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Should He Stay or Should He Go? The Great Parise Debate

When the clock struck midnight on December 31st and the calender flipped from 2011 to 2012, it signified the opening of the New Jersey Devils exclusive negotiating window with star winger Zach Parise. It also opened the door for rampant speculation about Parise’s future with the organization.

Typically the Devils don’t negotiate with a player during the season. They save those type of business decisions for the summer. In the past, that line of thinking hasn’t always worked in New Jersey’s favor. Free agents Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Paul Martin and the like all tested the market and all were allowed to walk away with little or no resistence. The Devils can’t afford to let that happen with Zach.

Parise is different.

According to a recent article by the Star-Ledger money is definitely a motivating factor for Parise when negotiations for a new contract begin, but it won’t be the deciding factor. Parise wants to win now and in the future. If Parise feels like the Devils are not a contender than he will go somewhere that is.

“For me that’s probably the biggest thing,” Parise told the Ledger. “The money is definitely important. That’s real life, let’s face it. I’m not going to say it’s not. That’s realistic. But most important for me is being competitive and having a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”

The Devils have always been about the team and winning. Day in and day out operations seem to indicate that philosophy hasn’t changed, but if Parise is allowed to go to market will undoubtedly sign elsewhere.

What kind of message will that send the fans? The same thing can be said if Lamoriello opts to trade his captain at the deadline. If New Jersey wants to remain a viable NHL contender, wouldn’t Parise play an important role in that? He should be the centerpiece of the Devils.

When New Jersey stole Parise with 17th pick in 2003 it was assumed he would some day fill the role of the face of the franchise. Players of his caliber and work ethic are in the minority, not only in hockey but in all of professional sports. The 27 year-old has always embraced that role and according to his father, former NHL player J.P. Parise, he still does.

“He’s overly loyal, and he’s not going to rush into anything. He’s always loved the New Jersey Devils. He’s been extremely loyal to the organization, to his teammates. But this is business now.”

It’s the last part of that quote that troubles me, because it is business now. At 12:01 am on January 1st, Lou Lamoriello should of had Parise’s agent on the line. The Devils must not let Parise get away for nothing. If the cash strapped Devils can’t afford him, they must trade him for something. It would be bitter sweet to see Parise in another NHL sweater but he would command a substantial return. That is a possibility the Devils must explore.

Parise could earn up to $7-8 million per year on the open market. If New Jersey isn’t ready to pony up the cash, they must trade him before he walks for free. Otherwise they risk backlash from an intensely loyal fan base.

I still believe a deal will be reached between the two sides. I can’t imagine a player or players that could even come close to replacing Parise’s intangibles. (except maybe Tim Tebow. Couldn’t resist.) If Lou plans on waiting until July, he will be making a catastrophic mistake. It’s time for Lamoriello and the Devils organization to make a commitment to their captain. Show the fans and the rest of the NHL that New Jersey is dedicated to winning long term. They must break their own rules and strike a deal as soon as possible.

Time is ticking…

Follow me on twitter! @StevePalumboNHL

Let me Know your take on the great Parise debate.