After a month of rumors and anticipation, the New York Islanders signed Zach Parise, reuniting the veteran forward with his former general manager, Lou Lamoriello, and as he returns to the east coast.
The Islanders’ offseason acquisitions have primarily been from within the organization, with the team re-signing Kyle Palmeri and returning many of the restricted free agents like Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, and Ilya Sorokin. Parise, however, who made his initial impact in the NHL in nearby New Jersey with the Devils, might be the skater that can put the forward unit over the top. At 37 years old, Parise might only have one season left in him, and his skill set leaves head coach Barry Trotz and the Islanders coaching staff with unique options for the forward lines and how they can best take advantage of the former Wild forward and his scoring instincts.
Versatile Forward Lines
Parise is well past his prime, but his ability to crash the net and find goals off deflections allows the Islanders’ coaching staff to play him on multiple shifts throughout the season. The veteran forward can particularly benefit from playing on the wing alongside center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who tends to draw defensemen and allows forwards to find space in front of the net. Likewise, Parise can still play the wing with Brock Nelson and be an effective recipient of passes on the odd-man rush and help carry the puck through the neutral zone with the speed he still possesses.
Throughout the upcoming season, Parise will allow the Islanders to play multiple forward line combinations and show different looks offensively against their opponents. Last season, the Islanders had to continuously shuffle their forward lines with the offense as a whole struggling, especially when captain and top-line forward Anders Lee suffered a torn ACL and missed the second half of the season. This season, however, the team has a versatile lineup as a luxury, and Parise adds to the possibilities for the offense and how they can attack opposing defenses.
Continuing to Add Scoring Depth
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders benefitted from four lines that could find the back of the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning defenses, respectively. Whether it was Casey Cizikas in overtime against the Bruins in Game 2 or Palmieri finding the weaknesses in opposing goaltenders for seven playoff goals, the Islanders’ scoring depth was at full display. And despite scoring only 2.71 goals per game in the 2020-21 regular season, it was clear in the playoffs that their scoring depth became a distinct advantage for the team, as they reached the semifinal for the second consecutive season and pushed the Lightning to the brink, losing in only 1-0 in Game 7.
Adding Parise gives the Islanders the scoring depth that will help them in the playoffs, but it also helps the team continue to play with four forward lines that can score at any point. Parise will likely play on the backend of the forward unit, but his experience and scoring instincts allow the Islanders to do things. Moreover, if Parise returns to his 2018-19 form, where he scored 28 goals and 33 assists with speed on the wings in the neutral zone and in front of the net for the Wild, he can put whatever line he plays on over the top and thus help catapult the offense into one of the best in the NHL next season.
The Consequences of Signing Parise
The skills and abilities that Parise can contribute to the Islanders’ offense require the 37-year-old veteran to return to his previous form and imply that he can play up to his potential where he was a top-line scorer for the Devils and the Wild for the majority of his career. Unfortunately, Parise is far beyond those years, being four seasons removed from the 2018-19 season where he scored 28 goals and added 33 assists and eight seasons removed from his last 30 goal season in 2014-15. As a result, acquiring him doesn’t help the top line, something the Islanders will need to still address following the expansion draft, where the Seattle Kraken selected Jordan Eberle.
The bottom line is that Parise hasn’t been a dominant top-line scorer for years and can’t add that dimension to the Islanders’ offense. The likelihood is that Parise is a 20-goal scorer next season who can benefit as a recipient of excellent passes from the other forwards on his shift. The scoring instincts still play a prominent role in his offensive play and will help the team find a productive scorer in front of the net, but unfortunately, the 37-year-old forward doesn’t possess the same speed as he used to in his younger days, which will make him less effective on odd-man rushes and creating space in the offensive zone. The Islanders didn’t solve their forward unit issues with the signing, but they added scoring depth to a team that already has a handful of scorers on the roster.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.