In what was a gut punch day for a number of NHL clubs, none may have been hit harder than the New Jersey Devils. (OK, maybe the Predators.)
With Zach Parise bolting Newark for Minnesota — thanks in no small part to a 13-year, $98 million contract — the Devils are now without their captain and three-time leading scorer.
New Jersey was the only team Parise had known since breaking into the NHL after the lockout. Taken 17th overall by the Devils in 2003, Parise played over 500 regular-season contests and led the club to its first Stanley Cup finals appearance in nine years.
So…what happens now? Here are some things to consider.
— The Devils will need a new captain. Ilya Kovalchuk is one of New Jersey’s alternates and formerly wore the “C” in Atlanta. Patrik Elias, another alternate, is the franchise’s all-time leader in points and goals and served as captain from 2006-07. Travis Zajac and David Clarkson could also be in the mix.
— Parise’s a big loss, no doubt, but New Jersey has survived a number of big free agency losses since the lockout. Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim), Brian Rafalski (Detroit), Scott Gomez (New York Rangers) and Brian Gionta (Montreal) all flew the coop and, like Parise, Niedermayer was New Jersey’s captain before signing with his new team.
— It’ll be interesting to see how, or if, GM Lou Lamoriello responds. Regardless, it won’t be easy. Parise had five 30-goal seasons with the Devils, including a career-best 45 in 2008-09. And New Jersey wasn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut last year, finishing 15th in goals per game (2.63).
— As far as goalscoring wingers go, the best left on the UFA market are Alex Semin, Shane Doan and Andrei Kostitsyn.
— Speaking of spending, the Devils currently have 20 players under contract for 2012-13 and are $16 million under the cap.
— Also speaking of spending, there’s the matter of the team’s finances. It’s not known whether they came close to offering what the Wild offered or if Lamoriello just backed up the guilt truck.