On Feb. 24, 2020, 2 P.M. came and went on the NHL trade deadline, and Zach Parise remained with the Minnesota Wild after hours of speculation and media coverage.
Parise, who has four years left at $7.5 million per year after this season, was nearly traded to the New York Islanders in a blockbuster deal before details fell through. He agreed to waive his no-trade clause (NTC) with the potential of joining another team his late father, J.P. Parise, played for during his career.
A native of Minneapolis, the 36-year-old is a fan favorite and respected leader in the locker room. Last season, he became the eighth Minnesotan to play in 1000 NHL games.
However, with the Wild missing the 2019 playoffs and four consecutive first-round eliminations prior to that, Parise expressed a desire to compete for the Stanley Cup one more time before he calls it quits.
“Well, now I’m 35. I don’t even know how many years I’ve been in the league, and I’ve really had one chance. I’ve had one chance to win it all, and that wasn’t in Minnesota, and that’s how hard it is,” Parise said to The Athletic last season. (from Russo: ‘Wild’s Zach Parise trade talks with Isles break apart at deadline (UPDATE)’ The Athletic, 02/24/2020)
Parise captained the 2011-12 New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final, losing in six games to the Los Angeles Kings. In the following offseason, he and current Wild defenseman Ryan Suter signed identical 13-year, $98 million contracts on July 4 to help Minnesota become contenders.
Despite the added star power, the Wild never went on extended playoff runs. While the team surrounded Parise, Suter and former captain Mikko Koivu with talent through trades, free agency and the entry draft, Minnesota’s best finish was lasting six-games before being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2014 playoffs.
Current general manager Bill Guerin continues to assess what he inherited from former GM Paul Fenton when he took over in August 2019. Guerin is committed to his own blueprint of changing the culture and instilling more youth in the lineup, made evident by his flurry of trades since taking over. Parise was nearly dealt to offset his pricey cap hit and shift the team in a different direction, but the GM reiterated that he would only make a deal that would make the most sense for the Wild in terms of asset management.
“I didn’t want to do a deal today just to do a deal, and nothing really made sense,” Guerin said to the media following the trade deadline.
The Proposed Trade Details
With Parise going to New York, the Wild were reportedly taking on forward Andrew Ladd’s contract in a package with other assets that there never fully disclosed.
The complications of the deal, which emerged after the deadline, centered around matching up salaries and potential media leaks.
First, Guerin was unwilling to take back Ladd’s contract. Ladd has three years left at $5.5 million per season, and he has played minimally at the NHL level since signing for seven years with New York in 2016. The 35-year-old continues to battle various injuries and remains with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Wild could not find a way for the deal to make sense to them in terms of the salary cap, especially as Guerin remains committed to his plan to be more flexible with contracts in the future.
Second, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello did not want details of the trade to leak to the media. According to Michael Russo, Lamoriello has pulled out of trades before when they become public knowledge prior to their completion. (from Russo: ‘Zach Parise on not being traded: ‘I’m not disappointed’ that I’m here with Wild’ The Athletic, 02/25/2020) Even after the deal fell through, Lamoriello remained committed to not delving into details to the media.
Along with the legacy of Parise’s father playing for the Islanders, Parise is closely linked to the Islanders GM. During his time with the Devils, Lamoriello drafted Parise 17th overall in 2003 (and even traded up to ensure he was selected by New Jersey). Parise arguably had his most successful seasons as one of the most prolific scorers from 2007 to 2010 under Lamoriello’s management (303 points in 326 games).
Also, Guerin who was drafted by Lamoriello fifth overall in 1989, considers the Islanders GM a mentor, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, meaning there was this added familiarity in attempting to make the deal happen.
Parise’s Future With the Wild
Parise met with then-GM Fenton in June 2019 about his unhappiness with the unlikelihood of not competing for the Stanley Cup and the Wild’s direction. It was the first time Parise expressed his willingness to waive his NTC and a preference to go to the Islanders, according to Russo.
Essentially, Parise has never fully expressed a trade demand, but he has been open about being traded more than once in the last two years.
When Guerin had a freer hand this past offseason to implement his own changes, veterans Eric Staal and Devan Dubnyk along with young forwards Ryan Donato and Luke Kunin were traded and Koivu entered free agency. Parise and other high-priced vets like Suter, captain Jared Spurgeon and Mats Zuccarello remain on the roster and continue to help lead the Wild this season.
Parise continues to be a fixture in the Wild’s top-six, and currently has five goals and three assists in 17 games. He is two years removed from severe back surgeries that threatened to end his career. After being limited to 42 games in the 2016-2017 season, Parise has bounced back to remain in the lineup, with 74 and 69 games played in the last two seasons, respectively.
Guerin’s future moves or potentially revisiting the trade market for Parise remains unknown. The team’s success so far this year may curb Parise’s desire to win elsewhere, or management may want to continue building a younger lineup and a deal may still happen in the future. As a reminder, the veteran forward is signed until he is 40 at that $7.5 million cap hit, making this contract one of the more difficult ones to move as he ages.
Currently, the Wild are 12-6-0 and are a top team in the West Division. With the emergence of its young talent, especially rookie forward Kirill Kaprizov and goalie Kaapo Kähkönen, and the collective efforts of the reworked lineup, Minnesota is one of the more exciting teams to watch this season.
The team’s current success is in the wake of several players being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list on Feb.2, including forward Marcus Foligno who first tested positive on the roster. Foligno was added to the protocol list on Jan.31.
As of Feb. 28, the team is riding a six-game winning streak since their games were suspended due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
Sports journalist covering the Minnesota Wild. Currently completing a journalism degree in Toronto, Canada.