By now, much has been made about the signings of American-born stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter by Minnesota, also known as "The State of Hockey." The Wild established themselves as one of the more credible teams in the Western Conference, particularly the Northwest Division, and should vie for one of the West's final playoff spots. You likely won't have to pay what the Wild did for Parise and Suter, who inked identical 13-year, $98 million contracts on Wednesday, but both of these players will have their own respective price tags come draft day. From a statistical perspective, neither Suter or Parise can be considered elite players. They're not average, but they're not exactly going to lead the league in scoring at their respective positions. Minnesota committed such a large chunk of the team's future to the two talismanic Americans because of the intangibles the duo possesses: hockey sense, work ethic and leadership to name a few.
Parise 2011-12 stats: 31-38-69, minus-5, 14 PPP, 3 SHG. 24th in the NHL in points. The 69 points were his lowest since the 2007-2008 season (he missed all but 13 games of 2010-11 with a knee injury). Amongst left wings, Parise was tied for 5th in the league with Matt Moulson, Henrik Zetterberg and Patrick Sharp. Moulson, Erik Cole, James Neal, Scott Hartnell and Ilya Kovalchuk all posted more goals than Parise (although Kovalchuk mostly played on the right wing last season with Parise.)
Since intangibles and positioning are not fantasy categories, we have to examine the two prizes of NHL free agency on this statistical basis. Parise is one of the stronger left wings on the board, but in a league that simply uses a forward position, his value will not be as high. He was one of 30 players to crack 30 goals this past season, many of whom went well after Parise was drafted in most leagues, such as former teammate David Clarkson, Moulson, Cole, Milan Michalek and Jason Pominville. Parise will have an inflated price tag because of his name being in the media, so it's important not to pull the trigger on him too soon. He's an immensely talented player with seasons of 46 and 38 goals to his credit, but odds are he won't crack 40, possibly not even 35, in Minnesota. Parise should skate alongside Mikko Koivu and likely Devin Setoguchi or Dany Heatley (who may be the happiest person in Minnesota). Don't rule out Wild coach Mike Yeo putting Cal Clutterbuck on a line with Parise either, as protection. In that case, Clutterbuck could have a David Clarkson-lite season. Expect Parise to be available in the fourth round after the goal-scoring centers and elite defensemen are gone. There are plenty of more reliable wingers that will go before Parise and some with potential to produce afterward. Parise won't carry your team's offense, but he'll be an excellent source of goals and power-play points if you don't pay too much for him.
Much like Suter adapting without Shea Weber, Parise will have to adapt to Mikko Koivu. Parise had outstanding chemistry with Travis Zajac during his tenure in New Jersey and played well with Adam Henrique and Kovalchuk this past season; Kovalchuk finished fifth in the NHL in scoring last year while emerging as a legitimate all-around player. However, Parise's adjustment without Zajac seems to be less of a concern to people than Suter's without Weber. Koivu is an excellent playmaker and should mesh quickly with Parise, so expect Koivu to cost a little more on draft day than he has in the past.
July projection on Parise: 34 goals, 40 assists. late 4th round, top 5-7 left wings available. LW ahead of him: Kovalchuk, Neal, D. Sedin, Hartnell (in PIM leagues only), possibly Patrick Sharp. Expect Moulson and Loui Eriksson to go after Parise, so wait on those two while someone else takes the bait on Parise.