Handicapping the Zach Parise Sweepstakes
June 18, 2012 2 Comments
I usually hate when national NHL analysts or other outsiders try doing insightful commentary on players and situations they aren’t particularly familiar with; for example, it was grating to read the conjecture coming from CBC, TSN, et al. recently about Sid Crosby having anything but an easy, low-key Contract Renegotiation with the Pittsburgh Penguins. National observers, even highly-educated and well-respected ones, often miss out on critical details of these type of player negotiations because their fingers are far from the actual pulse of many of the teams they’re analyzing.
While I’ll write about which type of sausage Pascal Dupuis prefers from Market District in Robinson (I have it on good authority it’s Chorizo, though Duper likes to mix it up) or Jordan Staal’s preferred place to buy a suit, I generally limit my commentary on non-Penguins’ players because I rarely have good insight into their character. Beyond that, there are usually ancillary details regarding a contract negotiation or trade scenario that non-locals are not privy to.
For example: Brad Stuart just signed with the San Jose Sharks after having his negotiating rights traded by the Detroit Red Wings. I had no urge to comment on the situation because I know nothing about Stuart aside from watching him play, except for the fact he was drafted by San Jose and apparently lives in California during the off-season. While it was logical that he would sign with the Sharks after the trade, I had no further insight to provide. A good beat-guy like Ray Ratto is All Over It.
But with American Hero Zach Parise, I have a vested interest. Not only would I be thrilled to see to Zach plying his trade somewhere other than the Atlantic Division, but I strongly suspect Zach will be Captaining Team USA in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and you know I love me some America.
So, I thought it would be fun to Handicap the Zach Parise Sweepstakes, as he is the undisputed Forward jewel of the 2012 NHL Free-Agency Class. Kindly note that he could re-sign with New Jersey at any moment and render this article obsolete, but for the moment: Let’s Spin the Wheel.
In handicapping Parise, I know almost nothing about him personally, other than his on-ice tenacity and his obvious sense of loyalty. His refusal to pull a Bobby Holik/Scott Gomez and take a blank check to cross the Hudson River speaks volumes about his character, in my view. I also know Parise as the sort of terrible loser who was loathe to accept his Silver Medal at the 2010 Olympics:
(Note #1: Zach is the fourth guy to get his Medal in the video; he also has the look of disgust only seen when you realize the person you’ve been dating is your second cousin)
(Note #2: I am not slamming Bobby Holik and Scott Gomez for taking the absurd contracts Glen Sather tendered them, but I really respect a guy who agree to play for a team he has obvious disdain for just because they offer him a giant bag of money. Not to name names, Talbo, but I distinctly remember you completely despising your current team not very long ago. Just saying.)
Some may see this as a character flaw, but as Vince Lombardi said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” Parise is the type of player who makes bad teams competitive and good teams great.
Here is what I do know about Zach Parise as it pertains to his Free Agency:
1) He is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota and makes his off-season home there
2) He is the proud Captain of the New Jersey Devils, and takes his leadership responsibilities very seriously
3) He is a 27-year old goal-scoring winger who can be penciled-in for 30-35 goals like clockwork if he’s healthy
4) He has some level of loyalty to both New Jersey and Lou Lamoriello, at least enough to not sign with a hated Division rival
5) His team just came within two games of Winning the 2012 Stanley Cup
6) His current team is in Financial Hell
7) His current team’s goaltender is a 40-year old future Hall of Famer on the last legs of his career, without a promising backup developing behind him
8) He seems to like this current coach, Peter DeBoer
9) He plays the same position as his current team’s Other Best Player, and though they have the talent to play together, one of them is always playing out of his preferred position
10) Much like Sid (who I am much more familiar with), Zach’s gung-ho style is a cause for concern. I wouldn’t have him play any other way, but if I am an owner prepared to lavish out an eight or ten-year deal on a player, I have to wonder how Zach is going to age as a player. Not only does his style put him at a higher risk for injury, but most of the goals he scores are tenaciousness, attack-the-net goals; pragmatically, you have to ask how his production will wane as the years mount.
But that won’t be a concern in 2012. He is the uncontested cream of the 2012 Free Agency crop, and a player 29 NHL teams would like to add. Someone will pay him a ridiculous salary for as many years as he wants, with no mind to future complications.
With that, I present a loose Handicapping of the Zach Parise Sweepstakes. This is solely based on what I know about NHL teams and their roster make-up, and does not take many of the human factors that go into a contract signing into account. I am considering:
1) Who is most-desperately in need of a first-line Left Wing?
2) Who can afford to pay for this player in real dollars?
3) Who can afford to pay for this player in Cap dollars?
4) Is this team annually-competitive or on the cusp of being annually-competitive?
5) Does the player have emotional ties to the team in question?
I would appreciate feedback from Devils’ fans who understand the situation better than me, as I don’t read the Newark Star-Ledger with any regularity and do not want to come across as a pompous, uninformed jackass (at least this time).
Before Handicapping the Favorites, there are a few teams that we can immediately toss out as Long Odds:
Group A: Currently employ two top-flight options at Left Wing
None, excluding New Jersey. On a side note, remember when the 2002 Red Wings had Shanahan-Robitaille-Ray Whitney-Hank Zetterberg at Left Wing? Sometime, I miss Pre-Lockout Super-Teams.
Group B: Cash-Poor
Colorado, Phoenix, Florida (let’s be honest – Parise isn’t signing in Florida, even if they were a Cap-Max team)
Group C: Grossly Unrealistic given Cap Space and other needs (I realize all teams have “Tagging Space” and are allowed to go 10% above the $70.3 Million Cap Ceiling in July, but more-pressing needs may prevent them from overhauling their rosters to fit in Parise)
Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Jose, Washington (don’t start with me – they have bigger fish to fry)
Group D: Likely Non-Playoff/Rebuilding Teams
Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Anaheim, Dallas, New York Islanders, Columbus, Tampa Bay
Group E: America-loving Zach Parise won’t sign in a Canadian market, even if Brian Burke begs
Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg
Group F: Team publicly spurned by Zach Parise after the Devils dispatched them in the Playoffs
New York Rangers
(Note: Zach saying, “Don’t bother, I hate your shitty shot-blocking team,” in one word was Awesome.)
You’ll notice I don’t have the Pittsburgh Penguins on any of those lists. Being a huge Penguins’ homer, I actually have a scenario for you in which Parise ends up as Sid Crosby’s new running-mate. I’ll cover that at the end of the article.
Best Bet: Re-signs with the New Jersey Devils for around 8 years at a Cap Hit slightly-higher than Ilya Kovalchuk’s (8 Years/$55 Million)
Logic For: As they say, “Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t.”
Outsiders have this misconception that players hate playing for the Devils, where nothing but the opposite is true. Working under a charismatic, ruthless visionary such as Lou Lamoriello ensures that the team will be annually-competitive, and more often than not will be a Stanley Cup contender.
Parise seems to be very honored to be the Captain of the Devils, following in the recent footsteps of Hall-of-Famers Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermeyer. He strikes me as the sort of guy who wants to win, but would prefer to do so under similar dignity and terms as Stevens before him, i.e. he wants to be a leader on Cup-winning teams rather than a component.
This would be a no-brainer if the Devils weren’t in Financial Hell; Parise, no disrespect to the insanely-talented Kovy, is the most important player on the roster. Kovy might be the Supercharger, but Parise is the engine that makes the team run. Under typical circumstances, Lou would disappear other money on the roster Tony Soprano-style in order to accommodate Parise, but he may have one arm tied behind him due to the debt situation.
No one knows how the debt situation in Newark is going to play out; even after an extended Playoff-run, the team is still about $50 million in the hole. While that wouldn’t seem to affect operational costs (i.e. Player Payroll), the suits and shareholders might be totally unwilling to price-match a gigantic contract offer Parise receives from an unnamed Western Conference team.
(UPDATE: Now, the NHL is looking to take control of the Devils until the debt is resolved. This should end well.)
I mentioned above the goaltending issue, with Marty Brodeur in his golden years and no likely replacement behind him. I don’t think this is a huge concern, as I suspect Lou will solve the problem like he always does. For some reason, I can see him bringing Roberto Luongo on-board to start the 2013-14 Season, but if not he will plug in a goaltender competent enough to keep the team in the Cup mix. That’s the Lamoriello way.
Money aside, New Jersey probably represents the optimal situation for Zach Parise the hockey player (given his role and familiarity with the organization), but I don’t know enough about him personally to know if he is displeased with anything about the situation.
2) Detroit Red Wings – 7 years/$45.5 Million ($6.5 Million Annual Cap Hit)
Logic For: Players want to play in Detroit due to the tradition of winning, the respect for GM Ken Holland, and the puck-possession, skill-oriented style the team plays. Due in large part to the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the trade of Brad Stuart, the team has scads of Cap Space to lavish on players. The Red Wings do not have a plethora of high-end talent coming up the pipes, so it would behoove them to make moves in Free Agency this year if they wish to remain competitive in the Western Conference.
Many analysts have Parise already planning to meet fellow American Ryan Suter in Detroit ala LeBron James and Chris Bosh signing with the Miami Heat. While no one will find a quotable source on this matter, it’s certainly not the most-bizarre scenario an Xbox GM or hardcore NHL enthusiast could come up with.
From the perspective of a free-agent, there is major prestige to playing for the Winged Wheel, as they are possibly the most recognized team in America among casual fans (possibly excluding Your Pittsburgh Penguins). If you as a player had the choice of where to create your legacy, there are few better options than Detroit.
Speaking to Parise specifically, it has to be appealing to go to an annually-competitive Original Six team and likely play on Pavel Datsyuk’s wing. As I wrote above, there is a good chance that the Red Wings will be able to sign both he and his Team USA teammate Ryan Suter this off-season; adding those two to a base of Datsyuk, Hank Zetterberg, and Nik Kronwall gives the team a formidable core for the next five years.
The Red Wings could be considered the Devils of the West, based on their strong identities, traditions of excellence, and the steady leadership stemming from Holland and Lamoriello. The key difference is the stability Mike Illich can offer as an owner versus the uncertain financial situation brewing in Newark.
Logic Against: Parise certainly would not be the Captain of the Red Wings anytime soon, nor would he be a player who helped define the franchise. Joining the Red Wings is somewhat akin to joining the New York Yankees, in that the ghosts of Howe, Lindsay, Delvechio, Yzerman, Fedorov, and now Lidstrom are constantly hovering over you. While some players would consider it an honor to be “next in line”, others want to carve out their own niche; I’m not sure which type Parise is.
Based on their probable rosters for 2012-13, moving from New Jersey to Detroit might be a lateral move at best, if Parise is excluded; unless Ryan Suter and another minute-munching, top-four defenseman are already having their names stitched on Red sweaters, the Lidstrom-less version of the Red Wings suddenly do not look like formidable front-runners in the Western Conference; Datsyuk and Zetterberg aside, Central Division foes Chicago, St. Louis, and even Nashville have more-imposing rosters. A move to Detroit’s Central Division from New Jersey’s Atlantic Division would not be an easier road to hoe, given the presence of four 2012 Playoff teams in each.
3) Minnesota Wild – 10 Years/$95 Million ($9.5 Million Annual Cap Hit)
Logic For: Parise is a Minnesota native and makes his home there in the off-season. The mostly-rudderless Wild would seemingly be willing to do a major over-pay to bring Parise into the fold.
This has been alluded to in various interviews and on various blogs. Parise would essentially be given the keys to the castle, as he would immediately become the most-popular player in Franchise history, eclipsing the likes of Wes Walz and Nick Schultz.
On paper, the Wild look fairly-interesting up front. Adding Parise to Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, Youtube sensation Mikael Granlund, and prospect Charle Coyle looks like pretty heavy artillery.
Speaking as a Penguins’ fan, the problem the Wild have is that they attempt to run basically the same systems as the Penguins, but lack the personnel on Defense to do so. I thought maybe I was selling the team short, so I checked out the Wild’s roster, and sure enough the team is at least two Defensemen away from making noise in the Western Conference.
Still, I am of the opinion the Wild are the team most likely to hand Parise a vault filled to the brim with gold coins to swim in. It would be a giant PR coup for a team that still continues to sell-out nightly despite struggling to stay afloat in the brutal Western Conference. Whatever the team would pay Parise above his actual value as a player would be made up for in good will, ticket sales, and making the team more attractive to other potential free-agents.
Logic Against: Parise is pathologically-competitive; I know this because I am also pathologically-competitive, just like a certain Center on my favorite hockey team. We recognize our own. The thought of regularly missing the post-season must make Parise nauseous, which is entirely possible in the West if you do not play for a stacked team.
If the Wild were a perennial top-four team in the Conference, playing in his home state would be more of a slam dunk. Alas, because the Wild have a recent history of mediocrity and play in an absolute meat-grinder of a Conference, Parise would have to strongly weigh the benefits of playing locally versus the frustration that might come with missing the post-season by two points. Repeatedly.
If you clicked on the link above, you saw that some major surgery still needs to be done on the Wild’s roster. Going from New Jersey to Minnesota would be a major downgrade in terms of overall player personnel, particularly on the back-end. While the addition of Parise would be a big step in the right direction, it does no good to add a scoring winger if you have continued difficulty breaking the puck out of your own zone.
Still, the Wild could offer Parise so much money that he simply cannot pass. Given their identity problems and need to gain traction in the West, the Wild are a strong bet to offer Parise a fiscally-irresponsible contract.
4) Los Angeles Kings – 8 Years/$52.8 Million ($6.6 Million Annual Cap Hit)
Logic For: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Parise would ostensibly replace Dustin Penner on the “Second Line” with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
The Kings had been after a Left Winger to play with Anze Koptiar and Dustin Brown for years until they slid Justin Williams over. As luck would have it, a premier Left Wing has again become available via Free Agency, a brief time after they courted another Devils free-agent Left Winger.
Does the team need Parise? Of course not. Adding Zach Parise to the Stanley Cup Champions would be like adding jet fuel to a race car. But can the team afford him? Let’s check…
Say what you will about the haul Kings GM Dean Lombardi sent away in the Carter and Richards’ trades, but he has almost all of the integral pieces of the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions locked up for the foreseeable future. Yes, Jonathan Quick needs a new contract next year, but Parise might be willing to take a slightly team-friendly contract if it means playing on an annual front-runner for the Cup.
The Kings are well-positioned to repeat next year. They have an elite, youngish roster filled out with players on entry-level deals, back-stopped by the Conn Smythe and probable Vezina Trophy Winner. They are going to bully the Pacific Division as the Sharks age, the Ducks flounder, the Coyotes struggle with ownership chaos, and the Stars rebuild. Ridiculous travel considerations aside, the Pacific might seem like a cakewalk in two years compared to the bloodbath that was the 2012 Atlantic Division.
Did I mention he would be joining the defending Cup Champions?
Logic Against: Kings GM Dean Lombardi might consider it overkill to add Parise. Yes, it sounds like an excellent idea on your Xbox, but this man just recently got his ownership group to commit to a trio of very expensive long-term deals (Doughty, Richards, Carter). Not that any of those were bad moves, but it might be a difficult sell to guarantee a player $50 or $60 or even $70 million-dollars, even after winning the Cup.
Parise might have very fresh animosity toward the Kings. I realize Parise and Dustin Brown are buddies from Team USA, but stuff like this was happening just a few short days ago. While objectively shacking up with the Kings might sound good, the obvious human aspect is that there is going to be some resentment toward the team that beat you for the championship.
Again I know very little about Parise personally, but I get the sense he might prefer a more-intense hockey atmosphere than Los Angeles. Let’s be honest: half of the metro area didn’t realize the team was in the playoffs until the Conference Finals. Parise strikes me as someone who would embrace a hockey-mad environment like Montreal or Toronto, rather than a largely hockey-indifferent locale such as L.A.
5) St Louis Blues – Seven Years/$50 Million ($7.14 Annual Cap Hit)
Logic For: The Blues are custom-fit for Parise’s playing-style. They are relentless on both sides of the puck, and have great team speed. The Blues were very nearly the Presidents’ Trophy winners, and their team-concept build might appeal to a clear-cut team guy like Parise. Fellow U.S. Olympian David Backes currently Captains the team, which is as well-positioned as any to compete in the West.
This is an off-the-map pick, based on the amount of Cap space the team has (loads), their likely position in the standings (high), and their style of play (tenacious and up-tempo). The Blues can offer an enticing package that most other teams cannot.
Logic Against: While the team has gobs of Cap Space, actual dollars may be an issue; ownership may want to keep the wallet closed until the team re-establishes itself as annual playoff participant.
Parise would certainly be the icing on the cake for the Blues, who would cement themselves as a Western Conference power, but they are a good candidate to get lost in the shuffle do to unfamiliarity. Beyond that, the Blues front-office is currently in upheaval, with the respected John Davidson currently interviewing for other jobs.
If there are legs to that “Parise and Ryan Suter wants to play together” rumor, why wouldn’t they just play in Nashville? Adding Parise to the Shea Weber-Ryan Suter pairing and Pekka Rinne would make the team as imposing as any in the Western Conference. Cap Space is no issue, and according to GM David Poile, neither is “real money”.
The key would be Suter agreeing to a contract extension with the Preds before July 1. If he signs on, suddenly Nashville is the place to be, and adding Zach Parise becomes a further enticement to keeping Shea Weber. If Suter doesn’t sign on, Nashville looks like a nondescript, fringe-playoff team featuring Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne and becomes a non-option for Parise.
(Note: my prediction is that Ryan Suter signs with Detroit, and that Shea Weber meets him there in one year’s time. I have no rooting interest in that line-of-thought, but that’s my sense)
This is unlikely in my view because I think Ryan Suter is going to bolt, making the team far less attractive to Parise. Beyond that, I think Parise would have a hard time going from a market like New York metro to Nashville, even if the team has made leaps-and-bounds in terms of local market growth.
I know the Canes want to spend money, and I just can’t shake the feeling that they’re in the mix. Jim Rutherford is a top-10 GM, even though his teams’ results are wildly sporadic. I realize the Canes stunk up the joint during the first-half of 2011-12, but they played very well after Kirk Muller was installed as Coach. Putting Zach Parise with Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner would give the Canes the best line in the Eastern Conference.
The Canes have no problem lavishing out money to their stars, as shown in the Staal and Cam Ward contracts. If the team can add a few experienced defensemen to Justin Faulk and the forward prospects continue to develop, this team suddenly looks dangerous. The team would need to do a major sell-job on Parise, immediately followed by a massive over-pay, but it’s within the realm of possibility.
Jack Puts Zack Parise on the Pittsburgh Penguins
(UPDATE: The Pens’ just cleared $8 Million in Cap Space on Draft Day. I am still not laying odds because I have a personal interest in the matter, but it’s worth asking: Are the Pens now officially in on Zach Parise?)
(Note: That is Beautiful)
Seven Years/$42 Million ($6 Million Cap Hit)
Odds: Never tell me the Odds.
Logic For: Since Geno did the sneaky Russian thing and stole not only Sid’s new toy James Neal but also his other linemate Chris Kunitz, Pens’ GM “Showtime” Ray Shero needs to get Sid a new Left Wing to play with him and Pascal Dupuis.
The Pens can offer a veritable Offensive Carnival, which Parise has been watching for years like a dieter staring at a Cinnabon. They also offer a team that is quite certain to be a Cup contender for the foreseeable future. Zach gets to line-up with Sid Crosby every night, and hang out with the team’s pack of American-born defensemen (including Team USA teammate Brooks “The Candyman” Orpik”)
Ray Shero knows Zach very well from Team USA, and I’m sure he’d be interested in bringing Zach aboard. The feeling may be mutual. I would say this idea is utterly insane, except that we Pens’ fans are ridiculously spoiled and prone to a few lucky breaks.
Logic Against: The Pens are tight to the Cap, even with the Cap Ceiling again being raised. In fact, this scenario only happens under two conditions:
1) Jordan Staal lets it be known that he will not re-sign with the Penguins
2) Zach Parise lets it be known that he will not re-sign with the Devils
At this point, a Double Sign-and-Trade is done; the Devils get a prototype two-way forward and a year to charm Jordan Staal into drinking Lou’s Kool-aid, while the Penguins convert Staal into a Top-6 Goal-Machine for the World’s Best Player. That’s a Win-Win, if the logistics line up in that way.
The Pens could sweeten the offer by including whipping-boy/former Devil Paul Martin in some capacity; maybe the Pens take back a slightly-less expensive contract to open a bit of Cap Space (or the expiring Bryce Salvador?) while giving the Devils back a salary-controlled player who excels in their system. The Devils are cash-poor right now, but there might be some way for Showtime and Lou to do some creative math.
I don’t want to think about this anymore because it’s like hoping for a Ferrari after you get engaged to Dara Torres:
God, do I like her. Anyway, my personal feelings aside, my Xbox swap of Jordan Staal-and-change for Zach Parise almost makes sense, if you can pretend you’re Lou Lamoriello and you’re trying to extract maximum value out of a necessary Zach Parise trade.
I am not handicapping any other teams, because I don’t think anyone else has a realistic shot. Sure, maybe a Vancouver or someone comes out of nowhere and steals Parise, but I don’t see that situation as being realistic enough to discuss.
Let’s see what happens