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Unknown status of Devils' star impacts merchandise sales

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While New Jersey Devils fans anxiously await the decision of unrestricted free agent Zach Parise to either re-sign with the team or leave the franchise, a local sporting goods retailer hopes the announcement will finally lift the holding pattern of the merchandise bearing his name.

"Sales have been impacted already with people knowing (Parise) was going into a free agent year, so they've been holding back buying his merchandise for the last 6 months," said Brian LeBoeuf, owner of Warren-based sporting goods store Sports Minded Unlimited. "The problem with a (sports) apparel store is players constantly change teams more now than ever before … and they're creating excess inventory all the time. Trying to buy inventory based on players who become free agents is becoming a nightmare."

While a Modell's Sporting Goods spokesman noted "people slowly start to drift off of a player if they hear talks about free agency," he said his company's sales of Parise merchandise have "not been impacted as much with Zach Parise" being a star player during the playoffs.  

"There's been a (resurgence) of fans coming out and getting their jerseys," the spokesman said. "But now that the season's over, we're seeing a downward trend. If he re-signs, we won't see another boost until the season starts."

The spokesman said whenever players decide to leave teams located within Modell's Northeastern market — which includes New Jersey — their merchandise "just lives in the stores until it's sold," noting the recent trade of Jim Thome from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Baltimore Orioles has left the athlete's marked-down gear on the shelves.

"Even when a player re-signs, we don't see a super ton of sales, because you have to realize people have (Martin) Brodeur jerseys in three different colors already," the spokesman said. "But if Brodeur or Parise signed to the (Philadelphia) Flyers, then we would see a huge boost in Flyers gear sales. We just want players to stay here in our market."

According to LeBoeuf, while Parise and Brodeur merchandise "have both been large sellers, I also see a trend in some of the younger players starting to creep up," which he said has kept his sales afloat during the free agency period.

"Still, having had Zach at our store four times, we have a lot of existing inventory that would go to waste if Zach leaves the Devils," LeBoeuf said. "He's the most marketable player on the team, and sales would continue to be brisk if he stays. But all of Zach's stuff would immediately go on the discounted sale rack if he decides to leave."

Correction appended: An earlier version of this story erroneously said Zach Parise was the Stanley Cup MVP this year. 

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