NEWARK, N.J. – Zach Parise heard loud and clear Thursday night how disenchanted New Jersey Devils fans still are about his decision to sign a 13-year deal with the Wild two summers ago rather than re-sign with the team he captained.
Fans had every right to boo, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said, but the future Hall of Famer also said Thursday morning the real blunder was made by Devils management.
“We had two years to talk to him and figure out something and we waited and waited and it was too late,” Brodeur said.
Asked if that was a mistake, Brodeur said, “Well, for sure. When you know you have an athlete that is going to be a game-breaker and he’s going to be one of the top [available] players and the rules are free agency comes a lot younger than it used to, you have to make commitments.
“You see around the league some of the young guys, like [Steven] Stamkos and etc., they don’t wait. They get them done. And we let him walk to free agency. That’s a decision of the organization, regardless of if was financial at the time with the ownership that we had, but he was our property for a long time and we lost him.”
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has had a long policy of waiting to sign his pending free agents. The Devils have lost several to free agency.
“I know Lou has his policies and his way of doing things,” said Parise, adding, “It’s not as if Lou waited ’til June 29 or 30 to pick up the phone. We had talked for a long time before that. … I don’t think it’s fair to say that Lou waited ’til the last minute because that wasn’t the case.”
Brodeur said Parise’s ex-teammates don’t hold any grudges.
“The fans, for sure, are not pretty pleased with his decision to leave us, especially being the captain,” Brodeur said. “It affected our organization in a big way, losing him, and that’s what the fans care about. Us, it’s part of the business.”
Zucker out for season
Left wing Jason Zucker is officially done for the season and will undergo a second operation to repair a tendon in his right quadriceps, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said.
Zucker was initially injured blocking a shot by Shane Doan on Jan. 9 at Phoenix. He underwent surgery during the Olympic break, but Fletcher said once doctors got inside, “it was worse than they thought.” Zucker then aggravated the injury while training, Fletcher said.
“It’s a setback, but he should be fine for next season,” Fletcher said. “It’s frustrating it came to all this. I feel badly for the kid.”
Justin Fontaine was scratched for five consecutive games, and then in his second game back, he scored a goal and assist alongside Matt Moulson and Mikko Koivu on Tuesday against the Islanders.
Coach Mike Yeo said Fontaine’s positive attitude can be an example to center Erik Haula. Yeo isn’t unhappy with Haula, but the rookie was squeezed from the lineup for a second straight game Thursday.
“It speaks volumes [about Fontaine] the attitude he had while he was out and how he worked to make sure he was ready for that opportunity,” Yeo said.
Fontaine said, “No one likes sitting out. It’s definitely frustrating. I just came to the rink with the right attitude.”