Signin' Parise Ain't Easy!

Sorry, we couldn’t resist using that headline.

Zach Parise is scheduled to go to arbitration on Wednesday, but he’s still hopeful that a deal will be struck between him and the New Jersey Devils before then. For their part, the Devils freed up some cap space yesterday when they sent Brian Rolston to the New York Islanders in exchange for Trent Hunter.

According to Cap Geek, the Devils have almost $8 million in cap space and 24 players signed, so re-signing Parise shouldn’t be too difficult for them. Right?

So what’s the hold up?

According to NHL.com, “Parise wants to be a Devil for longer than just one season, and he wants to be paid properly, especially considering he’s potentially one year away from being an unrestricted free agent.”

To us, that sounds like he wants a long term deal worth a decent amount of cash per season.

That wouldn’t be an unreasonable demand for a player who has scored 341 points in 420 career NHL games. In his last two full seasons, he recorded 94 points and 82 points respectively. Last season he only played 13 games due to injury and picked up just six points in those games. Perhaps the Devils are using that injury as a bargaining tool to try and get Parise to sign a shorter deal worth less money?

Parise seems pretty dead set on avoiding arbitration. Earlier this month, NJ.com reported that while Parise would rather sign a long term deal, he’d take a one-year deal if it meant avoiding the arbitrator.

“Ideally we’d like to do a multi-year, but I don’t think anyone is opposed to doing one year thing,” Parise told me. “Our goal is to do a multi-year.”

Parise likely understands that his injury last season could seriously impact his case in arbitration.

You’d have to assume that the Devils would want to sign a slightly longer deal than the one-year contract the arbitrator would award as well. Signing Parise to a one-year deal would make him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2012 season and that would be playing with fire for the Devils.

How much money will Parise end up making next year? At first glance, it would appear that his salary would have to be at least somewhere around the $5 million mark. That would put him alongside players like Ryan Kesler, Jeff Carter, Patrice Bergeron and Corey Perry. All of those players are close in age and have put up numbers that are comparable to Parise. That’s also what Parise earned last season, though his cap hit was only $3.125 million.

However, New Jersey Devils blog In Lou We Trust makes and interesting argument for Parise making much more:

Look at Alexander Semin’s one year contract: $6.7 million. Parise’s a more complete player than Semin and at the same age too; so I believe he can command more than that. However, looking at that list, I’m doubtful he’ll get an average value that would be top-10 in the league. While it’s arguable that Parise’s more valuable than Scott Gomez, Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik, and Brian Campbell; it’s arguable that Parise’s just as valuable to the Devils as Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton, or Jason Spezza is to their teams. I will admit these aren’t very well suited as direct comparables, but this is the range of average hits that we’re talking about.

Just to bring this to some conclusion, here’s a guess that I think would be within the realm of reality. A 7 year contract worth $49.7 million. This would make Parise the player with the highest average value on his contract on the Devils, it would yield a $7.1 million cap hit for New Jersey, he’ll be among the highest paid players in the league, and it will commit the two parties through the best years of Parise’s career without allowing him hit the FA market at the very end of his career.

That makes sense and it’s certainly the case that Parise’s side would take if this case ever did go to arbitration. Parise is incredibly important to the New Jersey Devils franchise, not just in the next year or two but for the foreseeable future. He is arguably the team’s best player and that should get him a salary worthy of that fact. He’s also only 27 years old.

Ilya Kovalchuk makes an average of $6.6 million in New Jersey. Shouldn’t Parise make at least that much?

The Devils are likely gearing up for the chance that Parise will make a lot of money in the near future. That’s likely why they traded Brian Rolston and cleared up some cap space. Parise is in the prime of his career and this is the age when talented players strike it very, very rich.

Is Parise a Carter, Kesler, Bergeron or Perry or is he more of a Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik, Vincent Lecavalier or Rick Nash? The difference between those two groups is that Carter, Kesler, Bergeron and Perry are all very talented players, but Vanek, Gaborik, Lecavalier and Nash are the faces of their respective franchises. There are also millions of dollars in salary between those two groups.

Parise is more of a franchise centerpiece than he is a talented addition. Will he be paid like it? And for how long?