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Why Zach Parise might be a risky free agent investment

May 21, 2012, 9:40 PM EDT

Zach Parise Getty Images

To the delight of hockey-free summers, it seems like every off-season features at least one tantalizing “can’t-miss” free agent. This time around, Zach Parise might carry the torch from the likes of Brad Richards, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa.

Yet for all the drooling over such an attractive, versatile target, NHL Numbers wonders if Parise should come with a buyer beware sticker.

So it is worth remembering that Parise turns 28 this year. That is past the peak for a scorer, and although players are aging better than they did 20 years ago, in recent years the fraction of players who are performing late in their career has been dropping sharply.

Obviously there is variation from player to player. Some, like Jarome Iginla and Patrick Marleau, have aged relatively gracefully and continue to post 30-goal seasons into their early 30’s. Others, like Dany Heatley and Vincent Lecavalier and Simon Gagne have seen their production drop markedly as they cross into this part of their career. Those players may still be good players, but they would no longer justify a $6M+ cap hit, particularly not on a contract that extends into their mid-to-late-30’s.

… Parise is seeing sharp drops in his goals and points, in almost exact proportion to how often he is getting the puck on net. His story almost exactly mirrors that of Dany Heatley: his power play production has been steady, but his ability to generate shots at even strength has declined, and with that has come a drop in even strength goals and points.

The name “Dany Heatley” likely makes many fans shudder and there are some obvious arguments against that comparison – mostly from a subjective “character” standpoint. Heatley’s deriders might argue that he simply doesn’t work as hard as Parise will once he gets a new deal. More reasonable types would probably point out that Parise is more defensively conscientious.

Still, the overarching risk is something that every suitor should consider.

The post rightly points out that players are aging better than ever, yet it’s also true that “hustle” and “heart” can only take you so far. When you’re talking about deals like the one Parise is likely to garner, whatever team he lands with will be pushing many of their salary cap chips to the middle of the table.

One can argue about the severity of the risk, but there’s no doubt that it’s a gamble in some form – huge free agent moves generally fail more often than they succeed across all sports. Don’t get me wrong; it’s all good fun to daydream about what kind of impact the elite (or near-elite?) forward can make, yet it’s important to note that success is far from a guarantee.

After all, Heatley looked awfully impressive back when he was dominating with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa, too.

  1. entersandman42ny - May 21, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    this is the reason no ones reads these articles. NBC is the home of the NHL, yet the writers on this sight write complete garbage. Zach Parise is a great player and signing him to a big money deal isn’t much of a risk because even if he doesn’t score 30+ goals he is great on the pk and as a leader.

    • taytay099 - May 22, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      Why are you here posting then?

      He’s a fantastic player, but he doesn’t seem to be the same player he was before his knee injury.

      • entersandman42ny - May 22, 2012 at 7:54 PM

        How many Devils’ games have you watched this year not including the playoffs? Anyone who watches every game knows Zach is a great player who, despite playing with Kovalchuk who has never met a shot he didn’t like, continues to score goals and play great defense from the wing.

  2. tonyromoisterrible - May 21, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    Tort is the biggest piece of crap coach in the NHL. Did anyone see him go at jersey’s coach after that dust up? Tort needs to begone. I hope he gets fired and never rehired.

    • hockinj25 - May 21, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      Besides the fact this is completely irrelevant to the article, his name is DeBoer and they went after each other.

  3. noozehound - May 21, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    Zach, Minnesota welcomes you with open arms.

    • bethgoesglobal - May 21, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      RIGHT!!! He is right at the top of my wishlist for the Wild!

    • zach28 - May 21, 2012 at 11:13 PM

      just like….heatley?….

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - May 21, 2012 at 11:39 PM

        6 years 52 million

  4. amonte13 - May 21, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    Sharp drops in points and goals????
    Missing 69 games during a season will do that!!!
    How many players are better than him offensively? Of them, how many can contribute in other areas like he can?
    I’d sign Parise without any second thought.

  5. bcjim - May 21, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    It is a risk. Any LT deal for a scorer is risky. Threir prime is mid 20s. Its nearly always downhill after that. Sure he can be a great team guy, leader, etc. Is that worth 6x8m or some similarly absurd deal?

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - May 22, 2012 at 1:16 AM

      Welcome to the new era of free agency. You over spend to get a player. Then when it doesn’t work out you buy him out. We’ll say 6 years 36 million (easier math). Player doesn’t work out after 3 years you buy him out of the othe 3 and spread the cap hit over twice of the years left on the contract. So for the next 6 years you have 3 million in dead cap space. For the worst all time example see Mark Parrish with the Wild. His dead money doesn’t come off the books until after the 2013-14 season. He hasn’t played since the 2007-08 season with the Wild and has been on 3 other teams.

      Thanks Doug Risebrough

      • danphipps01 - May 22, 2012 at 7:47 PM

        It’s a disturbingly accurate point. Everyone automatically goes to Scott Gomez as a flawless case in point, but then come Komisarek, Connolly, Heatley, Hemsky, Gonchar, Horcoff, Martin, Bouwmeester, Redden, Leino, and it’s looking like Ilya Bryzgalov’s trying to soar ahead to the front of the pack. Given how many more years of his hilarious salary lie ahead, I suspect he’s probably going to succeed.

      • danphipps01 - May 22, 2012 at 7:56 PM

        Hell, upon further thought, even fairly good players like Havlat, Marleau and Lecavalier fit the bill – they produce, but at best two-thirds what their contracts imply was hoped for. There’s a reason the last few Cup winners have all primarily been built through the draft – it’s just ridiculous trying to get any sort of big-name free agent for less than time and a half what he’s actually worth.

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