New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise recently said contract negotiations between his agent and Devils management still haven't begun. [...] Parise [...] claimed he was open to re-signing a long-term contract extension, but didn’t know if he would have to accept an arbiter-awarded one-year deal [...]. It's possible Devils GM Lou Lamoriello will file for salary arbitration to make Parise ineligible to receive offer sheets from rival clubs. [...] The Devils could re-sign Parise to an expensive extension, but with about $52 million committed to 17 players next season it would take a big bite out of their limited cap space. Among the players they have to re-sign or replace is backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, who posted good numbers relieving starter Martin Brodeur this season (14-12-2 in 33 games, 2.39 GAA, .912 SP, three shutouts), but like Parise, Hedberg has yet to be contacted by management about a new contract. Hedberg earned $1.5 million this season ($1 million in base salary plus $500,000 in bonuses) and might be willing to accept the same money again next season, though on a longer term. Brodeur is hopeful Hedberg will be back, but that of course will depend on Hedberg’s salary demands and how much cap space the Devils have.
Another key free agent is defenseman Andy Greene, who's been a workhorse on the Devils blueline, but who will seek a substantial raise over the $737,500 cap hit he commanded this season. His numbers will earn him around $2 million on the open market, but he'd have to accept less than that to remain a Devil.
And the Devils need cheap defensemen who can play third-pair minutes. Davis Drewiske, for example?
Further complicating matters is the Devils’ obvious need for at least one skilled puck-moving defenseman. Several good ones will be available via free agency unless they re-sign before July 1. The notables include: Tomas Kaberle,Andrei Markov, Joni Pitkanen, Christian Ehrhoff, James Wisniewski and Bryan McCabe, but given the Devils’ limited cap space they're unlikely to be able to land any of those players.
Viatcheslav Voynov? Alec Martinez? Thomas Hickey? Nicolas Deslauriers? All four of those guys aren't going to have careers as Kings. But I bet they all have NHL careers. That's three of the speedy defensemen one of whom may be the fastest on the planet, and Thomas Hickey.
Lamoriello will have to consider going the trade route, which has led to speculation he’ll trade Parise later this summer if unable to re-sign him to a long-term extension. It remains to be seen if the Devils GM would go that far, but if he re-signs Parise, he'll have to at least consider the trade market to land a quality blueliner.
To make that happen Lamoriello would have to give up a quality player in return and, if not Parise, it would mean moving Travis Zajac or David Clarkson, though the latter's $2.66 million per season salary over the next two years will make him less attractive on the trade market. This summer is shaping up to be another difficult one for Lamoriello, though Devils fans can at least take some comfort in Parise's belief his contract negotiations won't take as long to sort out as Ilya Kovalchuk's did last summer.
But what's he supposed to say?
Look. I know what the "offer he can't refuse" is. It's Dustin Brown and Jack Johnson for Parise. Brown's and Johnson's contracts are both affordable, and those players are theoretically untouchable leaders, stars. Yet, for the Kings, both those players have been maddeningly problematic.
In that sense, it's a fair trade. A fair trade that would piss off a lot of people on both sides. And would make a lot of people happy on both sides.
How would I rationalize such a trade?
- I love Brown as a third fiddle.
- Not as a leader.
- The Kings had a problem not only in 5-on-5 scoring, but on the power play. This addresses both.
- Parise is a LEFT WING.
- There's a bottleneck at RW. Simmonds is in many ways Brown Jr.. Will he put up Brown numbers? Probably not.
- But I'm (possibly over-) confident that Oscar Moller or Tyler Toffoli will be able to replace Brown's goals sooner or later. And Justin Williams is tied up for several years. You could trade Williams...but which one do you think Lombardi would trade first? (Feel free to throw Williams in for Brown, if that works for you.)
- Parise and Mollerfoli > Brown.
- It occurs to me that many (Kings fans, not Devils fans) will think Brown AND Johnson would be wildly over-paying for Parise. I won't argue with you. You might be right. But remember I was going for an offer Lou can't refuse. Also:
- Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Alec Martinez, Viatcheslav Voynov, Thomas Hickey and Nicolas Deslauriers are all speedy, skilled, offensive-minded defensemen. Three years from now, five or six of these guys will be playing a regular shift in the NHL. But there's simply no room for them all on the Kings.
- I happen to think Nicolas Deslauriers is going to make the team in a couple of years. I don't know anything. But I think it.
- Doughty, I assume (!), is a King for life. How many of Johnson, Martinez, Voynov and Hickey (and Deslauriers in 2013 or so) can the Kings cram into their top six? My guess is at least two and at most three. So one or two of those guys is going to leave, one way or another.
- Which one or two? And when will they leave? And how does Lombardi project the futures of those guys? Voynov had a great season in the AHL, Hickey quietly had a very good one. Martinez is a year ahead of both of them.
- The three who aren't Johnson are cheap. And the well that fills from below is the whole idea behind cap management.
- Lombardi traded Lubomir Visnovsky under similar circumstances.
- Is Mitchell/Doughty-Scuderi/Voynov-Martinez/Greene, really worse that Mitchell/Doughty-Scuderi-Johnson/Martinez-Greene? I don't think so. But even if you disagree, let Muzzin make the team, and he can go in for Voynov as needed. And, that, if you ask me, is a clear improvement.
Cammalleri - Armstrong - Brown
O'Sullivan - Handzus - Calder
Ivanans - Thornton - Zeiler