Tomorrow may be one of the biggest in New Jersey Devils history.
According to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record, Zach Parise will announce tomorrow what team's contract offer he'll sign. Reports put some offers at 13 years, others say he'll make over $100 million. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported Parise's camp is requiring a $12 million signing bonus upon agreeing to the contract, and another $12 million bonus due before next July 1.
With the Devil's reported financial troubles, those numbers are frightening for fans. If money is the only thing driving Parise's free agency, then fans should be ready for him to leave.
New Jersey tried to show good faith during the season. Coming into the camp, the team decided against negotiating a contract, opting to give Parise a chance to test the free agent market at the end of the season. They gave him the captaincy, and he led them to the Stanley Cup Finals. The organization made that move as a gesture, showing their commitment to him for that season and beyond.
In the process, Parise became a leader. He rallied the club behind new coach Pete DeBoer, and made his presence known on the ice. Players backed him publicly, and stated time and time again that his leadership was a key to their success. Even in the offseason, with other players hitting the market, his teammates stressed the need to re-sign Parise.
If money is the driving force, Parise won't be wearing red and black next season. He could be in Pittsburgh, playing next to Sidney Crosby. He may join with the Los Angeles Kings, strengthening the team that beat him for the Stanley Cup. He could play for the Winged Wheel in Detroit, a perennial winner and close to the Minnesota native's home. All those teams have the financial power to overwhelm Parise with money. If that's what he wants, they'll give it - and then some.
Devils' fans have watched some of their best players come and go. Scott Niedermayer bolted for Anaheim, and Brian Rafalski left for Detroit. Scott Gomez crossed the river, providing a proverbial stab in the back to Devils fans by signing with the rival Rangers.
A possible departure by Parise would be even harder to swallow. He's one of the best products of the Devils system since Martin Brodeur, and is the new face of the franchise. It could all be gone tomorrow, and Devils fans will be left wondering what could have been.
In the end, New Jersey has done what it can. All fans can do is sit and wait, and hope another heartbreak isn't coming down the pipeline.