One can imagine that Zach Parise’s one-year, $6 million extension will serve as a good gauge for how optimistic or pessimistic a given New Jersey Devils fan might be.
The glass half-full types must be happy that the team avoided what could have been an awkward arbitration session with their star winger, especially with the advantage of hindsight after the Nashville Predators were forced to fork over a whopping $7.5 million to keep Shea Weber for a season. The most optimistic of those optimists might even say that all the Devils and Parise need is a little time to hash out the details for a long-term deal.
Of course, as a former New Jersey resident, I’m aware that the Garden State has its fair share of party poopers. In this case, there’s at least some reason for people to go into Negative Nancy mode; after all, Parise could command quite the ransom as an unrestricted free agent next summer. With Ilya Kovalchuk’s costly contract in mind, it could be difficult for the Devils to maintain a top-heavy roster, especially if the team sputters out of the playoffs for a second straight season.
While it’s almost always dangerous to take a player’s contract comments at face value, it’s worthwhile to note how positive Parise appeared about the potential for a long-term contract when asked today.
On Thursday, Parise talked about the contract and said by no means did he sign the deal thinking it would be a one-and-done situation.
“We talked about both,” Parise said of discussing short- and long-term deals. “Without getting into too much detail with respect to everyone involved, we came down to that and that made the most sense. We said it right after we signed it, that we were going to keep talking. It’s not as if we’re not going to talk until next June 30. We’ll keep going and keep working on it.”
Parise said despite the rumors that he wants to test free agency, he likes playing for and living in New Jersey and would like to stick around.
“I know people’s initial reactions are, ‘Oh, it’s one year and get out of there.’ But that’s not how it went down, that’s not how it worked out. We’ll keep trying to figure it out.”
After reaping the rewards of Parise’s bargain $3.125 million annual cap hit for the first three years of that contract, the high-scoring winger missed most of last season with injuries. He can consider the 2011-12 campaign a contract year mulligan of sorts, with the even tastier carrot of unrestricted free agent dangling in front of him.
It’s hard to say if the Devils will improve significantly next season. The roster lacks much depth and Martin Brodeur isn’t getting any younger, while coach Peter DeBoer is a wild card.
Yet if Parise’s healthy, it’s easy to imagine him lighting up the league with Kovalchuk, especially once Travis Zajac returns to action. Most Devils fans might even think that’s a good thing.