The New Jersey Devils’ impressive playoff run ended against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup final, but it brought in more than $32.3 million in additional revenue for the cash-strapped club that is believed to be facing bankruptcy unless a new minority owner is found.
That extra revenue will help GM Lou Lamoriello in his efforts to re-sign his key free agents in the coming weeks. Topping the list is team captain Zach Parise, who is coming off a one-year, $6-million contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Despite Parise's frequent insistence that his preference is to remain with the Devils, his future was the subject of considerable speculation throughout the season and some observers wonder if the Devils can afford to re-sign him. Media consensus is Parise will be the best player available on the open market and will attract plenty of attention.
Conjecture over the 27-year-old left winger's future ramped up after the Stanley Cup final ended. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun suggests the Kings would pursue Parise; Michael Russo of Startribune.com speculates the Minnesota Wild will make a pitch; and Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer believes the Flyers will also get into the bidding.
Parise has also been linked to the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers.
However, at the Devils dressing room clean out on Wednesday, Parise didn’t sound anything like someone who was planning to move on to greener pastures. He told the media he wanted to return to the Devils and suggested the possibility of re-signing before July 1. He also repeatedly said there was “no way” he'd join the Rangers.
Sceptics will dismiss Parise's comments and time will tell if he and the Devils can reach an agreement over the next two weeks, but it's clear his departure from New Jersey isn't the sure thing many pundits believed it to be.
Devils goaltending legend Martin Brodeur will also be an unrestricted free agent and there was talk this year’s playoff run would be his last kick at the can. However, the 40-year-old Brodeur's strong post-season performance has many now believing he'll return for another year, barring a lengthy lockout.
Following the Cup final, Brodeur said he would take a few weeks to ponder his future, but said he was “leaning” toward a return. He also suggested management's priority should be to re-sign Parise first.
As far as Lamoriello is concerned, Brodeur “will be a Devil as long as he wants to be.”
Don't expect Brodeur to weigh offers from other teams as he's played his entire NHL career with the Devils.
Other unrestricted free agents in New Jersey include forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky, Petr Sykora, Cam Janssen, Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier, along with defenseman Bryce Salvador and backup goalie Johan Hedberg. Blueliner Mark Fayne is their sole restricted free agent of note.
Bernier, whose undisciplined first period penalty in Game 6 led to the Kings’ Cup-clinching victory, should receive a short-term offer. Despite being the goat in the decisive game, Bernier played his way onto the roster in late January after being a training camp walk-on and did well in a checking role during the playoffs.
His teammates never blamed him for the penalty and Lamoriello expressed pride in how he handled the issue with the media following the game.
Salvador was their best offensive blueliner in the post-season, with 14 points in 24 playoff games, but he's not known for his scoring prowess and, considering his age (36) and injury history, the best he can expect is a one-year offer.
Sykora and Hedberg would like to return, but acknowledged their futures with the club are uncertain.
Ponikarovsky and Janssen probably won't be back, while Fayne, Gionta and Carter should be affordable re-signings.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla's Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.