Should the Ottawa Senators target Zach Parise?

 When it comes to fundamental flaws in team construction, there aren't many who can compete with the 2010-2011 Ottawa Senators. The New Jersey Devils, currently in last place in the league and an incredible nine points back of 29th, are one of them. They've been in salary cap hell ever since signing Ilya Kovalchuk to his MONSTER (Pierre: call me) contract. They're a mess on the blue line after losing a number of quality defencemen via trade, retirement, and UFA departures. Their Hall of Fame goalie is starting to show his age. They're thin on prospects throughout the lineup. And the player who may be their cornerstone, Zach Parise, is a pending RFA without a deal, and out for the season with an injury.

To make matters worse for the Devils, Parise and Kovalchuk are both left wingers, and neither enjoy an elite center to dish them the puck. No team has built a winner by loading up on left wing, and with New Jersey needing to spend precious cap space in net, on the back end, and down the middle, it's hard to imagine that re-signing Parise makes much sense when he could instead yield substantial returns. Ilya Kovalchuk certainly isn't tradable.

Enter the Ottawa Senators, a natural suitor for Zach Parise, and in desperate need of a reboot. 

It's clear that Ottawa would want a player like Parise: They're thin on either side, with Daniel Alfredsson representing their lone elite winger and closing in on retirement. Left wingers are scarce in the draft. The team will have the cap room in the off season to afford a major pickup, but the UFA market is notoriously bare. (You know that Alexander Semin is somehow going to the New York Rangers.) And ownership has shown little desire thus far to launch a full-scale rebuild, unwilling, perhaps, to stomach three to five years of losses in the tens of millions of dollars.

Also, Parise is pretty damn good:

Regular Season

Playoffs

Season

Team

Lge

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

2005-06

New Jersey Devils

NHL

81

14

18

32

28

9

1

2

3

2

2006-07

New Jersey Devils

NHL

82

31

31

62

30

11

7

3

10

8

2007-08

New Jersey Devils

NHL

81

32

33

65

25

5

1

4

5

2

2008-09

New Jersey Devils

NHL

82

45

49

94

24

7

3

3

6

2

2009-10

New Jersey Devils

NHL

81

38

44

82

32

5

1

3

4

0

2010-11

New Jersey Devils*

NHL

12

3

3

6

6

NHL Totals

419

163

178

341

145

37

13

15

28

14

There's little doubt that Parise is in the prime of his career, and could provide Ottawa with a 30-50 goal scorer every season for perhaps the next decade. Spezza would again have an elite winger to play with (let's face it: with Spezza's salary, he isn't being moved). And with Parise coming off a season-ending injury and New Jersey over a cap barrel, he might actually be affordable.

New Jersey, if they're open to losing Parise, will want to deal him and retain control over the types of assets they receive rather than lose him to an offer sheet, and here's where Ottawa - not exactly stacked with prospects the way Los Angeles, Nashville, St. Louis or Washington are - will have to stomach a loss of major draft picks if they're going to be competitive bidders. Ottawa's one area of depth is on the blue line, where they might be able to offer Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch, David Rundblad, or even Erik Karlsson in a package with a pick or two. But Ottawa is also on track to end up with a top five draft pick in 2011 which, were New Jersey to receive, would give the Devils two picks in the top five and send them well on their way to their own rebuild. Would Ottawa be willing to part with their highest draft pick since 2001 (Jason Spezza) and what would most likely have to be a roster player, prospect, or additional high pick (or even two), to have an elite player now?

If Parise makes it to RFA status (the day after the draft) he would also be eligible for an offer sheet. One has to think that other teams can beat Ottawa in a bidding war for Parise's rights, but if he makes it to July 2nd, Ottawa might choose to take the less-than-popular route to team-building. To review, here's the compensation required for offer sheets in the ranges Parise would most likely command:

$4,637,944 to $6,183,925

First-, second-, and third-round pick

$6,183,925 to $7,729,907

Two first-round picks and a second- and third-round pick

$7,729,907 and above

Four first-round picks

It's hard to imagine any team willing to go without first round picks for the next four years for any player not named Crosby or Ovechkin, but Parise won't command quite that much money. If Parise is willing to sign longer term for a lower cap hit - especially in that first range - he could be well worth the picks. He's 26 now; a deal between eight and twelve years might lower his cap hit to the high $5M - low $6M range.

Admittedly, both the trade and offer sheet scenarios are long-shots. There will be enormous interest if New Jersey is selling Parise, but Lou Lamoriello isn't going to be bullied into making a deal and Ottawa lacks the kind of blue-chip prospect that could convince him. And when it comes to an offer sheet: does Lamoriello seem like the kind of guy you want to be enemies with? Nonetheless, you have to think that for a team in Ottawa's situation - not good enough to win, not profitable enough to rebuild - this might be an opportunity too good not to explore.

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Varada also contributes to The Cory Clouston Fashion Review

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