In a perfect world, the New Jersey Devils would have signed Zach Parise. He wouldn't have gone home to Minnesota and accepted the huge contract. He would have returned to New Jersey to finish what the team couldn't complete last season.
But fate was not on New Jersey's side, and the Devils are now left with a gaping hole in their offense that needs to be replaced. The losses of Parise, Alexei Ponikarovsky (FA, Winnipeg) and potentially Petr Sykora (FA, still unsigned) will cost New Jersey 66 goals from last season.
According to Cap Geek, the Devils still have $16 million in cap space to find a solution to their offensive woes. Defensemen Mark Fayne could win an increased salary in arbitration, but if they pay him and Sykora over the next few weeks, they will still have roughly $15 million to work with (NJ.com).
The rumors about who the Devils will replace Zach Parise with have been swirling, ranging from signing former Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin or trading with the Anaheim Ducks for New Jersey native Bobby Ryan (NJ.com).
Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash would be a great addition to the team, but GM Scott Howson has asked for a significant amount of young talent from different teams around the league (AOL Sporting News). New Jersey would likely have to give up Adam Henrique along with other young talent like Jacob Josefson or Mattias Tedenby, and that deal just doesn't seem to help the Devils in the long run.
The best option would be to rely on free agency (NHL.com). Semin and former Nashville Predators forward Andrei Kostitsyn are still available because Parise took his time making a decision. While they are both expected to ask for a good amount of money, it shouldn't be as high as the $7.5 million that both Parise and Ryan Suter received in Minnesota.
The Devils may also choose to bring back former players to fill the spot by committee. Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Brian Rolston are all still available on the market, and the Devils have been known to bring back players after letting them walk away. Although each of these players are past their prime and on the decline, they could each provide the extra veteran leadership that was taken away by Parise.
Trading away players like Adam Henrique after losing Zach Parise would further cripple this team going into next season. It would be wise to keep the young core of players and use the extra $16 million in cap to go out and sign someone who can fit into the offensive scheme.