Zach Parise and Ryan Suter helped bring the Minnesota Wild back to relevance when they signed 13-year, $98 million contracts in the summer of 2012. We appear to be witnessing the beginning of the end of Parise's time in Minnesota nine seasons later, even though he has four years left on his contract.
Why is the end near?
Parise was a healthy scratch against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday and Saturday, in case you haven't noticed. This is not the first time head coach Dean Evason has decided to make the 36-year-old winger a healthy scratch this season.
Parise has also seen his ice time decrease significantly this year. He got top minutes early in the season, but he has watched his time on ice drop down below 12 minutes over the course of the 56-game schedule, culminating in an average of eight minutes per game during his last four starts.
Yes, you read that correctly. Eight minutes.
Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Kirill Kaprizov will all need to be re-signed. Why is this significant? They all will command serious raises from their current deals, and with the salary cap most likely not going up next season. The Wild cannot afford to have players on the roster with high cap hits who are being healthy scratched or playing less than eight minutes a night.
Therefore, the Wild and Parise are more than likely headed for a split after the season.
With those four years remaining on the contract, at a $7.5 million-plus cap hit, the Wild will need to find a trade partner to take on Parise and will have to take on a bad contract in return to offload him. The team cannot afford to buy him out, as they would face heavy cap hits over the first four years before paying a cap hit of $833,33 in the final four years of the eight-year buyout.
[caption id=attachment_88037" align="alignnone" width="2562] via CapFriendly.com[/caption]
There is also no worry about Parise retiring. At least not yet there isn't, as the Wild would face significant salary cap recapture penalties from his contract, which was deemed to be back-diving from the NHL.
"Minnesota has received roughly a $19.37 million cap advantage due to his back-diving contract that was allowable under the previous collective bargaining agreement but retroactively punished in the 2013 CBA for circumvention," reported Michael Russo last February. "If Parise were to retire this summer, that number would be spread over five years for the Wild as a charged cap hit. That same number would be spread over four years, three years, two years, and one year depending on when he retires."
The closer to the end of the contract that Parise gets, the scarier the cap recapture charges get for Minnesota.
If the Wild can deal him, the team trading for him would face some but not all of that recapture penalty, which would benefit the Wild as they would certainly not want to have to take on all of that penalty.
General manager Bill Guerin has shown a willingness to make whatever deals and roster decisions are necessary to put the best product on the ice. Parise has been no exception. A player of his caliber would not get the healthy-scratch treatment without the approval of the general manager.
While it will be difficult for Guerin to maneuver Parise to another team this offseason, given the flat cap, he certainly will give it a good try.
Perhaps Guerin will make a move for the Seattle Kraken to take on the winger in the upcoming expansion draft. Parise would have to waive his no-movement clause, and Guerin certainly would have to sweeten the pot for Seattle to select the forward. But he has the draft and prospect capital to do so if that is the route he wants to take.
Maybe this will prove to be the best course of action, as Seattle will be the only team entering the offseason not pushed up against the salary cap. Would you give up a significant draft pick and/or prospect to jettison Parise's cap hit off the roster? It's a question that Guerin has to have already pondered and most likely has made up his mind about.
Parise helped the Wild get back on the map when he first signed, but his time in Minnesota is coming to an end. It's better for him. It's better for the team. And it's time for all of us to accept it.