This week, TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston reported that 39-year old winger Zach Parise is currently ramping up at home in Minnesota with an eye towards returning to the NHL this season. However, while it is likely that he would return to the NY Islanders, Johnston does mention that the Isles face some competition, as multiple contenders are reportedly looking at Parise with interest.
But for the purposes of this discussion, let's assume Parise finishes his career on Long Island. What would Parise bring to this year's Islanders team that they are missing?
First, Parise brings veteran presence and experience that would be harder and more expensive to acquire elsewhere at the trade deadline. Parise has played in 111 playoff games in his career, with 80 postseason points to his credit. That kind of experience is something that Lou Lamoriello certainly respects and would welcome in the locker room.
Second, Parise proved last season that he still has gas left in the tank on offense, as evidenced by his 21-goal season last year at age-38. Impressively, 16 of those 21 goals were scored at even strength, so it is not as if Parise used the power play to artificially amplify his statistics. Parise would be a near-perfect fit on a third line with JG Pageau and Simon Holmstrom, where he would use his solid positioning and net-front presence to maximize the effectiveness of that line.
Third, Parise would provide the rest of the organization with even more motivation for the 2024 postseason. This Islanders team has been together for years, and the window could be starting to close on them. Not that professional athletes should need extra motivation, but having Parise back for one last shot at a ring that has eluded him thus far in his career should provide that proverbial shot in the arm come springtime.
Signing Parise virtually completes the Islanders up front. They would be able to roll out this top-nine come the postseason: Bo Horvat centering Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal on the first line; the always-productive Pierre Engvall/Brock Nelson/Kyle Palmieri trio as the second line; and Parise joining Pageau and Holmstrom for an effective third line. With the Isles' current cap situation and farm system, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to more effectively complete the forward grouping before the playoffs.
With arguably the best goaltending tandem in the NHL and a defense corps that, when healthy, will now suddenly be deeper than anyone expected, Zach Parise's return to the Islanders could be an important move towards completing the roster in time for the playoffs.