The Vegas Golden Knights may be looking to the East right now at a player who could be tickling their collective fancy. New York Islanders forward Zach Parise has found himself in a nightmare situation, and considering what he offers both on the ice and in the accounting books, this may be music to the ears of Knights GM, Kelly McCrimmon.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not even close. There were supposed to be celebrations, parties, goals and assists —not this. This is dreadful. Coming into the 2021-22 season, the Islanders had hopes of establishing themselves as a powerhouse in the NHL and to make a deep playoff push. The season is far from over, and when the accomplishments of the 2019 St. Louis Blues are considered, it seems premature to hit the panic button. Nevertheless, Stanley Cup hopes are slowly wilting away, and Islanders management may be starting to look to the future.
Meanwhile, Parise has much to prove after being bought out of his 13-year, $98 million contract by the Minnesota Wild this past summer. With four years remaining on his deal, the 37-year-old Minnesota native surely felt unsettled by the Wild’s decision to move on from his services. In situations like this, the waves of frustration that players experience are usually resolved and supplanted by renewed motivation — the desire to make the skill and talent that your previous organization failed to see, undeniable to the world.
But 17-games into season, the Islanders are sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Injuries have decimated the team. Parise, who is two years removed from a 25-goal season, has only three assists to his name. But he’s a locker room godsend and quintessential leader, right? That makes up for it, doesn’t it? Yes, sort of. But ultimately, no matter how many captains you station on the Titanic, once it hits the iceberg, it’s going to the bottom of the Atlantic.
Considering what has transpired with Parise and his buy-out, the ocean floor is not where he wants to be. His career clock is ticking. Indeed, at this stage, a guy with his cache could be much better deployed elsewhere, and the Pacific Division’s Knights may be the ideal fit.
Zach Parise Could Provide Cap Relief
The Golden Knights currently find themselves in a financial pretzel. Their projected cap hit is $91,938,227, and while several Knights players currently hold both Injured Reserve (IR) and Long-term Injured Reserve (LTIR) status – which offers cap relief advantages, McCrimmon will eventually have to address this financial elephant in the room. This could mean minor-league reassignments, potentially allowing players to walk at season’s end, or trading problematic contracts.
The Islanders signed Parise to a one-year contract worth $750,000 this season. If the team continues its gruesome tailspin, they may be open to dealing him. Interestingly, the Islander’s circumstances may bode favourably for Vegas and vice-versa. The Golden Knights have several players who become non-restricted free agents at the end of the season. Among those players is Reilly Smith, who is making $5 million this campaign. Swapping Parise for say, Smith, would make sense on multiple levels. Of course, a deal would likely be contingent on several factors. For example, the Islanders may not want to agree to a deal unless Smith agrees to re-sign.
By doing this though, McCrimmon would be moving in the direction of cap compliancy which can’t happen soon enough. Indeed, it’s almost certain that if Parise wound up in the black and gold, the sum-effect would be much greater than the part.
Parise Fills Golden Knights’ Needs
I recently wrote an article about the crater-sized gap that Ryan Reaves’ departure caused in the Vegas’ locker room and lineup. What Reaves offers to a team transcends paper stats. His presence unites the teams that he finds himself on. He’s a “glue-guy.” Players like him are uncommon in the league, but common on championship rosters. Although Parise doesn’t bring bruising physicality, he does fit the “locker room guy” description.
Parise has put up monster offensive seasons, while he also been an invaluable asset in the dressing room. He knows when to joke around with guys, and when to motivate and lead. He can be all business or captivatingly personable. He’s adaptable.
Adaptability. This is key. Vegas has had its share of changes this year. The Vegas hospital ward has been a revolving door of Golden Knights players. This has meant that players such as Chandler Stephenson have had to move up and down the lineup and embrace uncertainty. In his heyday, Parise was an adept scorer with several 30 and 40 goal seasons on his resume, but today he’s plugging holes in a sinking vessel and being asked to contribute wherever he’s assigned to play.
Imagine inserting a player of his caliber alongside William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault on the second line; the damage that this line would unleash could rival the league’s best second lines. Or how about deploying him on the third line with Stephenson and Nolan Patrick? Parise is accustomed to being bounced around and has the maturity, psychological strength and leadership mindset to take any assignment seriously.
Another Captain in the Desert
The Knights have one of the best leadership cores in the league. It is among the team’s most valuable assets. Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty and Alex Pietrangelo have all worn the “C” in the NHL, while Mark Stone wears it for Vegas presently. Has the NHL ever seen five captains on the same team? That would be the case if Parise, who was the New Jersey Devils captain in the 2011-12 season, joined the team before the trade deadline. Oh, and Parise also wore the “C” for the US Olympic Team in 2014. The guy is a born leader. It’s all but certain that this level of leadership and character both on and off the ice would reap incredible rewards in the desert.
Parise is motivated to regain form and find success. He has vehemently stated that his career is not finished and that he has plenty left to offer to an organization. The experiment has fallen flat in New York. But this doesn’t have to be the headline for Parise’s 2021-22 season.
If Vegas initiates a trade for the former captain, the deal would not only carry cap advantages, it could prove to be a tipping point that instantly transforms the Golden Knights from a playoff team to a Cup contender.
Just some food for thought, McCrimmon.
Christian is from Vancouver, B.C. He is a contributor to the Vegas Golden Knights. Christian completed both his history degree and his education degree at the University of British Columbia. He currently works as a high school history teacher. Christian spends his spare time watching, researching and writing about hockey.