2011 Offseason: Why I Wouldn't Worry About Zach Parise Getting an Offer Sheet

Zach Parise will get paid this summer, but I'm not worried that he'll get an offer sheet from another team. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

At the end of this article by Tom Gulitti about Travis Zajac's exploits with Canada in the IIHF World Championships and other matters; Gulitti reported the 2011 compensation list for restricted free agents signed to an offer sheet.  

I posted this earlier in the comments section, but, in case you missed it, here’s the compensation for signing an RFA to an offer sheet this year. The breakdown was recently distributed to the GMs and agents, according to The Sporting News:

$1,034,249 or below (per season): No compensation

$1,034,249—$1,567,043: Third-round pick

$1,567,043—$3,134,055: Second-round pick

$3,134,088—$4,701,131: First and third-round pick

$4,701,131—$6,268,175: First, second and third-round pick

$6,268,175—$7,835,219: Two first-round picks, a second and third

$7,835,219 and higher: Four first-round picks

For those unfamiliar with the concept of an offer sheet, here's a quick summary - feel free to peruse Section 10.3 of the CBA if you want more details.  A restricted free agent can inquire about interest in any of the other 29 clubs the day after the deadline for qualifying offers if they are not qualified - which will be June 28 this year.  Mind you, the player can not sign an offer sheet until July 1.   Should the player sign an offer sheet, the original team will have 7 days to exercise their right of refusal.   After 7 days, if this not exercised, the player will be a member of the team who provided the offer sheet with a contract based on the terms in the offer sheet.  The original team gets draft picks as compensation based on an annually updated list. 

What does this have to do with the New Jersey Devils? Well, there's this one restricted free agent they have that goes by the name of Zach Parise.  He's rather good.  Since this possibility may come up, let's discuss it. 

Let me be clear.  I don't think Parise will be given an offer sheet this summer.   I'm sure someone somewhere will bring up the possibility; but my intent is not to provoke or frighten you.  Rather, after the jump, I'll explain that while it's possible, I don't think it's all that probable that Parise will be taken away from New Jersey by way of an offer sheet.

For starters, the compensation list is more than just compensation, it's a requirement for other teams in providing an offer sheet.  If Team X wants to give Parise an offer sheet of $7.9 million, then they better have four first round picks available to give to New Jersey.   They can't get the picks by a later date, the transaction is immediate upon Parise signing it and the Devils not acting to refuse offer sheet.   If Team X doesn't have four first rounders available, then they can't provide an offer sheet with an average salary higher than $7,835,219.

Second, the offer sheet - if accepted and not refused - will act as the contract for that player.  Per CapGeek, Zach Parise made $5 million in salary last season.  Unless Parise and his agents step into Bizzaro World and want to make less money next season, compensation will likely be in that third tier at a minimum.  Already, a team's going to have to spend a lot of money and hand New Jersey a first round, a second, and a third.  That's a big price tag already.

While I think Parise will demand and command more than $6.28 million, let's keep it simple and consider a salary in that third tier range. There may be several teams with the cap space to fit that in, just by looking at CapGeek's front page alone.  However, that's a bit illusionary when you dig a little deeper.   Some of the teams with bucket-loads of cap space are operating on internal budgets such that they won't be spend beyond a certain limit on the cap - like Dallas or Colorado. Other teams have loads of space but will spend hefty amounts retaining RFAs and looking elsewhere to fill out their roster - like the Rangers and Toronto.   The point is that 29 teams aren't going to give Parise much of anything even if he wanted because he's out of their price range.  And this doesn't even consider whether these teams even have the picks for compensation purposes or whether they'd want to give up that much.

Third, the word is that salary cap will be going up.  Bill Daly, deputy comissioner, even pointed to a range: $60.5 to $63.5 million.  While this may give more breathing room for other teams who want to snag Parise, it's more room for the Devils to want to keep him.  It's going to be a little trickier to put the Devils in a difficult position cap-wise unless the offer is big.   And when the offer is big, then so are the consequences.

Fourth, the Devils hold the first right of refusal and would likely use it.  One of the meaner aspects of an offer sheet is that if the player signs it, the original team is then compelled to provide a salary similar or better than that offer sheet.  After all, the player signed it for a reason.  However, the Devils are a team that does and can spend to the salary cap ceiling, they had payrolls that went above it but managed to stay cap compliant through various means, and there's no indication of that changing anytime soon.  Simply, the Devils will have the resources to match most offer sheets. The only way I see them walking away if the offer sheet is for something massive like a max salary contract.  That goes back to my second point - there aren't that many teams who can truly afford to make such a big offer and keep it. Not to mention possibly burning a bridge with Lou Lamoriello via an offer sheet.

With respect to the potential compensation, I don't believe even four first rounders as compensation is compelling enough for the Devils to let Parise go to another team.  Since Parise is an excellent player, he's likely going to help whatever team he goes to in a big way. This means those picks aren't going to be all that high.  Plus, as great as it is to talk prospects and be hopeful of their potential, Parise is a sure-thing.  He oozes talent and those players are rare enough to find as-is, even with four extra first round picks to do it.  Don't get me wrong, first round draft picks can yield some good players - but I don't value them higher than Parise, who can and will help the Devils right now (and hopefully for many more years).  I doubt the Devils will be able to actually replace him with the picks, so I don't think they'll take the package unless someone's throwing crazy, not-far-from-max-salary money at Parise.

Fifth, the Devils can even be proactive and protect Parise entirely from offer sheets with three words: club elected arbitration.  This was something that Rich Chere and Tom Gulitti brought up earlier in the month.   You probably don't like the sound of it now.  You really won't like that possible action given the past history of Devils going to arbitration with Lou.

However, it's not a horrible option.  A player can be taken to arbitration and thus held to that team until the hearings are over.  Usually, the reward leads to a one-year deal of sort.  Unless I'm mistaken, the player only can go back to free agency if the club walks away from the reward - making the player an unrestricted free agent and making offer sheets pointless.  It doesn't have to come to that, though.  The team and player can still discuss and even agree on a contract before hearings begin.   This isn't unheard of.  Zajac filed for arbitration on July 5, 2009; but there were no hearings as the Devils and Zajac agreed to a contract later in the month. 

The Devils will have until June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Finals, whichever is later, for the first period of club elected arbitration.  The Devils can take Parise there, protecting him throughout most of the offseason, and hammer out a deal before hearings begin.   Parise may not like it, we may not like it, but if it ensures no offer sheets to potentially poach him and a long term deal comes out of it, then I don't see much reason to complain.

Lastly, the offer sheet is only a threat if the player signs it.  But that's up to Zach Parise and I cannot confirm or deny his true feelings.  Only Zach Parise knows that.  Still, it means not any team can just throw a pile of money at him and hope they'll have a real shot at getting him.  If Parise doesn't like the team, the place, would rather stay in NJ, etc.; then it's all for naught.

Let's sum up all of these points.

If a team has the requisite draft picks for compensation, if that team has lots of cap space and money to put out a substantial offersheet, if the Devils are pushed up against the cap ceiling even after it goes up to not be able to really refused the offer sheet, if the Devils decide to not refuse the offer sheet other under circumstances, if the Devils didn't take Parise to arbitration, and if Parise decides to sign the offer sheet; then it's a big concern. 

I don't know about you, but that's a lot of 'if's.'  A lot of things have to be in place for this scenario to actually happen.  That's why I'm not worried about the possibility of Zach Parise getting an offer sheet and subsequently joining some other team this summer. 

But that's my view.  What do you think? Do you think it is as unlikely as I do that Parise will be given an offer sheet, much less signed and not refused by the Devils? Is there a salary where you would prefer the Devils to just take the picks and walk away? Who do you think would actually do something like this?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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