Can the Flyers Really Sign Zach Parise, and Should They?

By Mark Donatiello

Zach Parise is reportedly entertaining a short list of teams this offseason, with the most obvious offer coming from the New Jersey Devils.  Parise captained the Devils to an unlikely appearance in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final after signing a one-year deal as a restricted free agent and missing almost the entire 2010-11 season.  He continually stated that his priority as a free agent would be working out a deal with New Jersey.  Then, July 1st hit and all hell broke loose as the Eastern Conference champions lost exclusive rights to their captain.  The Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, and Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly all in the mix to land his expensive services, with front-loaded offers rumored to exceed 100 million dollars.

The Wild got involved as Parise’s hometown team, but if winning is truly a priority to Parise he won’t end up in Minnesota.  The Red Wings and Blackhawks offer prestige and stability that Parise’s Devils can only dream of, sandwiched between division rivals with larger markets.  Those Atlantic Division rivals carry the very real threat of poaching Parise from New Jersey.  The Pittsburgh Penguins offer Zach Parise the chance to join a perennial contender and the opportunity to play alongside the game’s most prolific scorer in Sidney Crosby.  However, signing long-term with the Pens because of Crosby is risky, particularly given Crosby’s well-documented concussion issues.  Each team is far from the perfect offer, whether the drawbacks stem from unfamiliarity or instability.

Enter the Philadelphia Flyers with a massive offer, a short ride down the Jersey Turnpike.  The Flyers have one of the most successful and consistent track records in hockey, particularly in recent years.  The roster is balanced with youth and veterans, ready to win now but also built for the future.  Claude Giroux would form an excellent one-two punch with Parise, coupling the Flyers’ dynamic superstar with a skilled, effort-driven scorer.   Still, could Parise really join the Philadelphia Flyers, arch-rival of the Devils team he led to the Stanley Cup?

Parise dismissed rumors that the New York Rangers might be a possibility after his father circulated the idea that Zach could be a good fit in Manhattan.  If Parise says he could never play for the Rangers because of the intense rivalry between New Jersey and New York, it seems reasonable to expect the same logic might apply to another division rival in Philadelphia.  The Flyers and Devils consistently provide one of the most physical and intense rivalries in hockey and met yet again in the playoffs in 2012.

Let’s assume that Parise is able to separate himself from the emotional burdens an intense divisional rivalry cultivates in a captain.  Perhaps Parise succumbs to the draw of a talented and balanced roster with an organization far more financially stable than New Jersey.  Maybe Parise can be sucked into a sea of orange by the idea of sold-out home games in front of ravenous fans that will make him a hockey hero.  Let’s assume Parise realistically could come to Philadelphia.  Should the Flyers even want Zach Parise for the price it will cost to lure the prized offensive weapon to Philadelphia?

The Flyers have been one of the most consistent offensive teams in hockey since the lockout.  With 264 goals scored and a +32 differential, Philadelphia comfortably made the playoffs again in 2011-12.  Their strong and balanced offensive attack was led by Giroux’s 93 points in 77 games.  After outscoring the Penguins in a high-powered and exciting playoff series, the Flyers were favorites to win the Stanley Cup.  Ultimately, Philadelphia fell to Parise’s Devils behind a relentless forecheck that capitalized on injuries to the Philadelphia defensive corps.  Offense is not a pressing need for the Flyers, particularly with less expensive options like Jaromir Jagr on the market and willing to come back.  The Flyers didn’t fall short last season due to a lack of scoring, nor do they need to desperately pursue Parise.

The Flyers need to address possible weaknesses in their defensive corps and the addition of Luke Schenn is not nearly enough.  The Flyers should look to resign Matt Carle, particularly if Chris Pronger cannot return to action, and keep their options open moving forward.  Ryan Suter, the Flyers’ other high-salary free agency target, likely addresses more pressing needs for Philadelphia than a scorer like Parise.  Additionally, Nashville Predators teammate Shea Weber may be on the market next year and signing Parise to a massive contract confines the Flyers for years to come.  Landing both Parise and Suter (or Weber) locks the Flyers roster for the foreseeable future.  The Flyers need to find balance and depth again, not necessarily land a big name or two.

Parise should not be a major priority for the Flyers who can make due with the weapons already on the roster.  At this astronomical price, the Flyers may be better off letting the rest of the NHL battle it out while they scoop up some second-line help and land a decent defenseman.  There’s no downside to landing a player of Zach Parise’s caliber, but the Flyers are likely better served allocating resources to more legitimate needs.

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