NHL: What Will the New Jersey Devils Do About Zach Parise?

Roman Uschak@@RomanUschakCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 13:  Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Los Angeles Kings at Prudential Center on October 13, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Saturday's local telecast of the Devils vs.Penguins game at the Prudential Center showed a short clip of Zach Parise scoring a goal in his very first NHL game, also against Pittsburgh, in Oct. 2005 at the Devils' first home arena in the Meadowlands.

Nearly seven years and 200 goals later, there's a chance Parise could be in his final few months with the team that drafted him 17th overall back in 2003, not long after the Devils celebrated their third Stanley Cup title.

I've written before about how Parise has said he'd like to stay with the Devils. That, though, is contingent upon one thing—and that's winning in the playoffs. New Jersey has hovered around the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference for a while now, and Parise ranks third on the club in scoring with 28 goals and 34 assists for 62 points in 73 games (more than a year after undergoing knee surgery).

He hasn't changed his tenacious, scrappy style of play, either, and a recent article in The Hockey News stated that his nearly 400 points since the lockout topped all American-born players.

The Devils have also had some solid runs this year, posting three four-game winning streaks in the last two months.

Lately, though, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for New Jersey, as they had lost two straight and three of their last five following Monday's 4-2 loss to the rival New York Rangers, before rebounding last night in Ottawa with a 1-0 win. That's not a huge cause for alarm in and of itself—but with just eight games to go in the regular season, the Devils are nine points away from the eighth and final playoff slot in the East. A prolonged slump could prove dangerous, if not to end the regular season, then to possibly end the playoffs before they even really begin.

The Devils held onto Parise for the stretch run and the postseason, rather than deal him at the trading deadline in February. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and the Devils are going to have to win a playoff round for the first time since 2007, and maybe even another round, for Parise to give serious thought to signing a long-term deal and staying in Newark. The captain's "C" is nice, but he'd rather be wearing a Stanley Cup Finals patch on his jersey in June.

Parise has said he wants to stay with the Devils. He also wants to win, especially in the postseason. If those two things look to be mutually exclusive (again), he'll likely be looking to move on. If the Devils don't trade him before July, in order to avoid losing him for nothing, expect more than a few teams to throw millions of dollars at No. 9, including the Rangers.

The next few weeks/months will tell all. Win, and I think he chooses to stay where he is. Lose, and I think he moves on elsewhere.