The New Jersey Devils tried to re-sign star center Zach Parise but it just didn’t work out. Management and the front office should get full marks for their effort but after a long and trying process, the reality became very clear that Parise was going to walk.
So now that the Devils are in this position, how do they replace their captain, top center and 31-goal scorer?
The good news is that the Devils are a team that has continuously managed to replace quality players in the Lou Lamoriello era. They’ve been viewed as a tad frugal and maybe even stingy, so they haven’t always been able to retain their talent but they continuously find new diamonds in the rough that they develop. Nobody wanted to see Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski leave, but the Devils managed to survive.
The Devils played without Parise in the forgettable 2010-11 season when he only suited up for three games. The team still played well enough (after a horrible start) and much of those season’s failures were attributed to former head coach John MacLean.
The onus of replacing Parise’s production will first fall on Travis Zajac. The 27-year-old center will move onto the top line and he’s proven more than capable with a pair of 60-point seasons on his resume. Zajac only played in 15 games last season, so essentially the Devils were already without a top center last season so this season Zajac is back and Parise is gone. They’re not the same player but it’s conceivable that Zajac replacing a lot of that productivity.
Parise was also a team captain and leader, and that’s one area that could be harder to replace. New Jersey has always found good captains, though and that will be a task for Peter DeBoer to address.
Overall, the Devils will miss Parise. Bettors, fans and NHL odds makers know they would have been better had they kept Parise and saw Zajac return, but the reality is very different. Even so, Zajac’s production should help keep the Devils in a similar position in the NHL standings in 2012 as they were in 2011.