Zach Parise was the most coveted free agent in hockey last offseason. Fueled by the lure of “coming home” and the chance to play with Ryan Suter, the Minnesota Wild were able to sign Zach Parise to a huge contract for 13 years worth nearly $100 million.
Parise is a grinder with an elite scoring touch. He has a motor that never seems to stop, and what he lacks in size and physicality he makes up for with relentless effort. He has incredible hands, a goal-scoring mentality, and is a complete player. Zach Parise is a leader, who captained his team last year to the Stanley Cup Finals. He’s comfortable in Minnesota, and he’s producing. Still, his contract is a mistake.
It’s not so much the caliber of the player that makes Zach Parise’s contract a mistake, though that is a small part of it, rather it is the structure of the deal and the financial limitations the new CBA places on contracts going forward.
First of all, Zach Parise is not worth a $7.5 million cap hit each season for the next 13 years. Not only do his numbers right now not warrant that type of money, but as he ages, at his size, there is no way he can possibly maintain this level of production. Parise is somewhat injury prone, and such an investment is quite risky. Last year, Parise put up only 69 points in a full season alongside dynamic scorers like Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias. At that rate, the Minnesota Wild are paying more than $100,000 per point.
Secondly, the structure of Zach Parise’s contract is short-sighted. His 25 million dollars in bonuses through the first three seasons renders him virtually impossible to trade as the salary cap precipitously drops next year. Further, though he only makes a million dollars per year in the final seasons of his contract, he still carries a cap hit of $7.54 million. The Minnesota Wild made this expensive contract even worse in an effort to coax Parise into signing with the team.
Finally, the biggest problem with bringing Zach Parise to Minnesota is that he appeared to come only in conjunction with Ryan Suter. Again, because of the salary cap changes, the Minnesota Wild will have nearly a quarter of their cap space tied up in two players. Bringing in two massive free agency signings last offseason cripples the Minnesota Wild financially for the next decade. They are extremely limited in cap space and heavily invested in two players that may not warrant the type of money they’re signed to.
To that end, and as a final caveat, when during the lockout the owner of a franchise suggests player salaries are the greatest component to the financial distress of NHL teams only to lock up two players to 100 million dollar contracts, the team is in trouble. If profitability is a challenge, roster moves are limited, and cap space is diminished going forward, how will the Minnesota Wild win? Perhaps they can put together a winning team for a few years, but what about year ten of these monster contracts?
The short-sighted nature of a top-heavy deal for Zach Parise may prove to be the biggest mistake in franchise history for the Minnesota Wild.