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What if Parise and Kovalchuk Were Still Devils


devilsrule33
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A lot of talk with the Devils struggles over the last few years always goes back to the loss of Parise and Kovalchuk. There's certainly a truth to any statement that says the Devils have suffered because of the loss of these two players, but how different would things be?  Would the Devils have returned to the Stanley Cup Finals? Been a perennial top team in the East? Would everything by perfect in Devils land? The same as it is now, or could it possibly be even worse than is today? One thing is for sure, plotting where this incarnation of the Devils could be with Parise and Kovalchuk is simply impossible to do.
 
For this bit of fan fiction, I went back in time to early July, where somehow the broke Devils are able to give an almost $100 million contract to Zach Parise.

 

2012-2013

 

The Devils didn't make any roster moves heading into the season after losing Parise, and they'd have no cap space to do anything if Parise ended up signing. They still sign Salvador to a brutal contract, and gamble with Brodeur and Hedberg at 40 and 39 respectively for the next 2 seasons. With the addition of the Parise signing, the Devils payroll rises, and if anything, the team needs to shed some salary to get under a team internal cap. In this case, the Devils are able to trade Tallinder before the season begins.

 
Opening Night Roster
 

Parise-Henrique-Kovalchuk

Elias-Zajac-Clarkson

Zubrus-Josefson-Bernier

Carter-Gionta-Barch

 

Salvador-Zidlicky

Greene-Larsson

Fayne-Volchenkov

Harrold

 

What Happens?

 

The Devils goaltending duo of Brodeur and Hedberg still struggle. With Brodeur hurt, Hedberg is still forced to play 19 of the 48 games, and the team save percentage is still 28th in the league at .894.

Even with Parise, the Devils shootout record decreases significantly, from 12-4 to not as bad as 2-7, but still under .500

 

The Loktionov trade still happens. Tedenby spends most of the season in the AHL, and Josefson struggles mightily at the NHL level

The main change comes when Kovalchuk misses 11 games with a broken arm. They are better equipped to handle the loss of a top line player, and the Devils don’t lose anything close to 10 games in a row

 

End Result: The injuries to Kovalchuk, atrocious goaltending and lack of defensive depth probably do not make up for a healthy Parise. The Devils potentially finish 8th in the East, where they play the Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

2013-2014

 

The 13-14 off-season is a tough one, but since a big chunk of the this exercise is guessing, guess we shall. We’ll start at the draft where the Devils no longer have the 9th pick, but rather a pick in the 14-17 range. With a pick outside the top 10, the Devils simply do not have enough for the Canucks to pass on a division rivals offer from Edmonton for a 7th overall pick and prospect for Schneider.

 

The Devils are still determined to find a goalie for the future and to stop a repeat performance from that position the previous season. Unable to find an NHL goalie close to being ready in the draft pool, the Devils look to make a draft day trade. After competition from the Leafs, the Devils trade their 15th-17th pick to the Kings along with Keith Kinkaid for Jonathan Bernier, and the Kings 1st round draft pick in 2014.

 

At the draft, the Devils are not able to reach an agreement with Clarkson, who is expected to be the top free agent target throughout the league, but lock up Elias and Zubrus shortly before free agency to very similar contracts that were actually signed in real life.

 

When Free agency begins, Lamoriello believes the most important piece to find is a big body to replace Clarkson. That man is Ryane Clowe, who signs a 5yr $22.5M deal. Shortly after, the Devils re-sign Marek Zidlicky. Johan Hedberg is bought out. Lastly, Tedenby bids farewell.
 
Opening Night Roster:
 
Clowe-Loktionov-Kovalchuk
Parise-Zajac-Zubrus
Elias-Henrique-Bernier
Carter-Josefson-Gionta
 
Salvador-Zidlicky
Greene-Larsson
Volchenkov-Harrold

Fayne (in honour of how the 13-14 started)


Brodeur
Bernier
 
What Happens?
Bernier is seen as the future but not exactly the present that say Schneider might have been. Lou and Deboer declare Brodeur the starter going into the year, and 41-year-old Brodeur struggles throughout the season playing about 50 games. Bernier shows a lot of promise playing 32 games leaving many fans wishing he would have played more. As Bernier does not get an extended run before the trade deadline, there is never talk about Brodeur being traded. 
 
The signing of Clowe is a disaster as he suffers two more concussions, and is limited to only half the games.
 
In addition to Clowe being out, injuries to Kovalchuk, Parise, and Elias throughout the season leave the Devils extremely thin offensively. The Devils have trouble scoring because of this as players like Bernier and rookie Reid Boucher add little offense when called upon.
 
The Devils trade a 4th round pick to the Ducks at the deadline for Dustin Penner
 
Injuries to Larsson, Salvador and Volchenkov allow John Merrill and Eric Gelinas to play 50+ games.
 
End Result: Lack of depth, and poor goaltending (for the majority of the games), leave the Devils stunned as they finish 9th in the Eastern Conference Standings. After missing the playoffs, Pete Deboer is fired as head coach of the Devils.

2014-2015
 
Because Ilya Kovalchuk never leaves the Devils, the league doesn't feel as sympathetic to the new owners plea to have their 1st round draft pick. The Devils are forced to give up the 15th pick in the draft, but because of the Bernier deal, they have the Kings 1st round pick -- which happens to be the 30th pick after the Kings win the Cup. With the 30th pick, the Devils select John Quenneville.
 
Andrei Loktionov separates his shoulder during the World Championships and is not given a qualifying offer. He becomes an unrestricted free agent.
 
The Devils use their final compliance buyout on Anton Volchenkov and re-sign Mark Fayne. In a tough decision, Marek Zidlicky is not re-signed, as the Devils feel extremely high on Eric Gelinas, and believe Damon Severson could make the team out of camp.
 
As free agency opens, Lamoriello's main goal is to add scoring depth. He signs Mike Cammalleri to a 5yr $25m contract. Martin Havlat is also signed to a 1yr deal, and lastly, Scott Gomez is given a tryout and told to wait for an opening spot. The Devils sign Scott Clemmensen to a two-way deal, and Andy Greene is locked up to a 5-year $25m extension
 
Guy Boucher is named head coach
 
As for Brodeur, Lamoriello gives Marty time to mull his future, but saves a spot for him with the signing of Clemmensen. Unlike, the actual situation with Schneider, Bernier is not as old, not as advanced, and is not an upcoming UFA. There is no pressure or feel to for Marty to give way for Bernier just yet or for the organization to show Bernier that it's his net right now. In addition, with Parise and Kovalchuk still here, the Devils are seen as a much stronger team for him to still compete. Ultimately, after feeling the market, and seeing the Devils UFA signing, Brodeur signs a 1yr $2M contract to return as the Devils goalie with a promise that he'll have a chance at the starting job.
 
Opening Night Roster:
 
Cammalleri-Zajac-Kovalchuk
Parise-Henrique-Havlat
Clowe-Elias-Zubrus
Tootoo-Josefson-Gionta
 
Greene-Fayne
Gelinas-Larsson
Salvador-Severson
Merrill
 
Bernier
Brodeur
 
What Happens?
Clowe is concussed and misses most of the year. Add that with Havlat's usual injuries and Gomez and Bernier make their way onto the roster.
 
The Devils improve offensively, but not even close to the level that they hoped, and find themselves middle of the pack. Kovalchuk's level continues to dip finishing with just 27 goals in 74 games. In his 14th NHL season, his best days look well behind him.
 
Goaltending continues to become a major issue for the Devils. With Bernier taking a step back in his 1st year as a starter, Brodeur is given plenty of opportunities to take the starting job (think 12-13 with Schneider and Brodeur), but can't seize it.. A groin injury forces Marty to miss some extended time in the second half of the year leaving Bernier to start the majority of the last 30 games, as Boucher having little trust in Clemmensen.
 
End Result: A nice run at the end of the year just gets the Devils back in the playoffs where they face the President's Trophy winners, the Rangers. A tired Bernier puts the Devils in a hole, and a desperate Boucher calls upon the winningst goalie in NHL history, which sets up an incredible scene at the Rock for Game 3. The Devils find a way to win 4-3, but the special moment for the team and Brodeur is short-lived as the Devils lose 4-1 in game 4. Boucher goes back to Bernier in game 5 where the Rangers finish off the series. 
 
So where does this leave this version of the Devils right now?
 
Going into the 2015-2016 off-season:
 
- The Devils have the 16th pick in the 2015 NHL draft.
- Ilya Kovalchuk is entering his 15th NHL season with 10 more years left on his 15-year-contract.
- Zach Parise is still playing at a very high level, but is 31 having finished just finished his 3rd year of a 12-year contract.
- Patrik Elias is 39
- Mike Cammalleri is 33 with 4 more years on his contract
- Dainius Zubrus is 37 with a year left on his contract
- The cupboard of forward prospects is pretty much empty with Boucher and Matteau leading the way
- The depth at center is paper thin
- The defense is probably ever bit as great, good, bad or whatever you feel about it today.
- Jonathan Bernier is an RFA, and the Devils are unsure what they have in him after an up and down season. There's no backup and no goalie prospects in the system. The Devils are likely competing for Matt O'Connor.
 
Edited by devilsrule33
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I mean, whatever alternate universe theories you want to pile on, these two things are indisputable:

 

A:  Parise and Kovalchuk would be on the decline

B:  The Devils would almost certainly not have Cory Schneider

 

Throw in this one as pretty darn likely:

 

C:  The Devils still wouldn't have a center under the age of 35 who is any good to play with either guy

 

I do think once you start playing alternate universe, the Devils' record with Brodeur, which was probably in the 95th percentile of luck (if not 99th), is significantly worse and whoever the backup is gets more starts than you've outlined here.  But yeah, what's clear is that the Devils would have 2 big declining contracts, and a patchwork behind those to try to get to the playoffs - i.e. they're several years behind where the Devils are in their rebuild now (which isn't far along at all)

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I mean, whatever alternate universe theories you want to pile on, these two things are indisputable:

 

A:  Parise and Kovalchuk would be on the decline

B:  The Devils would almost certainly not have Cory Schneider

 

Throw in this one as pretty darn likely:

 

C:  The Devils still wouldn't have a center under the age of 35 who is any good to play with either guy

 

I do think once you start playing alternate universe, the Devils' record with Brodeur, which was probably in the 95th percentile of luck (if not 99th), is significantly worse and whoever the backup is gets more starts than you've outlined here.  But yeah, what's clear is that the Devils would have 2 big declining contracts, and a patchwork behind those to try to get to the playoffs - i.e. they're several years behind where the Devils are in their rebuild now (which isn't far along at all)

 

I could have saved some time and just said that, but simulating a scenario helps hammer home the point. It just kind of bugged me with the talk from Lou and others that they know the offense needs a ton of work, but remember that the Devils lost Parise and Kovalchuk, and things would be so much better if they were here.

 

The Kovalchuk contract is an absolute nightmare, and without a top 10 pick, there is probably no way they can make a Schneider deal in 2013. After the Brodeur/Hedberg mess, still think management is making sure they get a goalie in the off-season, but good luck getting a goalie like Schneider out there. These goalies just don't come available.

 

So the Devils most likely have some offense, but have worse goaltending, and may not have an answer in goal for the future. Either way, you can't just add Kovalchuk and Parise to a Devils team with Schneider.

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I mean one thing I did forget was that Loktionov and Kovalchuk worked real well together in the brief time they had with each other, so maybe that line sticks together and Loktionov is the center NJ could use with Kovalchuk, but that seems somewhat unlikely.

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Call me crazy but I love this roster  :dizzy:

 

Opening Night Roster:
 
Cammalleri-Zajac-Kovalchuk
Parise-Henrique-Havlat
Clowe-Elias-Zubrus
Tootoo-Josefson-Gionta
 
Greene-Fayne
Gelinas-Larsson
Salvador-Severson
Merrill
 
Bernier
Brodeur
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I mean one thing I did forget was that Loktionov and Kovalchuk worked real well together in the brief time they had with each other, so maybe that line sticks together and Loktionov is the center NJ could use with Kovalchuk, but that seems somewhat unlikely.

 

Zajac and Parise played very well together too.  If nothing else, in the short term, this team would be much more exciting to watch.  But, in the long term, we are clearly in a better position without them. 

 

With that said, I loved the heart and hustle of Parise and wish he remained here. 

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Cap wise we are in a better position, but players on ice it's close to no different. Pretty much Kovalchuk and Parise for Schneider.

Schneider is too good to keep us from being truly awful, but it would be tough to rebuild with Kovy and Parise games heading south right about now.

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Very cool post. I'm wondering if anyone sees a way for us to develop a top-15 offense within the next 2 or 3 years? The forward UFA crop is almost non-existent in 2015, and it only looks marginally better in 2016 (maybe we snag 45 year old Jagr to lead us again). We don't really have any notable forward prospects that will make up a first or second line in the next two of three years either.

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Cap wise we are in better shape... But dont fool yourself. With kovalchuk and parise we would be one of the top team in te east. And all top team will have salary issue...quite simple (great player have great paycheck!) remember that have cap space dont win you championship. It what you do it. We would be in better shape with kovy and parise even if their salary are high.

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not only would we obviously be a completely different team with the 2 of them but we would be quite a bit more attractive to UFA's ..i feel like NJ is a place where no talent wants to come play right now and that hurts in more ways then one.

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I know it's just me, but when I think of how we might have turned out if we hadn't lost 'guy x', it's never Parise or Kovy but Alex Vasyunov.

 

I was sitting just 3 rows back from the glass when he scored his only NHL goal against the Oilers (with tickets from the giveaway), and it still kills me that he and all those others had to die in such am unbelievably stupid and avoidable way.

 

Alexander+Vasyunov+Edmonton+Oilers+v+New

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I mean, whatever alternate universe theories you want to pile on, these two things are indisputable:

 

A:  Parise and Kovalchuk would be on the decline

B:  The Devils would almost certainly not have Cory Schneider

 

Throw in this one as pretty darn likely:

 

C:  The Devils still wouldn't have a center under the age of 35 who is any good to play with either guy

 

I do think once you start playing alternate universe, the Devils' record with Brodeur, which was probably in the 95th percentile of luck (if not 99th), is significantly worse and whoever the backup is gets more starts than you've outlined here.  But yeah, what's clear is that the Devils would have 2 big declining contracts, and a patchwork behind those to try to get to the playoffs - i.e. they're several years behind where the Devils are in their rebuild now (which isn't far along at all)

 

Zajac played like a legit top six center every time he had Parise on the wing so C would have been solved.  Kovalchuk with Gomez short-term might have worked nicely though you'd need someone like a Bernier to add muscle on that line.

 

I don't see how Cory's arrival had anything to do with not having Parisechuk.  If anything we probably don't have Cammalleri/Jagr with those two still on the roster.  Maybe Ryder too.  What the roster may or may not have looked like is conjecture but one thing that's for sure, we haven't made the playoffs without a healthy Parise since before the lockout.

Edited by NJDevs26
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We’ll start at the draft where the Devils no longer have the 9th pick, but rather a pick in the 14-17 range. With a pick outside the top 10, the Devils simply do not have enough for the Canucks to pass on a division rivals offer from Edmonton for a 7th overall pick and prospect for Schneider.

 

Oh so that's the rationale...well maybe you say byebye to another pick or maybe one of the kid defensemen instead.  It's not they couldn't or wouldn't have traded for Cory, it's they would have needed something else to do the deal.  Unless perhaps Horvat or someone the Nucks wanted was still sitting where we would have picked.

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Zajac played like a legit top six center every time he had Parise on the wing so C would have been solved.  Kovalchuk with Gomez short-term might have worked nicely though you'd need someone like a Bernier to add muscle on that line.

 

I don't see how Cory's arrival had anything to do with not having Parisechuk.  If anything we probably don't have Cammalleri/Jagr with those two still on the roster.  Maybe Ryder too.  What the roster may or may not have looked like is conjecture but one thing that's for sure, we haven't made the playoffs without a healthy Parise since before the lockout.

 

Zajac was young then, he is not now.  The fact that he wasn't putting up offense with Jagr - and Jagr's basically 90% of what Parise is - isn't a very good sign for his offense in general.

 

The Devils don't finish 9th to last with Parise on their team in 2013.  They quite possibly don't have the cap room to add Schneider and keep Brodeur on the roster in 2013-14 as well - even with losing both guys, the Devils were over the cap as a result of bonus overages (mostly incurred by trading for Ruutu at the deadline but regardless).

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