While discussing the trade of Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars for a conditional draft pick, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello bristled at talk of rebuilding, but what choice do the Devils have with an older team that can’t win? He can start by gauging interest around the league for useful older players that could bring back useful players in return.
The motivation here being that the Devils will have to get team star and young stud Zach Parise signed to a long term contract after this season because he’s due to become a restricted free agent. Getting Parise locked up with Ilya Kovalchuk gives the Devils two outstanding scorers in which to build around, and with little else to get excited about, cleaning house isn’t the worst idea. But who on this Devils roster offers the kind of ability to bring in a decent return in a trade? There’s a few that stand out.
Patrik Elias is a lifetime Devil and a guy who’s produced solidly on offense every year he’s been in New Jersey. He’s the team’s current leading scorer and equally dangerous as a playmaker and goal scorer. What makes dealing him difficult for the Devils is a $6 million cap hit the next two years after this one. Getting his talent on another team would be an easy sell if it wasn’t for that cap hit and we’re doubting that the Devils would be in the market to take on someone else’s financial disaster.
Jason Arnott is another veteran that could be useful to a team in the market for a playoff-savvy centerman. Arnott’s contract expires after this year, however, which means the return on him would be similar to what the Devils got for Langenbrunner. Arnott also comes with a bigger price tag than Langenbrunner.
Guys like Dainius Zubrus and Brian Rolston would be looked at a bit stronger if their contracts weren’t huge problems. Zubrus’ deal goes for two more years and has a cap hit of $3.4 million. Rolston has been waived, put on re-entry waivers and gone unclaimed meaning that even if he came at half the price teams still didn’t want him. The chances of him being dealt away are virtually slim and none.
That leaves one guy who could bring in a huge trade package that could help the Devils get back into competing shape sooner than not. That guy is Zach Parise. Parise is young, capable of scoring 40+ goals a season, and would require any team acquiring him to have the cap space to get him locked up long term.
The chances of Parise being traded away are very slim, but the possibility is out there in the most fantasy-filled realms. Still, the only guy Lamoriello has declared that he absolutely will not trade is Martin Brodeur. Parise will demand a monster deal and with the Devils being littered with so many bad deals as it is getting a deal done for Parise that won’t hamstring the franchise looks difficult.
According to CapGeek.com the Devils already have $49 million committed to next season and that’s only counting up 14 players. Parise’s deal would almost certainly be in the range of what Ilya Kovalchuk got if not more on a cap hit-basis. Say if Parise’s deal is good for $7 million a year on the cap, you’d be looking at the Devils having $56 million on the cap with up to eight more players to get on the NHL roster and (depending on how much the cap goes up by) anywhere from $5 – $7 million to get them signed. The Devils have suffered plenty this year under a cap crunch and doing it again next year and for years to come can’t be in Lamoriello’s designs.
We’d like to think that Parise would be the absolute last guy that would be traded from New Jersey, but there are teams out there with the combination of prospects, NHL-caliber players, and future cap space to be able to make a deal happen. Virtually every team would have interest in a player of Parise’s ability so finding a team interested wouldn’t be hard. Finding a team that could swing such a monstrous deal and make it work for both sides would be the trick. Getting Lou Lamoriello a safe house to protect him from an angry mob of Devils fans wouldn’t be a bad idea either.