NHL veteran forward Zach Parise celebrated his 39th birthday on Friday, which was acknowledged by the New York Islanders on social media. For a brief moment, when his picture popped up on fans' timelines, they thought it meant he may have re-signed, but alas, we're still waiting for Parise to make public a decision on whether he will return for a 19th season.
While GM Lou Lamoriello has noted that there will always be a place for Parise on the roster, it's fair to assume the team has forecasted what their roster and forward lines will be if the two-time Bob Nystrom Award winner does not return to Long Island. Whether or not he comes back will have an impact on a number of Isles forwards looking for a regular spot in the lineup.
Parise spent much of his Isles tenure on a line centered by JG Pageau and skated alongside Hudson Fasching on the third line in the playoffs after the AHL veteran earned regular ice time and then a two-year contract after the season. If Parise doesn't return, his spot on the line could be assumed by Oliver Wahlstrom, as the 23-year-old looks to reestablish himself as a big part of the Isles' future after suffering a season-ending knee injury in December. While Parise returning would mean either Fasching or Wahlstrom are off the Pageau line.
If that were to happen, head coach Lane Lambert would need to decide whether the "Identity Line" of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin should remain intact most nights or if Fasching, newcomer Julian Gauthier, who signed a one-way contract, or second-year forward Simon Holmstrom could be part of a rotation that adds more speed up and down the lineup.
Without Parise, Gauthier could find him playing on the fourth or even third line with Pageau and Anders Lee if Wahlstrom were to earn an opportunity to play with Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat. Holmstrom was reliable defensively and earned Lambert's trust last season, but didn't produce enough offensively to be a regular in the lineup after the Isles got healthy and Engvall was acquired from Toronto. A lineup that was tough to crack for him becomes even harder if Parise, who appeared in all 82 games the last two seasons, were to return.