Claude Lemieux filed a grievance against Lou Lamoriello in 1995 and alleged in a hearing that the-then Devils general manager filed false documents with the league in what became the Conn Smythe Trophy winner’s failed attempt to negate the contract he’d signed before the club’s Stanley Cup victory. Needless to say, Lemieux was traded almost immediately thereafter to Colorado in a three-team deal in which the Devils wound up with Steve Thomas.
What needs to be said, however, is that Lamoriello traded for Lemieux during the 1999-2000 season, bringing him back to New Jersey as a rental for the franchise’s second run to the Cup. It is as if the epithets exchanged years earlier had evaporated in the wind.
Bobby Holik walked out the door as a free agent so he could sign with the Rangers. Scott Gomez did the same thing. Jason Arnott had been sent away within two years after scoring the 2000 Cup winner in Game 6 overtime after having become somewhat of a sour presence in the room.
And do you know what else they had in common? Lamoriello brought them all back to the Devils, business always eclipsing personal when it involves the business of winning.
Which is why Monday’s attempt to bring Zach Parise to the Island was as Lamoriello as it gets, the general manager seeking to reunite with a player who’d left his team as a free agent. In this case, Parise left the Devils to go home to Minnesota weeks after New Jersey had lost the 2012 Cup final to the Kings.
He left despite repeated attempts by Lamoriello to sign the winger to a long-term deal ownership simply could not afford. So Parise left to go home much in the way Scott Niedermayer had left to play with his brother in Anaheim seven years earlier. Parise left and the Devils have been to the playoffs only once since.
Pro sports is not a might-have-been industry, even though it’s great entertainment to wonder, say, what might have been if Eric Lindros had signed with the Nordiques, or what might have been if Lindros had been assigned to the Rangers rather than Flyers after Quebec traded No. 88 to both teams in June 1992. Or what might have been if Mats Zuccarello, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh all hadn’t been injured during the Rangers’ 2015 postseason run to Game 7 of the conference finals.
But, oh, what might have been if Parise had slipped into the uniform and pulled on the logo his dad, J.P., represented through the mid-70s and the Islanders’ rise to pre-dynasty prominence. There was Parise, No. 12, scoring at 11 seconds at the Garden and no, no elaboration is necessary.
There was J.P. Parise, arriving in his age-33 season in a trade with Minnesota (albeit the North Stars) 48 hours before his center and pal, Jude Drouin, was also landed in a trade by general manager Bill Torrey.
Forty-five years ago, Parise and Drouin.
Now, it would have been Parise and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the center the Islanders had acquired earlier on deadline day in a deal with Ottawa. Would have been, but wasn’t, when the complex deal with the Wild somehow fell through.
So no Parise on the ice for Tuesday’s Battle of New York at the Coliseum against the Rangers, singed by J.P. in 1975, singed by passing on Zach in the 2003 entry draft in order to select Hugh Jessiman 12th overall. The Islanders, by the way, passed on Parise as well, selecting Robert Nilsson at 15, two spots before Lamoriello nabbed him.
Tangled webs and all that.
Parise is family to Lamoriello, who has always swung for the fences. Parise is family to the Islanders, who are locked in a battle for a playoff spot. But he stays in Minnesota, still five years remaining on that “lifetime” 13-year, $98 million contract he signed after leaving New Jersey.
Acquiring Parise to bolster the team’s top six and power play would have been shocking. But once word of deliberations leaked, it was even more shocking that the deal was not consummated. Lamoriello has swung and missed before, trying to keep John Tavares on the Island two summers ago and trying to sign Artemi Panarin last summer, but as Monday evolved, this seemed inevitable.
Then it wasn’t.
Lamoriello once traded a third-round draft pick for Esa Tikkanen and 22 days later traded him for a second-rounder. He brought Alex Mogilny and Vladimir Malakhov back. He brought Chris Terreri and Corey Schwab back.
He tried to bring Zach Parise back.
Of course he did.