July 4th, 2012. A day where all New Jersey Devils fans including myself felt various emotions. Heartbroken, upset, and sick to our stomachs. Zach Parise, the team’s captain, signed a 13-year contract with the Minnesota Wild. Parise went to go play for his hometown team instead of the Devils, fresh off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said he offered a “competitive” offer, but Parise went home to Minnesota, breaking the hearts of Devils fans. But what if Parise stayed in 2013 and beyond? Could the Devils have won a Cup? How would it have altered the future of the franchise?
Parise’s Time In Jersey
Parise was drafted 17th overall by the Devils in 2003 and joined the big club for the 2005-06 season. In 2008-09, Parise was the league’s third-leading scorer, with 45 goals. He also played for the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Most notably in 2012, Parise played a huge role in leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals, where New Jersey fell to the Los Angeles Kings in six games. He was also the Devils captain, which was awarded to him before the 2012 season. This could have been an attempt to try and have him stay in New Jersey, but ultimately it did not work out. It, unfortunately, felt that Parise had his eyes set on his hometown team, the Minnesota Wild once free agency rolled around that summer.
Days After Parise
The 2013 NHL Season was cut way short due to the lockout, the season was only 48 games. The Devils failed to make the playoffs. Martin Brodeur got injured during the season, dooming the Devils. New Jersey finished with a 19-19-10 record with 48 points, but not good enough to qualify for the playoffs. That offseason, Ilya Kovalchuk “retired” and went back home to Russia to play. He left the Devils after signing a 15-year contract, which led to the Devils losing two superstar players over the course of two offseasons. Kovalchuk’s “retirement” broke the hearts of Devils fans, which led to Kovalchuk becoming the most hated man in Devils history to this day. What once was the Eastern Conference Champion Devils were now without their two-star players and the remnants of that team started to fade away. New Jersey would not see playoff hockey again until the Taylor Hall Devils of 2017-18 brought playoff hockey to the Brick City for the first time in six long years.
What If Parise Stayed?
Now back to the question I brought up at the beginning of the article, what if Zach Parise stayed with the Devils? Where would this team currently be? Well, let’s say the Devils gave Parise his current contract, while the team still had to pay Kovalchuk’s contract. The Devils would have had Kovalchuk and Parise signed until 2025. It would seem that the Devils would be paying these two players forever. Kovalchuk and Parise would be long out of their primes as well. Kovalchuk is out of his prime at the moment, and Parise is nearing it. New Jersey would have Parise signed until he is about 41, and Kovalchuk till he is about 42. This would be a disaster.
But would the Devils have been able to go on a Cup run yet again in 2013? I believe they could have. If Parise stuck with the team it would have kept the big guns in him, Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias, and the rest of that core. They would have been a serious threat to opponents. Also, from 2014-16 goaltender Cory Schneider was playing the best hockey of his career. If he got more help from a player like Parise or Kovalchuk, the Devils could have made the playoffs in one or more of those seasons. This explains why Devils fans such as myself felt betrayed and angry by these players leaving. The last Devils cup victory was 10 years prior to 2013 in 2003, and the fanbase would have been overjoyed to see Lord Stanley back in the Garden State.
How Would Parise Staying Impact The Future?
But how would Parise staying impact the future? I can assure you that this team would most likely be better than what it was since he left. The Devils did not make the playoffs since 2012 up until 2018. There would most likely not have been any #1 overall draft selections, which drastically would change the organization. That means there would be no Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier in black and red. The Devils would also have had different draft positions in all of these seasons. Another question, if Parise and Kovalchuk stayed would David Blitzer and Josh Harris have bought the Devils from Jeff Vanderbeek in 2013? They would have to pay off these contracts for years and years. Not to mention the Devils were in $230 million dollars of debt when they inherited the team and these contracts could have been on top of that.
What if Zach Parise stayed in New Jersey? The Devils could have possibly ended up with a 4th Stanley Cup in 2013 if he stayed. The Devils would most likely have been the favorites to win it all. But, paying a massive and long contract like Parise’s, and with Kovalchuk’s, would have caused a disaster for the Devils. New Jersey would have had to pay those contracts till 2025 and maybe beyond. A Parise signing could have drastically altered the organization and its future till this very day here in 2020, where the team is developing younger players to regain the former glory, the glory that once belonged to the New Jersey Devils.