The New Jersey Devils exercised their arbitration rights by filing with restricted free-agent Zach Parise this afternoon. The move isn’t surprising as the Devils and Parise have been unable to come to an agreement after continued negotiations.
To break it down, here’s what today’s news means. The Devils and Parise will have their case heard by an arbiter. After hearing both sides, the independent third-party will decide the appropriate salary for a one-year deal. At the end of the one-year contract, Parise will become an unrestricted free agent and will hit the open market. Of course, all of this can be avoided if the two sides can mutually decide on an appropriate contract before the hearing (or extension during next season). It’s important to note: even though the Devils have decided to file for arbitration, the two sides can continue to negotiate up until the hearing.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello has repeatedly expressed his desire to sign the talented left wing to a long-term extension. Unfortunately, reaching an agreement on terms has been difficult to say the least. Even with the decision to go to arbitration, the Devils are still looking for a long-term deal. From Lamoriello:
“”He knows that. Everything has been amicable as far as the talks. We will continue to work toward a long-term agreement.”
If there were ever a time to take Parise to arbitration, this would be it. In October, Parise tore his meniscus which caused him to miss 69 games this season. After a determined rehab, he was able to return for one last game at the end of the season against the Montreal Canadiens. Even though it was just a single game, he proved that he was able to return from an injury that was supposed to end his season. He finished the season with three goals and three assists in a total of 13 games.
The six points were a far cry from 38 goal, 82 point performance of the 2009-10 season.
Up until this injury, Parise had been relatively healthy for his entire NHL career. Surely that will be one of his talking points when facing arbitration this summer. He’ll talk about how he’s scored 30+ four times in his six year career. He’ll talk about how he had 83 goals and 176 points over a two-year span starting in 2008. He’ll talk about how he was an important player on the 2010 US Olympic team—a team solely made of stars. He’ll talk about how he should be entering his prime and despite his knee injury, deserves to be played like a star entering his prime. Would that be a raise from his current $5 million per season salary?
The salary cap hit may be the biggest part of the negotiations. It’s no secret the Devils were pressed firmly up against the cap last season when Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract was introduced to the organization. For at least one more season, they Devils will have to be careful (and creative) with their cash. If they can figure out a way to get through next season WITH Parise, things will get easier following the 2011-12 season. Why? That’s when the Devils see Brian Rolston, Colin White, and Bryce Salvador’s contracts come off the books. With almost $11 million made available, there would be much more room for Parise and his contract. But before we get to next season, the two sides have to agree on a salary for this season.
This is only the first predictable step for the New Jersey Devils and their young sniper. As the negotiations continue between the two-sides, we’ll keep you updated with any relevant breaking news.