Sorry I did not get to post this sooner. Have not had much time…but here it is. Yesterday, the Devils made an unexpected move, sending left wing Brian Rolston to the Islanders for right wing Trent Hunter. Rolston, who turned 38 last February, had one more year on his (rather expensive) contract, worth just over five million. He put up 14 goals and 20 assists last season in 65 games, to go along with a -6 rating. When Lou Lamoriello stated that “cap space was not the issue” in dealing Rollie, I began to question the move. And while I still do not think it was the best possible road for the Devils to take, the deal became perfectly understandable when the Devils gave Zach Parise a one-year deal (worth $6 million) today.
First, the trade that set up the contract. Rolston was owed just over $5 million for next season; when that money was moved for Hunter’s $2 million salary, the Devils had just under $9 million (approximately…I know, a lot of numbers to swallow) to get Parise signed. Hunter, 31, played in only 17 games last year after tearing the MCL in his left knee on November 24th, which would ultimately be his last game of the season (Hunter opted for surgery last February). In the 09-10 season, he scored 11 goals along with 17 assists and a +6 in 61 games. Obviously, there will always be a lot of injury concern with Hunter; regardless, however, he shouldn’t be too much of a factor, as overall, Lou went through with this trade in order to rid the team of Rollie’s contract.
The only issue with this trade, for me, is that it may have come a year late. Us Devils fans (as well as the organization, I would assume) have contemplated the possibility of clearing Rolston from the payroll for a while now; if this move had been made a year ago, it would have freed up more cap for the Devils to use in various possible areas. Parise was only signed for $6 million, which looks to be less than half of $1 million more than the Devils could have originally afforded; thus, moving another player (possibly one with less production than Rolston) could have probably cleared the necessary space as well. Shipping Rollie out of town would have made more sense before July 1st of this (or last) year; however, his impact is no longer large, and with the Devils’ surplus of left wings, this is a move they could definitely afford. We can all appreciate what Rolston has done with the Devils over the years, and hopefully this appreciation can be shown in Islanders-Devils games this season at the Rock.
Now, onto the contract. Obviously, although we can all be happy that Parise will be a Devil next season, we would have loved for a long-term deal to be agreed upon, which ultimately did not happen. Making matters worse, the two sides basically admitted that this was the best way to go about Parise’s status (in avoiding an arbitration hearing), as their discussions showed that their dollar (and possibly year) figures seem to be fairly apart. However, it is significant that they will have until next offseason to work out a long-term deal. As we all know, Parise, who could become the next Devils’ captain, loves it in New Jersey, and the fans love him right back. It does seem unlikely that, unless for miserably bad contract negotiations, he would leave the Devils after next year.
Thus, this one-year deal should be viewed as a positive for now. Time is on our side, and in the end, something should get worked out. Parise will earn $6 million this year, which, to me, seems just below a reasonable average salary for any long-term deal the two sides would agree upon. Kovalchuk (although his contract was over 15 years) will make an average of $6,666,666 over his time in New Jersey. It would be hard to believe that Parise will get more than this, although the years that contract covers will go a long way in determining that. For now, however, have faith in Lou and the front office, and enjoy watching a healthy Parise next season. The last two days have been important, as Lamoriello has done a great job clearing necessary cap space while not giving up too much from his roster.