My First (and Last) Parise Post

Zach Parise is our LeBron, and we (the Wild faithful) are the Knicks fans.

The buzz for the Wild is that in the offseason, they’ll be making a play for native Minnesotan, current New Jersey Devil, and upcoming Free Agent Zach Parise. And really, why wouldn’t that buzz be there? Minnesota hockey is a proud tradition in Minnesota- in fact, along with Mitch Hedberg, Hockey is arguably Minnesota’s finest export, and it would be nice for the Minnesota Wild to have their own version of Neal Broten. Not to mention that it’s nice to be able to root for your favorite team’s best players and your country in the Olympics at the same time.

But, even the most dedicated aficionado of Minnesota-raised talent would agree that the most intriguing reason to sign Parise is this: When healthy, he’s one of the ten best players in the NHL. In 08-09, Parise scored 45 goals and finished 5th in the league in points (94), and in 09-10, he scored 82 points, good for 15th in the NHL. Combine this with his well-regarded two-way play (unlike his teammate Ilya LOLvalchuk), and there’s really not much discussion, he’s one of the best. The negative with Parise isn’t much, but injuries derailed his 10-11 year, and he’s off to a slow start on a mediocre Devils team. Anyway, like I said before, this is a fairly regular topic for Wild fans. I and a few other Wild fans are sick of hearing the message and comment boards overfill with “OH MAN, WE JUST NEED PARISE AND WE’RE SET!!!!1″ posts. I get it. However, the Devils played at the X last night, Parise had a good game, and the local media is buzzing with the possibility of Parise in Iron Range Red. So, this is going to be my only Parise post until 1) The Wild become involved with trade talks for him (which would be asinine, IMO), or 2) He becomes a Free Agent.

Should the Wild make a run at Zach Parise?

This is a move that seems simple on the surface. Yeah. Duh. But let’s look deeper into how a Parise signing affects the Wild, (potentially) now in 12-13 and in the future.

Parise, the Wild, and the 2011-2012 season

It’s not going to happen this year. Zach Parise might get traded, but I won’t expect it to be to the Wild.

The biggest reason is the price of not only the price his next contract will cost (if they’re lucky to resign him, which they probably would do), but the boatload of talent he will command on the trade market. How much will he command? I would say that the only team that could (and would) afford to do a straight-up player for player move for Parise would be Anaheim, giving up Bobby Ryan, a 24 year old 35 goal scorer (with upside!), but unless they turn around this season (only two points above Columbus! yuck!), it’s a move that wouldn’t make too much sense unless they can get Parise to stay long-term. That’s an idea of the value Parise could command. What would be enough for the Wild to make it work? Granlund and a 1? Phillips, Scandella, and a 1? More than that? Whatever that price for the Wild is, it’s going to eliminate all of the system depth that the Brent Burns trade netted the team. It would be better off taking it’s chances in free agency.

Next year, the Wild are projected to have 20 million dollars of cap space (that is, if the cap holds at it’s 64.3 million dollar level). The only people I’d be worried about losing is (maybe) the RFA Latendresse, Brodziak, (maybe) RFA Nick Johnson, and that’s pretty much it. Everyone else entering free agency will be easily replaced by someone in the system, with the possible exception of Harding, but with Hackett, Kuemper, Endras, and now Gustavsson, the Wild are insanely deep at goaltender. That’s quite a bit of space to play with, the Wild could find themselves flirting with the salary cap floor next year. So money isn’t a problem.

And that’s a good thing for the people who want to obtain Parise, because he will be Expen$ive. I would expect his contract to be somewhere in the Dany Heatley range (6 years, 45 million). Let’s say the Wild sign him for 7 years, 52.5 million, a cap hit of 7.5 million dollars per year (The Wild aren’t into cap circumvention deals). That gives the Wild 13 million dollars to fill 12 (mostly) easy-to-fill spots. That’s a lot of wiggle room.

And Parise makes the team better, no mistake. Parise on a line with Koivu not only gives (another) goal scoring presence provided Heatley starts, you know, being Heatley, but it gives the Wild a top line that can shut opponents down. They would be essentially match-up proof. That’s huge. It also gives the Wild flexibility. Will it want to have Heatley on the second line? Done, throw him with Cullen/Bouchard/Setoguchi, and put Granlund on the top line. Does it want to have a mega line? Done, Parise-Koivu-Heatley can be the top line, and have a speedy trio of Setoguchi-Granlund-Bouchard skating. They would find themselves in the position of having a lot of Top-6 depth, something that would be shocking to Wild fans last year, let alone in Risebrough’s last days.

Parise, the Wild, and The Future

This is the trickiest part of the equation, but let’s start with this: almost every Wild fan can agree that the future is bright. The Wild possess incredible forward and goaltending depth in the minors. Prospects like Granlund, Phillips, Larsson, Zucker, Haula, Hackett, and now Bulmer tearing up their respective leagues, and players like Coyle and Brodin having non-flashy, but respectable seasons, it stands to reason that the Wild are having a lot of players coming through their ranks, and that some of those very good prospects are bound to succeed at the NHL level.

My mind goes to Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks.

There are a few differences between the Blackhawks in the summer of ’09 and the Wild in the summer of ’12, but they were similar in that they both were/are poised to have a lot of talent coming through their system. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook were on their way to establishing themselves as stars, just as the Wild could see next year with (at least) Granlund, Phillips, Brodin, Larsson, and Bulmer (at least) seriously challenging for roster spots. The Blackhawks were further in their youth movement at that point, sure, but both teams appear to had/have tons of talent.

After the Brian Campbell signing the previous year, the Blackhawks signed Marian Hossa to ablatantly cheating, but still expensive deal, with a cap hit of 5.3 million dollars a year. Marian Hossa was great for the Blackhawks, he did (and still does) put up great numbers and helped Chicago get a Stanley Cup.

The Hossa deal didn’t come without it’s drawbacks. The Blackhawks were under a cap crunch because of it, and actually went over the cap, getting penalized 4.15 million in 2010-2011. The Blackhawks lost Dustin Byfuglien, who is one of the best offensive D-men in the game, and would have made a ridiculous top 4 with Nick Leddy, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Kris Versteeg, a solid contributor with Chicago, now having a career year in Florida, andAntti Niemi, the San Jose goaltender who has a SV% .022 higher than Blackhawk starter Corey Crawford. Imagine the Blackhawks without Hossa, but with Byfuglien and Niemi. That team is probably as good, if not better than the current Blackhawk team. And things could have been even bleaker for Chicago if they didn’tget lucky and miraculously unload the Brian Campbell contract.

That might not happen to the Wild if they sign Parise next year, after all, Cullen (3.5 million), Zidlicky (4 million), Bouchard (4 million), and Nicklas Backstrom (6 million) are all be slated to come off the cap after next year, and Dany Heatley’s 7.5 million comes off the year after that, so by the time the youngsters have their entry-level deals come off, the Wild should have plenty of space to keep their core intact. But it is something to think about.

What do you think? Get On With It!

I think the fact that the Wild could have 20 million in cap space next year, and 17.5 million (certainly 7.5) coming off the books in 2013, combined with the fact that the Wild’s prospects won’t be up for their second contracts until well after significant cap space can be cleared out, tells me the Wild signing Parise as a free agent would actually be a good move if they have the chance. A cap hit of 7.5-8 million is my guess as to what gets it done, and that’s right in line for a player of his calibre. While the Wild are poised to have a logjam at the forward position, it’s a good position to be in; they can replace the Cullens and Bouchards when they leave, and whoever doesn’t figure into the core can be traded to land assets to get a stud on the blue line. Chuck Fletcher seems to be savvy enough to make it work out, and landing a guy who can be a top-10 player in the league is, in the end, way too good of an opportunity to pass up. So, Wilderness, got anything to add/discuss/debate?

(Author's Note: I'm trying to get myself into the habit of writing more, so I've started a blog with the challenge of writing content on a frequent basis. It will be dealing with (mainly) my thoughts on the Minnesota Wild, and probably the NHL in general, basically in leiu of my occasional FanPosts (which I'm sure everyone is on pins and needles to read!!!). It's called Jacques Lemaire's Trap: The Most Boring and Uninteresting Minnesota Wild Blog on the Internet. I won't be offended if no one visits it or anything, but I know I crave for as much Minnesota Wild content as possible, and I'd like to prematurely thank anyone and everyone who stops by to take a look at it. Other than my signature, this will be the first and last time I'm plugging the blog. Thanks for enduring my self-indulgence.)

The opinions posted here are not those of Hockey Wilderness

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