Free Agents: Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils

Jonathan Willis
May 03 2012 09:17AM

The New Jersey Devils are in a situation that no team likes to find itself in. Zach Parise’s contract expires this summer, and not only does he look likely to test the market but he also seems a safe bet as the NHL’s most sought-after forward.

2011-12 Cap Hit: $6.0 million.

Position: Right wing.

How the coach used him: Behind the Net shows an interesting situational dynamic for Parise. Devils head coach Peter DeBoer made Parise his go-to choice for tough opponents, but he also tried to get him out in offensive situations – Parise’s 54.2% offensive-zone start number is one of the highest totals on the team. He played 16:05/game at even-strength, 3:26/game on the power play and 1:57 per game on the penalty kill.

How he fared: Parise did a good job of driving the puck forward, albeit not as well as he has in previous years; given his serious injury in 2010-11 it probably isn’t unreasonable to expect further improvements as he returns to his pre-injury form. His even-strength scoring number (2.18 PTS/60) was excellent, the second-highest total on the Devils, but his power play total (2.94 PTS/60) was wretched and well back of his work in previous seasons.

What McKeen’s says: “[G]ifted undersized playmaker with great drive and imagination .. equally dangerous as a shooter and passer, guided by remarkable accuracy .. deceptive skater powered by a wide, bow-legged stride .. agility and overall quickness have steadily improved… success is driven by an exceptional work rate away from the puck .. fearlessly battles in traffic and strives hard to arrive in scoring areas…”

My take: Parise is a high-end NHL player and a legitimate franchise talent. At his best, his two-way game compares favourably to just about anyone in the NHL, and he merges that with exceptional offensive abilities in all situations. He scored 31 goals and 69 points in an off-year for him and it seems entirely plausible that he can get back to his 80+ point level of a few seasons ago.

There’s no question that every team in the league would love to get a hold of him, and if he’s willing to sign at a reasonable dollar figure he can basically name his destination. If he’s looking to cash in, the options will get more limited but some team will send a Brinks truck his way if that’s what it takes.

He’s a phenomenal player with no significant weaknesses who can play a feature role on a Cup-contending team.

Key statistic: With 138 even-strength goals since the lockout, Parise is behind just 10 players in the entire league – and this despite the fact that we’re including his 14-goal rookie season and 2010-11, which he lost to injury, in the equation.

Other Free Agents

Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.