The New York Rangers fell to the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Friday night, ending their quest for the franchise's first Stanley Cup since 1994. But the Broadway Blueshirts may not have to wait until next season to take revenge on their cross-river rivals since Devils captain Zach Parise is a free agent this offseason.
Just as they had in 1994 with Mike Richter, the Rangers have an excellent goaltender in Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy nominee Henrik Lundqvist. But part of the reason the Rangers' season ended on Friday was that they lacked the magical offense which was delivered 18 years earlier to the day.
On May 25, 1994, the Rangers found themselves facing a Game 6 against the New Jersey Devils, down 3-2 in the series. Captain Mark Messier told reporters in advance of that elimination game: "We know we’re going in there to win Game 6 and bringing it back for Game 7. We feel we can win it, and we feel we are going to win it."
He then went out and scored a hat trick to give the Rangers a 4-2 victory and send the series back to Madison Square Garden for a Game 7. His squad would win that game in double-overtime on a goal by Stephane "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" Matteau, setting up a meeting in the finals with Vancouver.
On May 25, 2012, the Rangers lacked that magical offensive spark. New York's most potent offensive threat in the series was rookie Chris Kreider. Playoff veteran Brad Richards did not score a goal in the series. The team's regular-season leading goal scorer Marian Gaborik managed one goal against New Jersey. Captain Ryan Callahan scored three goals in the series, but the team needed at least one more from him on Friday.
The Rangers do so many things well: they work hard, play with a team-first attitude, block shots and boast stellar goaltending. But they struggle to score goals. Unfortunately, that is the measure of who wins and who loses in the NHL.
The Rangers posted an 0-8 record in the 2012 playoffs when allowing three or more goals. The bottom line: They need more offense. Fortunately, the Rangers have approximately $16 million in salary cap room next season. And the captain of the team that ended their 2011-12 season is a free agent.
Zach Parise scored 31 goals in the regular season and has followed that up with seven more goals thus far in the playoffs. Prior to an injury-shortened 2010-11 season, Parise had four straight seasons with 30-plus goals, including 45 in 2008-09.
Not only would signing Parise provide the Rangers with some much-needed offense, but it would help stick it to the Devils, who now advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
We know that Parise's father, J.P. Parise, could see his son signing with the rivals across the Hudson River, after he told Arthur Staple of Newsday that he thinks his son would "fit right in" with the Rangers. He also said of Rangers coach John Tortorella that his son "likes Torts a lot." And he played very well for him during the 2010 Olympics.
Zach Parise resides in Hoboken, N.J., on the waterfront facing the New York City skyline. Playing for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden would make for an easy commute.
But the Rangers have had some bad luck signing former star players from New Jersey. Most recently, Scott Gomez signed a $51 million, seven-year contract with New York in 2007. He tallied only 32 goals in 158 games before being traded to Montreal.
And Parise won't come cheaply. He is probably the most talented forward that will be available this offseason, which will also see Washington's Alexander Semin and Phoenix's Shane Doan shopping their talents.
But the Rangers were exposed in the playoffs this year. They are plagued by offensive deficiencies and undeniably have to ink a threat to bolster their first line. Signing Zach Parise would be a sensible use of their cap space.
And it would exact a small measure of revenge against the Devils by stealing their captain and bringing him across the Hudson to MSG.