This is the second in a series of posts examining how the Flyers can improve the roster this offseason, whether it’s by free agency or via trade. Enjoy!
The Flyers offense certainly wasn’t the problem for most of last season, but it failed them in the second round of the postseason against the New Jersey Devils. Scoring just 11 goals in the series, they fell to the eventual Eastern Conference champions in just 5 games. They’ve got plenty of depth at center with Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Max Talbot all under contract for next season. However, the picture on the wings is a little bit murkier. Top-liner Jaromir Jagr is an unrestricted free agent, and according to GM Paul Holmgren, Jagr and his agent will test the free agent market on July 1st, and much-maligned winger James van Riemsdyk has been rumored to be headed everywhere from Nashville to Columbus in a trade this offseason. The Flyers could use an upgrade on the wing, and who better to do that with than Zach Parise?
Zach Parise hits the market as a highly sought-after UFA on July 1st. The left winger raised his value tremendously in the postseason this year, as the Devils captain led the team to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals and put up 15 points in 24 postseason games, including 8 goals, which led all postseason scorers. During the regular season he played in all 82 games, scoring 31 goals and tallying 38 assists, good for 69 points. However, much of Parise’s value comes from things he does that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. He’s just 27 years old, yet he’s the captain of a New Jersey team that includes legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur. He spends a lot of time on both the PK and the PP, but he’s also a very good player at even strength. He’s a great two-way forward, playing excellent offense and defense. He can fit in anywhere in the lineup: on the top line with skilled offensive playmakers and scorers (like Claude Giroux!) or on the fourth line with the grinders and checkers. Every team in the NHL could use a player like Zach Parise, which is why it’s going to be so difficult to acquire him.
There are a few roadblocks to seeing Parise don the orange and black in the near future, however. First and foremost is the high demand. Every NHL team with cap space is going to try to sign Parise. The Devils are the frontrunners, but other strong contenders are the Minnesota Wild (his hometown team and lots of cap space), the Carolina Hurricanes (oodles of cap space) and the LA Kings (the rich get richer), along with secondary teams trying to pursue him like the Flyers, Bruins, Rangers, Sharks, and Maple Leafs. Parise supposedly wants to play for a consistent contender, so that would seem to eliminate the Wild, Hurricanes, and Maple Leafs. He also said in an interview that he can’t see himself playing for the Rangers and that they are “out of the question”, so that would eliminate them. That would seem to leave the Devils, Kings, Flyers, Bruins, and Sharks as his main suitors. It’s important to note, however, that this is all speculation (aside from the Rangers quote), so maybe Parise’s desire for a contender is overstated.
Parise’s salary is going to be massive for three reasons. One is the simple nature of free agency: it inflates the value of players on the open market because there are 30 teams who can bid for their services. Another is Parise’s play: he’s a great player who instantly upgrades a team’s PK, PP, offense, defense, and adds leadership. The final reason is one that some people might not think of. With the exception of the Devils and Wild, all of the teams who are rumored to be pursuing Parise this offseason are also participants in the Rick Nash sweepstakes. The Columbus winger is expected to be moved at or before the NHL draft, and the teams who aren’t lucky enough to acquire his services will be even more hard-pressed to find an upgrade at left wing. This will inevitably lead to those teams throwing gobs of cash at Parise, maybe to the point where he gets massively overpaid. After all, he can be inconsistent on offense, and it’s very possible that for the $7M+ he will almost assuredly receive per season, a team might want more of a scoring punch.
So does he make sense for the Flyers? I’d say so. Since Ryan Suter is almost assuredly not coming to Philadelphia (read my post from yesterday), Parise is the top free agent on the market that they could sign. He’d be a wonderful replacement if the Flyers decide to let Jagr walk in free agency or trade JVR for defensive help, and with the salary cap increasing this offseason, the Flyers will have approximately $9M to spend in free agency, and $14M if they place Chris Pronger on long-term injured reserve. I’d spend a sizeable portion of that cap allotment on Parise, up to $8M a year. Anything higher than that is simply overvaluing Parise. I’d also prefer not to give him a deal longer than 10 years, because those often become albatrosses in the later years. 9 years, $65M sounds great to me. Maybe 10 years, $70M. Let’s make it happen, Holmgren.