The day is nearly upon us. July 1 is only two days away and the top free agents on the New Jersey Devils are still set to become free agents. Zach Parise has not been re-signed. Martin Brodeur hired an agent for the first time in a long time and will apparently test the market. Bryce Salvador's future is up in the air and as reported by Tom Gulitti on Friday, he knows he's third behind Parise and Brodeur - in that order. Additionally, Johan Hedberg, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Petr Sykora are still unknown at this point. That's six impending unrestricted free agents from the Devils and quite a bit of their roster.
This isn't to say the Devils haven't done anything. They've shored up their depth in the meantime including the return of what Sherry Ross calls the CBGB Line. Let's go over that and touch on who's left as we head ever closer to the biggest day of the offseason.
Earlier this week, we learned that Cam Janssen got a one year, two-way contract for $575,000. Today, Gulitti confirmed four more signings. That the entire fourth line from the playoffs will return for the 2012-13 season as well as #6/#7 defenseman Peter Harrold. Ryan Carter got a two year, one-way deal with a $775,000 cap hit; Steve Bernier got a two year contract for $775,000 each season; and Stephen Gionta has a two year contract with a one-way first year worth $525,000 and a two-way second year worth $600,000. Those are all fourth line worthy salaries, each of the three get bumps in pay, and the term's not too bad. Nice work for a fourth line that I hope is able to do much more than the fourth line from last season - not that it would be a huge challenge to do so. Peter Harrold got a one year deal at the league minimum, which is also perfectly fine for his role. Again, he can be moved without issue if necessary.
These aren't exactly the most meaningful signings, but that part of the roster had to be addressed. OK, the Devils didn't need to re-sign Janssen, but what's done is done. Still, that's a grand total of about $3.2 million added to the cap. That's rather cheap and I presume making the deals themselves wasn't difficult. Now the nervy part begins. The fate of Parise is what will drive the Devils' actions on Sunday. I've already gave my opinion as far as how much would be too much to retain the left winger. Let's see whether such a high amount comes into play. Should he stay or he go will partially drive what Brodeur and the other five free agents can get. On top of that, the qualified RFAs, namely Mark Fayne, must also get new deals. So that's in the background as well as trying to hit the cap floor of $54.2 million (Devils are at about $45 million if I did my math correctly).
Yes, it's entirely possible that the Devils could lose their captain and third best forward from 2011-12 as well as the most accomplished goaltender of our time in the same summer. The former would create a serious hole in their top six at forward. The latter may be inevitable but it sure would be strange to see Brodeur on any other team. Either going elsewhere would be difficult to overcome. There really isn't a replacement for Parise available. There really isn't a starting goaltender on the UFA market, unless you have a lot of faith into Scott Clemmensen playing more than 40 games in a NHL season for the first time ever. (And don't suggest Martin Biron, he's off the market.) That said, the team would be wise not to throw everything at either to retain them. Parise really isn't worth Rick Nash money (though Rick Nash isn't worth Rick Nash money), and Martin Brodeur definitely isn't worth $5.2 million (his salary last season) anymore. It's an open question to what he really is worth given the big split between his first few months and the last few along with the playoffs. As dr(d)evil correctly suggested in this comment, perhaps that's the only reason why he's testing the market - to literally test it.
That all said, that's only two of the six: the Devils have to budget what they can offer Ponikarovsky, Sykora, Salvador, and Hedberg - presuming they want to stay in New Jersey and are willing to wait a little bit to see what's available. I'm certain the Devils are doing all of these negotiations in parallel. However, since these aren't depth players, the cost in terms of salary and term are much longer and there's more demand for these players. It's not simple at all, and it's even harder given that Parise's future is going to factor into how much the team does or does not spend on their own UFAs, much less from the open market. Waiting until July 1 may be the best ploy since they got to do what's best for themselves.
At this point, I have to suggest the same of ourselves as fans; that we just wait as well. We can agonize over what journalist is spitballing in an speculative article. We can fret over some random guy on Twitter who claims to know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy about what's going on. Or we can try and enjoy some of this week while we save our energy and emotions for when there's actually something to react to. Waiting is hard, but I think there's no point in getting in a frenzy before the actual free agent frenzy.