Friday, July 29, 2011

Devils, Parise fail to reach long-term agreement and settle for one-year deal

How's my night going? Let's see...between 6 PM and 6:30 I got sucker-punched twice by the sports world, between the Nmandi Asomugha fiasco with him spurning the Jets (and Cowboys) for the Eagles at the last second after a three-day soap opera and then moments later hearing that talks between GM Lou Lamoriello and star winger Zach Parise came to a halt because the sides couldn't agree on a long-term contract. As the immortal Joe Benigno would say: 'What a disgrace!'

Clearly it's been a great night so far. So we avoided arbitration by inking Zach to a one-year, $6 million deal, whoopdie darn doo. As much as both sides wanted to put a happy face on and emphasize the fact that they could agree to a deal after January 2012, it is now obvious that after months between the end of the season and now to agree to a long-term deal, if it wasn't going to happen now it's just not going to happen before UFA next summer. Things really shouldn't have come to this, on either end. There are only a handful of reasons why it might have gotten to this point, none of which suggest a happy ending by next summer.

1) Ownership doesn't have the money to pay him...we've heard this for a while now, and while it's been denied right now those denials ring as hollow as the Mets' assertions that the Bernie Madoff fiasco would not affect club operations. Clearly there was concern about having two long-term deals on the books at big money, with the huge money payouts on Ilya Kovalchuk's deal starting next year. Sure, I can't prove that money actually is a factor but when ownership is in flux and has trouble dishing out money for Parise just one offseason after throwing $100 million at Kovy, you can't stick your head in the sand either.

You also have to wonder what the recent Brian Rolston trade was actually about now, if it wasn't to clear cap space for a potential long-term deal for Zach. Saving ownership a few more million? It sure wasn't about hockey talent, for as much as I couldn't stand Rolston he's a better player than Trent Hunter without question. And it wasn't about staying under the cap either since we still would have been at least a couple-few million under without trading Rolston.

2) Lou wants Zach to prove he's healthy...okay I could buy that except for two things, one we benched him towards the end of the season when he could have gotten in a few games and proved he was healthy. If his health was that big of a question mark then he should have played down the stretch for the benefit of both himself and management. And if his health (after a knee injury that forced him to miss 3/4 of the season) really is a big deal, then why exactly did we go through this tete-a-tete for the last three months regarding trying to sign Zach long-term? We should have just tendered him a one-year offer when the offseason began if that was the case and avoided this drama.

3) Zach wants out...I won't believe this one yet BUT the fact is while we spent all our time and attention on Kovy last offseason, when Zach wanted a long-term deal (and was healthy) we made no movement toward signing one. And when Lou had months to sign him this offseason little visceral movement was made towards that end, while we were signing everyone else from the waterboy to Mark Fraser to Cam Janssen and even the immortal Stephane Villeux. Sometimes being last-minute Lou does backfire and now we're staring at having Parise go UFA next offseason with half the league in a position to bid on him handsomely.

4) Zach wants a big payday...when you don't sign a long-term deal despite assertions to the contrary that you want one, a cynic might conclude that Zach was just conducting a PR campaign and had no intention of signing long-term until next offseason when he got to free agency. Granted, about 98% of sports athletes are all about the last dollar but in an offseason where Andy Greene, Johan Hedberg and even rookie Adam Larsson took less money to either stay or get to the Devils, it looks a bit disingenous at best that Zach couldn't find any common ground with us while claiming repeatedly he wanted a long-term deal.

Whichever reason or reasons you want to believe, the fact remains the same...it is now a lot more likely that Parise hits UFA and that was the absolute nightmare scenario from this offseason. And for that, I'm frustrated with the mess that is ownership, angry at Lou (though admittedly some of that is my overall frustration with him since the lockout - his head coaching carousel, his inability to replace our defensive stars walking out the door or adjust to the post-lockout NHL) and dissapointed in Zach. Shame on everyone involved if this ends in divorce next July!

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