As Bruce Springsteen has said countless times over the years, "Some day we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny."
But then again, maybe not.
On the eve of the feeding frenzy known as unrestricted free agency, New Jersey Devils fans are learning that those reports of financial difficulties being experienced by team owner Jeff Vanderbeek are nothing to be scoffed at. Because while GM Lou Lamoriello has been able to move to get a number of players signed signs are distressingly apparent that the big fish — in this case forward Zach Parise, goalie Martin Brodeur and defenseman Bryce Salvador — could be getting away.
For Parise, testing the free-agent waters was and is a no-brainer. He is in the prime of his career and this chance may not come again, so he owes it to himself to see what's out there, and judging from the speculation, there will be plenty in terms of both contract length and dollars. He has kept the Devils in the mix, but in reading all the reports so far, despite talks with his agents, the Devils haven't made any kind of an offer. Why? Well certainly not because Lamoriello doesn't believe Parise is worth signing. He well knows Parise is a core part of his team. So logically, one must make the supposition that an offer can't be made because of the financial difficulties that have plagued Vanderbeek in the last year or so.
That is even more apparent in Brodeur's case. The goalie and Lamoriello always have agreed on contracts quickly and quietly, and that was pretty much what everyone figured would happen this time around. Lamoriello wants Brodeur back and Brodeur wants the Devils. But by signing on with agent Pat Brisson and Brisson's declaration that Brodeur will test the free-agent market, the signal is clear — the Devils can't make an offer until their financial house is in order and one wonders if that stability will come in time to keep two of the Devils' most important players.
When it comes to Parise, there will be plenty of offers, with the Penguins, Red Wings, Wild and a host of other teams lining up to add one of the sport's top players to their lineups. He won't come cheap, but for other teams that won't be a problem. In these uncertain days in Newark, the term "hometown discount" is taking on new and disturbing meaning.
And don't scoff at the notion there won't be a market for Brodeur. Based on his play last season and especially in the playoffs, Brodeur has shown there is plenty left in the tank. Think GM Steve Yzerman might make a call from Tampa? How about Dale Tallon in Florida? You could make a case the Chicago Blackhawks could use a veteran goalie and how about the positive press resulting from the Montreal Canadiens bringing a hometown hero back home? Any other team with a young goalie in need of mentoring could do a lot worse than Brodeur. so there figures to be a market and not Brodeur is going to see what it is. He might be pleasantly surprised.
And don't overlook a domino effect. If Parise goes without an offer from the Devils, Brodeur too may deem it time to head on out figuring the team's financial status will make competing for a Stanley Cup a thing of the past.
Salvador was a terrific player last season, especially in the playoffs and at age 34, he is looking at probably the last big contract of his career. Salvador has said he would like to return, but with Parise and Brodeur topping him on Lamoriello's to-do list, he can't afford to let the grass grow under his feet.
Lamoriello worked quickly and effectively to get Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier and Cam Janssen signed, but the heavy lifting has yet to be done and judging from what we are seeing, ownership isn't giving Lamoriello the tools to get it done.
Perhaps by Sunday evening all will be well in Newark. Parise will be back. Brodeur will be back and Salvador will be back and the talk can be of another return to the Stanley Cup Final.
But Devils fans may well be talking about the end of an era just as easily. And that won't be very funny at all.
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