NHL Free Agency: Analyzing Each Legitimate Zach Parise Suitor
There are some superstars who come with baggage. Players who have the talent but don't always bring it every night.
There are other stars who give everything they have, but they aren't at the highest talent level.
Then there's Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils. He is a major talent who brings it on an every-night basis. He's got all the skills and is excellent at all the measurable aspects of the game, but he's not satisfied. He wants to get better.
That's why Parise, who has scored at least 30 goals in five consecutive seasons when healthy, is among the most respected and admired free agents in recent years. When general managers look at Parise, they know their team would improve if he was added to the roster.
As free agency is about to begin, three serious teams appear to be in contention for Parise. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild and the Detroit Red Wings all have the inclination (read cash) and the sales pitch to make their teams appeal to Parise. The Devils will make a push to retain Parise, but they may fall short when the final decision is made.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings last won the Stanley Cup in 2008. In the four years that have followed, there has been a perception that the team is not quite strong enough to win the title again as it is presently constituted.
With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, that perception is stronger than it has been. General manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock understand that the Wings have to make a move or two in the offseason to regain their luster.
Signing a defenseman like Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators would help them improve their defense. Bringing in Parise would go even further.
The Wings have some of the most talented players in the game in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Adding Parise would create nightmares for opposing coaches. That trio would just have too much speed, quickness and creativity for even the most consistent defensemen to neutralize.
The Wild have not made the playoffs since 2008 and the natives are not happy.
There is no doubt that Minnesotans love hockey, but they are not going to just show up like sheep if the Wild continue to be an outsider as far as the postseason is concerned.
Nobody knows this better than general manager Chuck Fletcher. Minnesota got off to an excellent start last year and were in first place in the Western Conference in early December. When fully healthy, they appear to be a team that should be in playoff contention.
That wasn't the case last year, but there's a lot more to do than just try to get healthy again. Fletcher is planning to go hard in free agency, and his No. 1 target is Parise, a Minnesota native.
If Parise were to sign with the Wild and if he should ever lead the team to the Stanley Cup, he would become revered in his home state. You think the legendary Harmon Killebrew was big as the most recognized player in Minnesota Twins history? Parise might eclipse that level of popularity.
The Wild have the cash ($10-12 million per year) to make a huge offer, and it seems likely that Parise will give them serious consideration.
There's a reason that Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero did not try to twist Jordan Staal's arm after he turned down a 10-year, $60 million contract offer last week.
Shero had Plan B in mind. He wants to make a significant push to bring Parise into the fold. Not only does he have the cash to make a significant offer, but he has a pretty good sales pitch as well—Sidney Crosby.
Combining Parise and Crosby would not only give the Penguins two of the most talented players in the league, it would also give them two of the hardest-working superstars. When your best players are your hardest workers, that has to rub off on the rest of your team.
The Penguins would not have a cakewalk to the Stanley Cup, but it would take a near-perfect effort to beat that combination.
Crosby and Parise were the best players on the Canadian and U.S. Olympic hockey teams in 2010, respectively. They also both played hockey at the same prep school. There is a potential magic in Pittsburgh that might be hard for Parise to turn down.
New Jersey Devils
Parise has been quite happy throughout his career in New Jersey and he has enjoyed playing with the Devils' organization.
Loyalty is obviously an important factor for Parise and if all things were equal, it seems quite likely that he would stay in the Garden State and re-sign with the Devils.
But all things are not equal. The Devils have financial problems that may or may not require NHL intervention. It seems likely that the Devils may be able to offer Parise a contract in the $9 million per year range, perhaps even $10 million.
They probably can't offer him more than that. The Devils may remain in the picture until Parise makes his final decision. But in the end, it seems much more likely that he will sign with one of the three other suitors.