I'm sure there is nary a soul around here who doesn't know that Zach is currently 5 months, 19 days shy of becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent, should he choose to go on the open market instead of working out a deal with the Devils beforehand. Seemingly every other team's fans think that their team will sign him, while Devils fans waver from certain he'll stay to certain he'll go.
After recent comments were made by his father, there's further questions and doubts swirling over his desire to get paid and get Cups. So I was curious, and I took a look into the matter a bit...
In a somewhat recent WSJ article (h/t Cherno77), Zach's father opened up his yap about his son's potential status as the darling of free agency. He was clearly awed by the fact that Brad Richards is earning $12M this year and next (part of a contract that is in no way, shape, or form against the spirit of the CBA when he makes $1M each of the final 3 years...but I digress), and it's rather evident that he wants Zach to get his fair share of the Benjamins.
As JP said himself of Zach and his future payday, "He's overly loyal, and he's not going to rush into anything. He's always loved the New Jersey Devils. He's been extremely loyal to the organization, to his teammates. But this is business now."
Zach, speaking to Rich Chere, said of the matter recently, "For me that’s probably the biggest thing (winning a Cup). The money is definitely important. That’s real life, let’s face it. I’m not going to say it’s not. That’s realistic. But most important for me is being competitive and having a chance to win the Stanley Cup."
I can certainly appreciate his candor. Let's face it, if Zach isn't signed by July 1, he's this year's Brad Richards, the bell of the ball. He's going to demand a hefty price tag, and rather than beat around the bush, he's at least forthright about it. Though of course, he does continue to repeat the same message that, ""I’ve said before. I’ve always liked to play in New Jersey. I want to stay here and nothing has changed."
So apparently Zach's two criteria for signing boils down to Ben and Stan...who's going to pay him while giving him the opportunity to win a Cup. I began to wonder, what teams can pay him and provide him a chance at the Cup. I took a look at Capgeek's numbers for 2012-2013, while comparing each team's postseason history since Zach entered the NHL.
|Team||Payroll||Cap Space||Roster||Conf06||Conf07||Conf08||Conf09||Conf10||Conf11||Avg Finish|
|Detroit Red Wings||$39,667,045||$24,632,955||14||1||1||1||2||5||3||2.17|
|San Jose Sharks||$55,564,167||$8,735,833||14||5||5||2||1||1||2||2.67|
|New Jersey Devils||$38,754,166||$25,545,834||13||3||2||4||3||2||11||4.17|
|New York Rangers||$48,383,334||$15,916,666||15||6||6||5||7||9||8||6.83|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||$45,263,583||$19,036,417||14||8||7||15||14||12||5||10.17|
|St. Louis Blues||$33,745,832||$30,554,168||15||15||10||14||6||9||11||10.83|
|Los Angeles Kings||$50,114,642||$14,185,358||19||10||14||15||14||6||7||11.00|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||$49,048,333||$15,251,667||16||9||9||12||12||15||10||11.17|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||$48,549,560||$15,750,440||15||13||11||13||7||14||13||11.83|
|New York Islanders||$33,640,665||$30,659,335||13||12||8||13||15||13||14||12.50|
I went through the regular season standings for the NHL and listed where each team finished in their respective conference. The list above is sorted by the average final standing in the conference over the past 6 seasons. Not surprising is Detroit has the highest average seeding for the entire league, averaging 2.17. Followed behind them are the Sharks at 2.67 (fitting as these are the only two teams with consecutive postseason appearances of at least 6 years). Right behind them, despite finishing 11th in the conference last year, is the Devils, at an average seed of 4.17, good for first in the conference.
If Zach wants to win a Cup, you gotta go to a team that shows that it can get to the dance in the first place. This would, in theory, rule out teams like Edmonton, Florida, NYI, Columbus, Toronto, LAK, StL, Phoenix, Winnipeg, Tampa, and even home state Minnesota.
Looking at the top 16 teams, the next thing to consider is cap space going forward. Barring trades, AHL burials, and releasing players, this should give a fair idea of who is still in the running among contenders.
Teams like San Jose, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Philadelphia are right out of it, what with small cap spaces for a lot of open roster spots. Nashville doesn't like to spend too much money, and a lot of that $31M is going to be tied up by Weber and Suter.
Based off of the charts, my guess is the best ZP suitors would be Detroit, Anaheim, and Ottawa. Less likely suitors due to cap constraints would be Montreal, Washington, Calgary (and former coach Sutter), and Our Hated Rivals.
Also, there's the Devils. We've got $25.5M in cap space for next season with 13 players under contract. We need to sign 2 goalies (if Marty comes back, it'll be for less than $5M of course). Salvador and Foster are off the books. Then we have RFAs who will likely be resigned for cheap (Palmieri, Taormina, Fayne, Zharkov).
Basically, we've got a lot of open cap space to use to sign ZP, resign our FA's, and add some important pieces to the mix.