The NHL regular season is getting shorter, and the trading deadline is less than two weeks away.
Zach Parise is an unrestricted free agent for New Jersey this year, and speculation is that the Devils might deal him if they feel they can't sign him. He's said over the months he wants to stay—but he wants to win a Stanley Cup, too.
"It's the same as every player's priority. You just want the best chance to win. You want to win, " Parise said earlier this month at nj.com. "I've said a hundred times before I love playing here. I hope nothing changes."
Odds are it won't happen by the deadline on Feb. 27, especially with New Jersey still in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race—but it could occur by late June, after perhaps one last playoff run, before Parise becomes a free agent on July 1.
One thing is sure—if Parise, who could stand to earn as much as $9 million next season, is destined to go somewhere else, there'll be no shortage of suitors. Here's a look at at least some of them, in no particular order, with some spots more likely than others...
Detroit has a projected cap space of less than $6 million, according to capgeek.com, so they'd need a little creativity if they wanted Parise to wear the winged wheel.
Parise could make an excellent addition to what is already a talented group of high-scoring forwards that routinely challenges for the Stanley Cup practically every spring.
The Devils wouldn't get Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk in return for No. 9, but they could acquire someone along the lines of a $3 million man like Valtteri Filppula, and maybe a grinding forward or two along the lines of Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller or Patrick Eaves, all of whom make less than $1.3 million.
The Devils, though, already have a plethora of grinding forwards, and they need scorers.
New Jersey could get a boost to its blue-line scoring by acquiring $4.3 million man Jack Johnson, although he's just as prone to helping allow goals as score them. The Kings are fighting for a playoff spot, and Parise, for his part, would complement Anze Kopitar nicely out in Hollywood.
Trouble is, barring any other moves, the Kings have a max cap hit of less than $3 million, which won't work out for them at all in trying to put Parise on their roster.
The Blues have been much improved since Ken Hitchcock took over last fall, and they have already reached 34 wins after managing 38 victories all of last season.The Blues also have about $9.3 million in projected cap space currently, so they could just about afford Parise.
The Devils could try to acquire young and talented St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who put up points in college and has shown a penchant for doing the same in the pros, although he's currently a restricted free agent commandeering $1.3 million. More likely might be Barret Jackman, who's at $3.6 million, but he's an unrestricted free agent. Up front, Colgate product Andy MacDonald is rated at $4.7 million and helped Anaheim win a Cup five years ago—but he just got back from a concussion and has played less than a half-dozen games this season.
Former Devils forwards Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott will be UFAs for St. Louis—but the odds of either of them coming back to play for the Devils are about as good as the Devils themselves returning to play at the Meadowlands.
The Devils could trade Parise for Cory Schneider (pictured) and a player or two, plus a draft choice. Parise might look good playing alongside the Sedin twins, and Schneider, who is due to be an unrestricted free agent himself, is a proven NHL goalie who could be a long-term solution in goal for New Jersey.
A problem with that is if Martin Brodeur chooses to come back for another season. Schneider, who will be looking to make more than $1 million a season starting this fall, would again be relegated to second fiddle like he already is with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver.
A bigger problem—and one that pretty much renders the whole argument moot—is that the Canucks are already up against the cap ceiling with virtually no space. Don't look for Parise to go that far west when all is said and done.
The Leafs are struggling to stay in the Stanley Cup playoff picture and have a max cap hit of just over $5 million. Parise would command almost twice as much money, so Toronto would have to look at packaging some players and probably a draft choice or two to free up the funds to acquire his services.
The Leafs won't give up Phil Kessel, but they might conceivably part with UFAs like new 20-goal scorer Joffrey Lupul, or puck-moving defenseman John-Michael Liles.
Then again, Toronto could just keep who it already has and take its chances as the playoffs approach. Same as New Jersey.
Can you go home again?
The Wild have been up and down this season, but they are still just a few points out of a playoff spot. The Minneapolis-born Parise might like to go back to his roots, although he would face some additional pressure to produce as the hometown boy.
Minnesota also has some $8 million in cap space to play with, so they could possibly make a pitch for Parise's services (albeit, perhaps with a slight hometown discount).
The much-improved Panthers have almost $9.6 million in cap space—but the stickler here is, would the Devils want to trade Parise to a team they could very well face in the playoffs?
There's weeks to go until the first-round playoff rotation is set—but if the postseason started tomorrow, it would be third-seeded Florida against sixth-seeded New Jersey. The last person the Devils would want to see in that situation is Parise wearing red, gold and blue.
The Predators have cap space—some $14 million—and assets—most noticeably UFA defenseman Ryan Suter, who's making $3.5 million this year.
Nashville is also in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and Parise could definitely help the Preds in trying to make it to the third round of the postseason and beyond.
The defending Stanley Cup champs have a max cap hit of just over $9 million, and a projected cap space of close to $2.9 million.
Assuming they can free up enough money to add Parise to an already effective stable of forwards, would the Devils want to deal him to a(nother) potential playoff foe and watch him possibly come back to hurt them?
Odds are Lou Lamoriello just says no.
Chicago has just under $4.9 million in projected cap space at present, but a max cap hit of over $17 million.
The Blackhawks have also been contenders the past few seasons, including a Stanley Cup championship two years ago, and could give Parise a shot at his own title like they did for his former Devils teammate John Madden.
It's difficult to say who Chicago, which had a significant housecleaning after its 2010 Cup win, would part with to pick up Parise, though. The Devils wouldn't get top dogs like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane or Duncan Keith, and Dave Bolland or Patrick Sharp aren't slated to be UFAs for several seasons.
Plus: more than $14 million available in cap space.
Minus: currently in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Likelihood for Parise: Slim and none, with slim out of town.
The Stars have projected cap space of nearly $15 million, and UFAs like Sheldon Souray, Eric Nystrom, Radek Dvorak and Adam Burish. Further down the UFA line are Mike Ribeiro ($5 million) and Brenden Morrow ($4.1 million).
The fly in the Texas ointment is that Dallas is currently situated 11th in the Western Conference. The Stars are just a few points out of a playoff spot, but they may not exactly be the contender (yet) that Parise is probably looking for.
The Sharks have only about $2.7 million in cap space at present, but they have a max cap hit of almost $9.5 million.
San Jose is still seeking to get to its first-ever Stanley Cup final, and Parise might be someone who could help them get there. In return, the Devils would probably want someone along the lines of Ryan Clowne and/or Joe Pavelski, neither of whom the Sharks might want to part with.
The Islanders have more than $13 million in cap space, so they could take on Parise's new contract—but they're eight points out of a playoff spot with just 27 games left, and they haven't qualified for postseason play since 2007.
Even if it is dear old dad J.P.'s former NHL club, Parise almost assuredly won't be heading to the Island in the near future.
The Avalanche, who surprised many by making the playoffs two years ago, have a young cast and are on the periphery of the final playoff spot in the West this year. They also have over $14.6 million in projected cap space.
Assuming Parise would be amenable to a trade out to the Rockies, New Jersey might just ask for Paul Stastny (shown here) in return, whose dad, Peter, is a former Devil. The younger Stastny, though, isn't due to be an UFA until 2014-15.