Were New Jersey Devils Actually Better Off Without Zach Parise?

Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild announced they were buying out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. It was just nine years almost to the day that the Wild shocked the hockey world by signing the two to matching 13-year contracts. Parise had just carried the New Jersey Devils as the captain all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Suter was the top defensive free agent on the market. The deals always felt long, but Devils fans were devastated. A star was gone, and now they had to get desperate to replace him.

The next nine years became the worst decade in Devils history. Ilya Kovalchuk retired. Ryane Clowe, Michael Cammalleri, and Michael Ryder were not the saviors we all hoped they were (but secretly knew they weren’t). The only real saving grace is the Devils FINALLY went for the rebuild, and it at least looks like there’s something here that could eventually be a contender.

Looking back to nine years ago, are the Devils really better off not having signed Parise? Sure, this contract has become an albatross and the Wild are now on the hook for one of the worst buyouts we’ve ever seen. They are in a bad way after this next season. Still, the Wild made the playoffs in eight out of the last nine seasons, their future is still bright thanks to Kirill Kaprizov and a few other young players, and the Devils are choosing which young player is worth taking a flier on someone like Vladimir Tarasenko.

The past nine years would have looked completely different. The Devils would have been up against the salary cap for just about all of them, so there are issues that come with this, but the team would have been much better. Do the Devils have Nico Hischier? Probably not, but they might have Mathew Barzal or Kyle Connor.

The happiness Parise brought to the Wild might not have hit the peaks fans hoped when he signed. However, being a playoff contender every year is better than not being one. The Wild never had to completely rebuild, and this is probably the price of that. Still, they have Kaprizov, and the team looks very, very fun.

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It’s hard to tell what would have happened if Parise re-signed with the Devils. Would he force Ryan Suter to come with him? Would that have been better with the Devils as they were constructed? Would the Cory Schneider trade happen? What would Ilya Kovalchuk have done with a better team around him? These are all hypotheticals. Parise actually went to Minnesota and they never actually contended for a championship. Now, he is free to sign wherever.

The Devils can’t say they were in much better shape, even if they are in an enviable position now. Honestly, the Wild feel a lot like the mid-2000s Devils did. They are always somewhere in playoff contention, but they never really did anything with that contention. Maybe the Devils would have just repeated that for eternity, but it still feels like at least we’d see some regular-season wins.