New Jersey Devils: What If Zach Parise Never Left?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04: Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils plays against the Los Angeles Kings in the first period of Game Three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center on June 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04: Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils plays against the Los Angeles Kings in the first period of Game Three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center on June 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Throughout August, Pucks and Pitchforks will be doing a series of “What If” articles, chronicling the most impactful moments in New Jersey Devils history. We will take a look at the series of events that unfolded, and how they changed the course of this team’s history. Today, we will look at possibly the most impactful decision in recent Devils history, the moment Zach Parise decided to go home.

On July 4, 2012, Devils fans were given a gut punch that could be felt across the Garden State. It was announced that Zach Parise chose to sign a 13-year deal with the Minnesota Wild. This wasn’t because the Wild were better contenders, the Devils literally just went to the Stanley Cup Finals. It wasn’t because they offered a lot more money since Lou Lamoriello said his offer was quote “competitive”. This was a player deciding long ago that Minnesota would be his home once again.

Now, changing history is always hard, because each decision impacts every future decision greatly. This couldn’t be more true here.

The NHL lockout came mere months after Parise’s decision, and the NHL lost around half their season. That didn’t bold well for the Devils since they had the oldest goalie tandem in the league, and they tried to fit 48 games in 98 days. Things started well (8-1-3 in their first 12 games), but a Martin Brodeur injury spelled doom for Jersey’s Team.

Then, that offseason, Ilya Kovalchuk “retired” and he also went home. The Devils lost two superstars in consecutive offseasons. However, what if Parise never left? Could the Devils have made the playoffs in 2013 with Parise still on the team? If the Devils did make another run, would that make Kovalchuk want to stay?

More from Pucks and Pitchforks

Maybe he was always going to go back to Russia, but why would he have signed a 15-year contract in the first place if he was always going to leave for Russia? Why wouldn’t a team just give him a three-year deal?

So, say the Devils gave Parise his exact contract, and still had Kovalchuk on the books. So, Kovalchuk’s cap hit would be $6.666 million per season. Then, Parise would have a $7.53 million deal. Kovalchuk’s deal wouldn’t end until 2025, and Parise’s deal runs through that same year. That means the Devils would have more than $14 million tied into Parise and Kovalchuk until basically forever.

So, safe to say the Devils would be a much better team than they were now. That means they definitely gets around the 17-20th pick during the 2015 NHL Draft. So maybe they end up with Kyle Connor instead of Pavel Zacha? That ones a win, but the rest doesn’t feel so great. They’d probably draft around that same position every season, unless they did even better. So definitely no Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes.

One thing that would be positive about the Devils is that trading for Cory Schneider would have actually mattered. From 2014-2016, Schneider was playing Vezina-level hockey. Maybe if Parise and Kovalchuk were still on the team, the Devils would make the playoffs with peak Schneider, and he could have actually won the Vezina Trophy.

If the Devils did re-sign Parise, they may look incredibly different not only on the ice, but off of it. Much has been said about the different philosophy since Ray Shero took over and Lou Lamoriello left, but would he have ever left if these deals were in place? What’s more, would Josh Harris and David Blitzer have bought the team with tens of millions of dollars still owed to two players. If Harris and Blitzer don’t come, the owners might elect to keep the franchise in the hands of Lou, and the Devils would continue to try to fix everything with trades and free agency instead of just biting the bullet and going through a rebuild.

Next. Time For Taylor Hall To Make A Decision. dark

The Devils would be in a BAD position if they had re-signed Parise now, even if Kovalchuk still retired. He has possibly the worst contract in the NHL. It has a lot to do with when he signed it (immediately before the lockout).

The Devils actually might still have Taylor Hall. He was under a really affordable contract, and Lou could have taken a chance on him to save him from Edmonton. Although, would he have wanted to give up on Adam Larsson when he was the one who drafted him? Maybe, but also maybe not. Whether Hall would be a Devil is a big question.

This is a “What If” that many of us are probably happy that never happened. Parise re-signing with the Devils would have been GREAT for the first few years, but right now we’d be paying for it terribly. A different owner, still figuring out what Lou is thinking as GM, having players who aren’t allowed to use Twitter phenominally (imagine if we never got the best Taylor Hall shooting his shot ever?) all while being stuck in cap space purgatory. Now, the Devils could be the most exciting team in the NHL. All of it goes back to the Devils losing out on Parise seven years ago.