente (D) – $660,000, Vladimir Zharkov (F) – $577,500, Matthew Taormina (F) – $550,000, and Kory Naga (F) – $528,333.)
The Devils brought in around $32.3 million from their playoff run. It’s not exactly the answer to the debt issue (which, according to Lamoriello, has “no effect on what I’m doing”) and barely makes a dent, but it is a nice thing to see when the club has to re-sign half the roster and offer significant pay raises.
Kovalchuk’s back injury has been halfway confirmed in the Devils’ long-evasive style of never actually admitting to injuries. DeBoer commented that Kovalchuk had been playing well below 100 percent. Kovalchuk said, “Hopefully not,” when asked if surgery will be necessary. I imagine his injury is currently being observed. If surgery is necessary, the recovery time could easily prevent him from playing at the start of the season. If there are no significant CBA delays, that is.