With the recent retirement of Nick Lidstrom and the pending departure of Brad Stuart, the likely focus for the Detroit Red Wings in free agency will be on defense. Despite the defensive need, there are a couple of offensive superstars that the team will target.
They will have a large amount of funds available to chase after several free agents; two of the more popular names are Zach Parise and Alexander Semin.
Both will hit the free agent market this season, and either would look good in a Detroit uniform. But which would be the better fit?
It is not often that a player of his caliber becomes available this early in their career. At 27 years old, he is still in the prime of his career, which is why so many teams are eager to sign him.
He missed most of last season due to a knee injury; other than that, he has been able to play in at least 81 games in his other six seasons.
He would add the scoring touch that the Red Wings need. He has topped 30 goals in four of his six seasons. The only seasons when he missed that mark were his injury-shortened, 13-game season and his rookie year. His career high is 45 goals in 2008-09.
Beyond being an offensive force, he battles all over the ice. Perhaps the best compliment came from his counterpart in the Stanley Cup Finals. Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown said of Parise that ”he has fourth-line work ethic to go along with first-line skill.”
Having a player that is not only willing but able to do everything needed to help their team is special. Other players recognize and appreciate that kind of effort.
Adding any new player to a team is always a risk. The two main questions tend to be, "Will that player be able to perform in our system?" and "What will the effect on team chemistry be?" Parise is known as a team player and will fit easily into any situation.
He's awesome. He does everything out there. Just some of the passes he makes to set up guys are unbelievable.
He does everything and plays the game the right way. For any player just watching him, you try to mimic some things he does out there. It's not fun playing against him, but he's fun to watch.
Parise would not be coming to Detroit to chase money; the chance to play with Datsyuk would be a big draw, and would also mean he would do everything to fit in.
In Detroit, the playoffs are a given, so the team needs to know if a player can perform in the highly pressurized postseason.
Coming into this year, he had 13 goals and 28 points in 37 career playoff games. In his last postseason run, he greatly added to that record with seven goals and seven assists during the first three rounds.
He has proven that he can rise to the occasion and play during the playoffs.
According to Alexander Semin’s agent in an ESPN.com interview, he has “no intentions of signing a contract extension with the Capitals and plans on becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1.”
The one-time high-scoring player has had a rough time the last two seasons. A change in game philosophy by the Washington Capitals has not fit well with his style of play, and he has not been able to fully adapt. After topping 30 goals in three of his first four seasons, he only has 28 and 21 the last two seasons.
There are two concerns with Semin.
The first is durability. He has averaged over 12 missed games a season. The most games he has ever played in a season is 77, which he has done twice.
While by no means a deal breaker, it is something to be mindful of.
The other issue is his playoff performance. Semin has not been a steady performer in the playoffs. Semin has 15 goals in 51 playoff games; while not horrible, he often gets blamed for Washington failing short in the playoffs.
The last several seasons, the Red Wings have often short-circuited come playoff time, and adding another player who has the potential to disappear in the playoffs is a concern.
All that being said, there is a tremendous upside to Semin. He does have a 40-goal season to his credit and can be a dangerous sniper. He also has experience playing with Datsyuk on the 2010 Russian Olympic team.
The idea of pairing Datsyuk and Semin is very enticing. Datsyuk is a pass-first superstar who would set some great passes up for Semin. Having someone willing to tee it up for him would result in an easy and immediate resurgence for Semin.
As for the playoffs, that is not a worry. There was a time when even Datsyuk’s playoff ability was in question in Detroit.
Semin is still a young player. His style would adapt well to Detroit, and having a true sharpshooter on the team would be a huge boost.
Despite the recent downturn in his offensive play, he still has averaged 24.5 goals over the past two seasons. In Detroit, regardless if he was paired with Datsyuk or not, he would bounce back above 30 goals.
Detroit has a history of bringing players in who seem to be in decline, only to see them shine. He would not have to carry the team nor bear as much of the spotlight.
It would make him a more comfortable player, which would result in better numbers.
In the end, the team would be happy to land either of these players, as either would be a great asset to the team and would greatly help the offense. While fans may like to dream about landing both of these players, that is highly unlikely. The holes in defense will take priority in free agency.
With room for only one, the team would be best to go after Parise. His full-force effort from end to end would bring a much needed lift to the team. He also is better at setting up his own shots and creating offense.
Of course, in Parise, there is the added benefit of the much-rumored package deal with him and Ryan Suter. But even without the Suter tie-in, Parise would be the best fit for the team.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.
You can follow him on Twitter.