There is a bit of uncertainty involving Zach Parise's future. There's been very little talk about both sides negotiating a new contract. There's also the fact that the team is in financial doo-doo as well, which doesn't exactly mean that the Devils could afford to sink at least over $40 million into another long term investment. Of course, those signs don't exactly indicate that Parise won't re-sign with the Devils, seeing as he is interested in staying with the team and in New Jersey for a long time.The Devils also have tons of cap space with several big contracts expiring this season, so they have the power to sign Parise to a long term deal.
Of course, the Devils do have the option of trading Parise at the trade deadline to get a good return. Considering that a lot of teams would pay a pretty penny for a superstar winger, the Devils could benefit from moving him at the deadline (keyword: could, doesn't mean it's going to happen). The question is, what would the Devils want exactly?
The Devils do need to address their goaltending issues. Right now, Kinkaid is just a magic bean. He could be a solid goalie like Corey Crawford, a very good goalie like Jimmy Howard or he could flame out like Steve Mason. Which is exactly the problem with trading for goaltending- the market for goalies is too volatile. Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun were the two biggest goalies on the market in 2011. Yet they've been outperformed by Brian Elliot, who was easily the worst goalie in the league last year and is currently on a two-way deal. No one in the world predicted that, which is exactly why the Devils shouldn't consider acquiring a goalie as the centerpiece of the deal.
Here's a cautionary tale- a few years ago, Tampa Bay traded Brad Richards to the Stars in exchange for Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen and Mike Smith. Smith was the key part of the trade, as he was a very good young goalie, and Tampa needed a goalie badly. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as Smith had injury problems and had to deal with Tampa's cardboard defense (reminder: Matt Walker was a regular on their Defense back then). Trading for a goalie is a crapshoot- either the Devils get what they were paying for or they get a disappointment. If there's a goalie coming back, the Devils are likely going to get one with a significant amount of NHL experience rather than a goalie prospect.
The Devils defensive situation is quite interesting. In terms of defensemen at the NHL level, they have defensemen who are good enough, but they could also improve their D. In terms of defensive prospects, the Devils are very stacked. Jon Merrill, despite being suspended for half of the season is one of the top defensive prospects in the league. Adam Larsson, while he can't be considered a prospect anymore is still only 19 and has a lot more growing to do. They've also got several solid prospects in college (and in Reece Scarlett's case, Junior) and the AHL, so acquiring a defensive prospect might not be of immediate interest. Really, it's all up to the Devils whether or not they should trade for a D-man. They have several D-men under contract for the next few years, so it's up to Lou whether or not they should trade for one.
While the Devils probably aren't going to get a forward as good as Parise coming back, they probably will be able to get a quality forward coming back the other way. Considering that the Devils have very few good forward prospects (most of the Devils forward prospects seem to be projected 3rd or 4th liners), acquiring a very good forward prospect or young forward would be great. I think that the Devils should look to try and acquire a forward in exchange for him. Simply put, the guy they aren't getting back won't be as good as Parise. He could be as good as him down the road, but at the moment he won't be.
As for a superstar for superstar swap (i.e. Parise for Ryan Getzlaf), it will be somewhat harder to do because of Parise's expiring contract.
A 1st round pick is probably going to be part of any deal. However, keep in mind that 1) A 1st rounder might not always pan out (see: Corrente, Matt) and 2) if they trade with a team that's higher up in the standings like Boston or Detroit, teams that have the allure of "cup contender", that 1st rounder is going to be lower. On the other hand, if the Devils end up trading with a team like Buffalo or Montreal, they could land a top 10 pick, which would be huge because the Devils could land a talented forward like Zemgus Girgensons, Filip Forsberg or Brendan Gaunce (preferably Gaunce, he's the best of the three IMO). There's a big difference between drafting 10th overall and 25th overall, and that's the talent gap between someone like Girgensons or Gaunce and Thomas Wilson or Colton Sissons. It's obviously going to be harder, but it's also possible.
An Acceptable Return for Myself
For me, an acceptable return would have to include a 1st round pick, a top forward prospect and a young roster player. Where he plays isn't of much consequence- I'd like someone who can contribute going forward. The top forward prospect doesn't have to be the team's best forward prospect. If it happens to be their best forward prospect, then that's great. The 1st rounder has to be part of the deal, just because it will help compensate for the eventual forfeited 1st rounder (I have no idea if the Devils are allowed to forfeit any 1st round pick they own, or if it has to be their own pick originally). If it's a trade with a team that's lower in the standings, (e.g. Montreal or Buffalo), then maybe that young roster player/forward prospect won't have to be part of the deal because the draft pick is much higher- think of a deal similar to the Jeff Carter trade (young player+ top 10 pick) in that case.
Of course, who knows what happens. For all we know the Devils could announce that they've re-signed Parise a few minutes after this article was published. I'd like to see that happen, but I can't look into the future and see if he signs a new contract. The possibility of trading him has to at least be considered- if he's not re-signed the Devils might as well get something of value for him rather than lose him for nothing or very little (trading his rights for a draft pick or two).