The trade deadline looms nearer each day, and NHL analysts are already tearing apart the rosters of the bottom-dwellers of each conference. The Blue Jackets, the Hurricanes, and the Ducks have been deconstructed and sold off in fantasy draft fashion by pundits nearing February 27th, and that includes the members of this site.
But one of the more intriguing deadline scenarios concerned the future of Zach Parise in New Jersey. Friday's acquisition of Alexei Ponikarovsky should put an end to any trade speculation concerning Parise.
Ponikarovsky, despite having a rather disappointing season for the Carolina Hurricanes with seven goals and 15 points in 49 games, was a popular candidate in deadline discussions due to his past success. His awful production the past two seasons overshadows the fact that he has four 20-goal seasons in his career. It makes him worth taking a chance on for the right price.
For a fourth-round pick and an ECHL defenseman, the price was right for Lou Lamoriello.
But what this trade signifies more than anything else is that the Devils are buyers, as a team sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference should be. And while their biggest issue at this point most certainly appears to be goaltending, their other most glaring weakness is secondary scoring. The addition of Ponikarovsky can offer that, or it could fail.
But to take that chance and to part with a mid-level draft pick in the process, Lamoriello appears to be set for a playoff push. And while the risks are high, as Dallas proved last year in losing Brad Richards for nothing, it is in New Jersey's best interest in the future to lock up Parise, as there's no guarantee any return package would ever make up for his departure. We got a very grim look last season of what this Devil team looks like without Parise, and thus how they would look for the next 5 years or so were he to leave.
In addition, the Devils don't face the handcuffs the Stars faced in dealing with Richards as the NHL struggled to sell the franchise.
The Devils have no excuse not to sign Parise. The mammoth deal to Ilya Kovalchuk, already uncharacteristic to the Devils, set the precedent for Parise and will perhaps force Lamoriello into a trend of spending with which he's uncomfortable. But he won't have much of a choice.
And as we've learned in the past from his dealings with the likes of Bobby Holik, Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin, and others, Lamoriello has no issue taking his dealings with high-profile fee agents into July. Parise may have to wait until then as well. But with no question, the Devils need Parise, both now and in the future. And Ponikarovsky's arrival in Jersey tells us that at least until the summer, Parise isn't going anywhere.