NHL Free Agents 2021: Latest Rumors, Predictions on Zach Parise, Maple Leafs

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIJuly 30, 2021

ST. PAUL, MN - MAY 22: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild looks on after his defeat against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center on May 22, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Golden Knights defeated the Wild 4-0. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

At the start of July, Zach Parise was an alternate captain for his hometown Minnesota Wild and one of the more handsomely paid players in the league.

As the calendar gets set to turn to August, the forward is an unrestricted free agent.

That isn't likely to remain the case much longer. The 37-year-old has been expected to sign with the New York Islanders almost since he was bought out July 13, but no contract has been finalized. The hold-up is unknown, though Arthur Staple of The Athletic reported it may have something to do with the veteran's average salary:

"Parise is by all accounts an Islander already, though what sort of deal he gets isn't known yet. The most likely path is a one-year deal that includes performance bonuses to keep the AAV down for this season; if Parise has offers elsewhere of two or three years, perhaps Lamoriello gets Parise on a one-year deal with the promise of an extension after Jan. 1."

An incentive-laden deal makes sense for both sides here. Even with the pandemic-shortened season and healthy scratches limiting Parise to 45 games last year, the left winger posted some of the worst per-game stats of his career. His seven goals are the fewest in any season since he entered the NHL in 2005 with the exception of three goals scored over 13 games in 2010-11—he missed the majority of that season with a knee injury.

That made Parise a buyout candidate in Minnesota. It could also incentivize the veteran. If Parise is betting on himself to bounce back in 2021-22 and then to test free agency next year, a one-year deal on a contending Islanders club should do the trick.

All signs point to that happening. New York general manager Lou Lamoriello is the man who drafted Parise to the New Jersey Devils in 2003. A reunion seems inevitable.

PredictionParise signs with the Islanders for one year, $2.2 million.


North of the border, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still trying to figure out how to use the near $3.5 million in cap space they have to fill out their forward depth.

Elliotte Friedman @FriedgeHNIC

TOR has indicated it is protecting its remaining cap space — approximately $3.5M — for a forward, likely a winger for the top six. Could be someone remaining in free agency, or from another team needing cap relief. We will see where this goes. Stay tuned.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet noted the team could look to the trade market in an attempt to provide a rival with salary-cap relief in exchange for an impact player, but the Leafs front office may not even need to look that far.

Winger Tomas Tatar makes plenty of sense in Toronto, giving the Leafs a veteran presence who has played on a number of contenders like the early to mid-2010s Detroit Red Wings, the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season and last year's Stanley Cup finalist Montreal Canadiens.

Tatar posted 30 points in 2020-21 (10 goals, 20 assists). That fits the bill of a top-six forward—especially if he would be playing alongside the likes of Auston Matthews and John Tavares. The biggest issue, naturally, comes down to how much money he would be willing to accept.

Another potential problem is that, much like the Maple Leafs, he has a reputation for losing form in the postseason—he has just 12 points in 40 career playoff contests and was scratched for all but five of the Habs' games during this season's run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Still, he's a solid regular-season performer. And as he prepares to enter his age-31 season, Tatar is capable of logging decent and is an able body on the power play. It's going to cost at least all of Toronto's remaining cap space to sign him. It just might be worth it too.

Prediction: Tatar signs with Toronto for two years, $7 million.