New York Hockey: Devils

Zach Parise tops trade list

October, 11, 2011
This morning ESPN Insider's Craig Custance posted a comprehensive look at the top 10 names who could be traded before the end of the season. The name topping the list? The Devils' Zach Parise.

Here's a snippet from the full breakdown:

"Being named the captain is a nice first step in keeping Parise in New Jersey long term, but it doesn't guarantee anything. Parise is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and if he doesn't sign an extension before the trade deadline, Lou Lamoriello will get calls for the talented winger. That still doesn't mean a trade is probable."

One NHL source doubts the Devils would deal their captain, stating, "When was the last time a franchise player was traded?"

Well, if you're asking, perhaps Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have an answer. Ilya Kovalchuk seems to be raising his hand as well.

Unlike the source, Custance appears to have this one in the proper context though. There's no way the Devils want to part ways with Parise. But ... there's a reason he tops this top-10 list.

The Devils absolutely cannot allow him to hit the market. There are just too many teams out there (cough, Los Angeles, cough) who would love to add a former 45-goal scorer to their arsenal. Cap space is no longer an issue for the Devils, not with a mere $39 million projected for next season's roster. Instead, the biggest factor is likely Parise's willingness to stay on in New Jersey. If the Devils turn in another season like 2010-11, a rebuild may be necessary before they make another run at the Cup. Would Parise want to wait if he has other attractive offers dangled in front of him?

If you're Lamoriello you can't afford to let Parise walk away in the offseason for nothing, certainly not when you have needs to address -- and a trade involving a player of Parise's caliber could address a lot of them. An NHL-ready player, a pick and a prospect is probably the starting point for any offer. And the Devils could use all three of those things.

It all makes for some early-season intrigue, but keep in mind this is little more than speculation at this time. Of course, that speculation will likely linger until Parise signs on the dotted line.

Just how bad is the Devils' offense?

December, 20, 2010
If you find humor in irony ... or if you're a Flyers fan ... you must be howling with laughter at the Devils right now. Here they are, 32 games into a season in which they added one of the league's elite scorers to an already accomplished squad and the Devs sit dead last in goals per game. And I mean, dead -- no pulse, don't bother with the defibrillator. At least that's how it appears.

New Jersey is currently averaging 1.75 goals per game. Not only is that the lowest scoring average in the league this season, but no one has even come close since the Tampa Bay Lightning clunked along at a 1.84 clip in 1997-98. Even the Columbus Blue Jackets were a quarter of a goal better in 2000-01, the franchise's second season.

What makes it even more confounding? Since the lockout, with the game's tempo and scoring on the rise, no team has even dipped below 2.30 goals per game (the Islanders in 2007-08). Simply put, Devils fans are watching the single most inept offense of the NHL's modern era ... despite locking down Ilya Kovalchuk and his 346 career goals.

On the surface that's a rather chilling reality, considering the Devils are supposed to be built to win now, but instead appear to require major retooling with limited means. But there are a few factors that cushion the blow. First, the Devs have missed perennial 30-goal scorer Zach Parise since October 30 due to injury. Second, New Jersey may just be a little unlucky with its shots. According to metricians, on average, NHL teams score on somewhere between 9 and 10 percent of their shots on goal. This season the Devs have only converted at a 5.9 percent clip.

Signs like that, plus Parise's return, indicate the Devils should be due some goals between now and the end of the season and that goal-per-game average should improve accordingly. Will it be enough for an improbable run at the playoffs? That's a much tougher question. But it should hopefully quell concerns that the Devils' roster is fundamentally flawed in the scoring department.

There's no doubt the Devils have been bad to date, but it doesn't appear that they'll stay this down for good. A few tweaks, a few better bounces and a little better luck in the health department and New Jersey's offense should start to rebound in the second half of the season.

Donnie Pucks' Devils preview

October, 8, 2010
1050 ESPN's Don La Greca previews the New Jersey Devils' 2010 season.