NHL Free Agency Rumors: Zach Parise Should Be Penguins' Top Target

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MAY 30: Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils fights for position with Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings during Game One of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center on May 30, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins have an outside chance to land the two biggest names on the NHL free agent market, the team should pursue Zach Parise first and foremost.

George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports the Penguins have interest in both Parise and elite defenseman Ryan Suter. He also states they will make a run to land both players, which would be one of the most impressive coups in a long time.

It's an ambitious goal and one worth trying hard to accomplish, but the Penguins must make sure they don't get caught in the middle. They don't want to enter free agency with plans of landing both superstars and walk away with neither once the dust settles.

Once the free-agent market opens on Sunday, the action starts happening at a rapid pace. The agents for both Parise and Suter will be bombarded with calls and it will only take a couple hours, if that, to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

That leaves the Penguins very little margin for error. They would be best off picking a top target, which should be Parise, and making sure things are at least in an advanced stage with him before making a big play in the Suter market.

No player enters free agency with more momentum than the 27-year-old left wing. He scored 31 goals and chipped in 38 assists during the regular season for the New Jersey Devils. He then helped lead the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals.

He should just be entering the prime of his career, meaning he has a great chance to earn the contract he signs, unlikely many UFA's that end up getting wildly overpaid.

One of the problems Pittsburgh had this season was a lack of scoring depth. With Sidney Crosby sidelined for 60 games due to injury, Evgeni Malkin was forced to carry the load by himself quite a bit. James Neal also helped pick up some of the slack.

Otherwise, the Penguins struggled to get consistent production from their other forwards. The team also traded Jordan Staal during the draft, leaving another void up front.

All of that should add up to Parise becoming the team's main focus on Sunday. He would fit perfectly on a line with Crosby to form one of the best one-two punches in the league. Add Malkin to the line for the power play and it becomes downright scary.

If Pittsburgh can land Parise and still have the time and resources to get Suter, that would be an added bonus as Ryan would certainly be an upgrade on defense.

Just not as much as Parise would be for the offense.