NHL Free Agency: Why Zach Parise Is Staying in New Jersey

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NHL Free Agency: Why Zach Parise Is Staying in New Jersey
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With the recent trade (h/t Will Graves, Boston.com) made by the Pittsburgh Penguins and the rumored multimillion dollar contract offer from the Minnesota Wild (via hockeywilderness.com), the sweepstakes for New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise is heating up.

Pittsburgh traded All-Star center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for three players this past weekend, opening up significant cap room for this offseason. The Wild are rumored to have a 13-year contract on the table for the Minnesota native, a deal similar to the one given to fellow Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk.

The Penguins are looking for a winger to pair with Sidney Crosby, while the Wild have the cap room to sign the potential face of their franchise and lock him up for the rest of his career. However, it is likely that Zach Parise will wind up re-signing with the New Jersey Devils come July 1st.

For one thing, the Penguins aren't going to have the cap space to sign Parise unless they continue to unload other stars. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (via the Detroit News), the Pens are now trying to move D Paul Martin, who missed most of the year due to a concussion and is scheduled to make $5 million next year. This would leave them with only two quality defensemen in Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik.

Crosby is also expected to sign an extension sometime soon, which could cost the Penguins roughly $9 to $10 million per year. They would also have the contracts of Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin to worry about.

As for the Wild, they have the cap space to offer Parise the most money. According to SI.com, Minnesota currently has $21 million in cap space plus another $12 million coming next year when the contracts of Dany Heatley and Pierre-Marc Bouchard expire.

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However, if they give Parise $8 to $9 million per year, they may not be able to build a quality team around him. Minnesota has young talent, but they have a lot more question marks on their roster than the Penguins and Devils currently do.

Interestingly enough, the Devils are in the same situation cap wise as the Wild. I wrote recently that the Devils will have $28 million to work with this offseason, and half of their unrestricted free agents will likely accept close to minimum contracts. The big names like Bryce Salvador and Alexei Ponikarovsky will likely sign elsewhere, and 40-year-old goaltender Martin Brodeur should (although not definite) take a contract smaller than his currently $5.2 million deal.

New Jersey will also have cap coming off the books next season, as the contracts of Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus will expire and leave the Devils with an extra $9.4 million to work with. It is not promised that those two will take pay cuts or test the market, but they are both aging wingers who won't make top money like they are now. If they give Parise the large contract he wants, they can still likely build a successful team around him.

Parise will also continue to be the leader of the Devils, something that he would have to give up in Pittsburgh. Parise will be the third star on that team behind Malkin and Crosby, whereas he is considered royalty in his current role with New Jersey. He also has an Eastern Conference title with this team compared to the Penguins early first-round exit this past year.

In all, despite the cap space and the home-town advantage, the best option for Parise right now is still New Jersey. Pittsburgh and Minnesota may toss a large amount of money at him come July 1st, but Parise has the best chance to win while still being the face of the franchise with the Devils.

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