For the New Jersey Devils and, in fact, the entire NHL, the 2010 offseason was consumed by one major storyline—the future of Ilya Kovalchuk.
The speculation of where the Russian sniper would end up went on for months until finally (after having one of their offers to Kovalchuk rejected by the NHL for salary cap circumvention) the Devils, Kovalchuk and the league agreed to the terms on a deal that would pay him $100 million over the next 15 years.
However, what fans have yet to realize is how much the Kovalchuk deal will directly affect the Devils' future, specifically with the re-signing of superstar left winger Zach Parise.
With only 15 players under contract for next season, the Devils still need to fill 12 or 13 roster spots for 2011-2012 and they have just over $9 million in cap space to do so.
So where exactly does Parise fit in?
As the franchise player on 20-plus teams in the league its likely Parise will want a franchise-player contract that would be long term and pay him upwards of $7 million per season.
So if I’m Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, with the trade deadline nearly two weeks away, I’d be thinking of the possibility of potentially moving Parise.
But the question is, who has room to take the type of long-term and high-paying contract Parise would want and could also give the Devils the return that trading a player of Parise’s caliber warrants?
The first team New Jersey should look to with regards to Parise is the L.A. Kings. Dean Lombardi was reportedly a heavy suitor of Ilya Kovalchuk at last year's trade deadline and is likely still looking to add that "stud up front" that can push his young team over the hump in a tough Western Conference.
Question is, what would the Devils ask for in return?
Well, looking at their roster right now, it seems there could be a major hole between the Devils pipes in the near future.
Martin Brodeur is 38, and this season has shown more then ever that the best goalie of all time is running short on gas. He’s been inconsistent when healthy and with only one year remaining on his deal the future in the Jersey goal looks grim—especially when your backup isn’t a youngster, either (Johan Hedberg is turning 38 in May.)
Well, the Kings could help the Devils out on that front.
Although this season was expected to be the dethroning of Jonathan Quick in goal in L.A., the 25-year-old has shown he’s the Kings' future by posting a .921 save percentage, 2.13 goals against average and five shutouts in 40 starts—numbers that put him among the best netminders in the NHL.
That leaves Jonathan Bernier, supposedly a prized prospect and 2010 AHL Goalie of the Year, in a backup position with a team that likely has their starter for the next decade.
Well, don’t you think Brodeur would be a great mentor for the young Bernier?
With one season remaining on Brodeur’s deal, the 2011-2012 season could represent a passing of the torch in goal for the Devils and one in which Brodeur and Bernier split time in goal with the hopes that Bernier proves to be a full-fledged No. 1. And even more convenient, Hedberg is a UFA at the end of this season.
So now comes the next step—what else could the Kings offer Jersey in exchange for Parise? Well, other than their future in goal, New Jersey is in need of a puck-moving defenceman who can quarterback the power play, because let's face it, Andy Greene should not be leading your team in points scored by a defenceman.
How does Jack Johnson sound? Yes, I know the Kings just re-signed the American-born defender to a long-term deal about a month ago (seven years, $30.5 million), but the Kings also have Doughty, who is just as offensively sound as Johnson while being better defensively.
Johnson is the No. 2 defender in L.A. and it seems he’ll never be the No. 1 guy as long as Doughty is a King. Also, considering that Johnson still isn’t the best “defenceman,” wouldn’t he and Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov be a perfect match?
The reason I brought Johnson’s name to the forefront is because a Bernier-and-Johnson-for-Parise deal fills voids in both teams' rosters (gives the Kings a go-to scorer to play alongside Kopitar and gives the Devils a future in goal and some young offense on defence), but it’s also a cap-friendly deal.
Johnson and Bernier’s contracts combine to about a $5.5 million cap hit, meaning you’re getting two impact players who really improve your roster for cheaper than the price that it would cost you to re-sign one player.
However, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi may not be willing to hand over Johnson so easily and New Jersey may have to settle for someone like prized-prospect Brayden Schenn.
The fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft has yet to prove he can be an impact player in the NHL; however, Luke’s younger brother had a coming out party at this year's World Championships, potting 18 points in just seven games while playing much of the tournament with the separated shoulder. He also may be the perfect player to grind out pucks in the corners and feed Kovalchuk.
So maybe it's Bernier and Schenn for Parise?
I’m not saying there’s a chance this deal goes down, but it makes sense to me since Lamoriello is going to be strapped for cash this summer.
But where else could Parise end up and who could the Devils get in return?
Nearly $31 million in cap space and a plethora of young assets make the Avs a potential destination for Parise. Not to mention they have nobody to play on the left side.
Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk?
Still in search of a franchise player to help them compete with Western Conference juggernauts. Over $20 million in cap space.
T.J Oshie or Patrick Berglund and one of Erik Johnson or Alex Pietrangelo?