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Zach Parise: Problem or a Positive?

The Wild’s veteran winger has had his ups and downs this season, but what does the future look like?

Arizona Coyotes v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

When Zach Parise chose to sign with the Minnesota Wild in July 2012, it was an exciting time to be a Minnesota Wild fan. The hometown boy was coming back to the state of hockey to help bring a cup to the frequently let down fanbase. The goal-scoring forward had consistently put the puck in the net in previous years, breaking the thirty-goal benchmark in five of his previous seven seasons.

Fast forward nine years and the now 35 year old veteran has eclipsed 30 goals only once, with four full remaining seasons at a cap hit of $7,538,461 AAV. This was largely due to health issues sidelining the high level player. Without these health issues, Parise would have been likely to reach more respectable goal totals. However, the former Devils captain’s play has come into question recently.

In 25 games this season, the left wing has scored three goals and assisted on nine for a total of 12 points. Additionally, he was recently scratched by coach Dean Evason and has his lowest Corsi For percentage, 43.0, since entering the league. This is all while being the highest paid forward on the Wild by a margin of $1,538,461. To make matters more complex, the structure of his contracts has brought about the threat of cap recapture penalties in the event of an early retirement.

In the defense of the hard-working winger, his line pairing have fluctuated frequently, often leaving him without a true number one or two center. A problem faced by all wingers on the top Wild lines. He has had less support and less ice time when compared to previous years. The former UND forward has also posted a shooting percentage of only 5.6%, the lowest of his career. This, combined with the lack of power play time and success that has helped him put up numbers in the previous years of his career, suggests that he may be getting unlucky. Hopefully, he will return to his normal self. If not, the Minnesota Wild have an issue.

Cap Hit % Compared to Offensive Contribution (As of 3/15/20)

Player GP TP Team GF Of. Con. % Cap Hit Cap % Off. Con. % / Cap %
Player GP TP Team GF Of. Con. % Cap Hit Cap % Off. Con. % / Cap %
Zach Parise 25 12 83 14.50% $7,538,461 9.20% 1.57
Ryan O'Reilly 28 27 87 31.00% $7,500,000 9.20% 3.37
Kevin Hayes 25 20 82 24.40% $7,142,857 8.80% 2.77
Matt Duchene 23 8 65 12.30% $8,000,000 9.80% 1.26
David Krejci 21 13 68 19.10% $7,250,000 8.90% 2.15
Joe Pavelski 24 25 68 36.80% $7,000,000 8.60% 4.27

This table compares select forwards with contracts in the range of 7 million to 8 million. Their offensive contribution percentage (Of. Con. %) is calculated by dividing their total points (TP) by the number of goals for their team (Team GF). The Of. Con. %/Cap % indicates the forward’s ability to contribute to the teams offense, relative to the amount of cap space they occupy. Essentially the offensive value the team is getting out of that use of their limited payroll. The higher the number, the more the player contributes compared to their cap occupancy. Players that have missed more than five games were not used.

Zach Parise occupies a significant percentage of the cap. Less than only Jared Spurgeon and tied with Ryan Suter. As a high paid forward, Parise is expected to contribute offensively. When compared to the forwards with similar cap hits, he is contributing less than most at this point in the season. His Of. Con. %/Cap % number is greater than only one of the forwards used for comparison, Matt Duchene. This metric does not factor in defensive and intangible contributions, simply the offensive value of the forward. But, it does provide insight into the contributions of players relative to their pay. After-all, there is only so much money that the team can pay players and those making the most are expected to produce.

This leaves the Minnesota Wild with an aging, overpaid, and underproducing forward. It seems unlikely that the current Zach Parise would be a trade target for most teams. However, the No. 11 of previous years might do just that. The 17th overall draft pick in 2003 was almost traded to the New York Islanders in the previous year. Given multiple complicating factors, like the currently flat cap and COVID-19, it seems highly unlikely that this trade would be executed this year. The surging play of the Minnesota Wild will also dissuade General Manager Bill Guerin from making any significant changes.

It is looking like the Minnesota Wild and their fans will have to hope that the second generation NHLer will return to his normal form and contribute more to the team. Right now, Parise’s contract would be difficult to trade given his level of play. With two assists in the March 14 game against the Arizona Coyotes, its possible that the former 45-goal scorer’s play might be picking back up.