Two big names hit the free-agent market on Tuesday, and the LA Kings could be a fit for either one of them.
The buyout window has opened for teams in advance of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and free agency. But just because there will be some players getting paid by their now former teams to go away, that doesn’t mean they can’t be of use to another team. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter joined the Minnesota Wild on matching 13-year, $98-million contracts in 2012. They were signed by the Wild together and ultimately bought out together on Tuesday after nine years with the team. I don’t know if they’ll be a package deal this time, but let’s discuss the possibility of either or both joining the LA Kings.
Parise and Suter were signed at the end of a trend where teams were signing star players to absurdly long contracts to bring down their salary cap hits. The start of the 2012-13 season was delayed due to a lockout, and part of the new collective bargaining agreement when it was reached was a seven-year term limit on contracts (eight if you’re re-signing with your current team).
So it’s not a total surprise that neither Parise nor Suter played out the entirety of their Mickey Mouse contracts with Minnesota. Parise turns 37 later this month, and Suter turns 37 next January, so it should go without saying that neither player is what he used to be. Which is why no one was going to take those contracts off the Wild’s hands, but now that they’re free agents, they could draw interest from some teams, including the Kings.
Parise is just a year removed from a pretty respectable offensive output in 2019-20, scoring 25 goals and 46 points in 69 regular season games. This past season was a difficult one for him, though. Parise clashed with Wild head coach Dean Evason and struggled through the worst year of his career, scoring just seven goals and 18 points in 45 regular season games.
He even found himself a healthy scratch at times, including three of Minnesota’s seven playoff games against the Vegas Golden Knights, though Parise managed to score two goals and assist in the four he played. Parise often found himself playing on the Wild’s fourth line and saw his average time on ice crater to 13:57, down from 17:12 the previous year and 18:40 in 2018-19. This raises the old chicken or egg question: was his role changed because he wasn’t producing, or was he not producing because his role was changed? I’m sure Parise and Evason would each have a different answer for you.
Despite the term remaining on his contract, it seemed clear that the relationship between Parise and the Wild had run its course and that the parties were headed for a divorce one way or another. In fact, this breakup had been in the works for a while. Parise had waived his no-movement clause to accept a trade to the New York Islanders at the 2020 trade deadline, only for the deal to end up falling through.
The fact that Suter was bought out as well was a bit more of a surprise, though his play had fallen off this past season, too.
In 2019-20, Suter was still a great offensive defenseman and a big minute-muncher for Minnesota. He scored eight goals and 48 points in 69 games while averaging 24:38 of time on ice. He also finished 12th among all defensemen with 18 power play points.
His offensive production fell off significantly this past year, as he scored just three goals and 19 points in 56 games. His average ice time also fell to 22:11. Still, that would have made him the second-highest scoring defenseman on the Kings. Suter may not be the two-way stud he used to be, but LA could use some help on the left side of their blue line, and they need more offense from it. Suter could be able to help in both of those areas.
Parise and Suter may be aging, but they also aren’t far removed from being pretty good players. Both seem like they could benefit from a change of scenery, and neither would require a lucrative, long-term commitment. They won’t bounce all of the way back to what they used to be, but they could bounce some of the way back elsewhere.
They’re also well into the back nine of their careers, and neither has won a Stanley Cup yet, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they wanted to join a team that provides them with a better immediate chance of winning. Perhaps the Kings could promise them the opportunity to be traded to a contender if they’re out of it at the deadline.
If they’re interested in coming to LA, though, the Kings could find a spot in their lineup for either or both of these players next season.