Kovacevic: Payback for Crosby? Pay Parise
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Friday, June 29, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013
The most misguided myth tailing the Penguins in recent years is that Sidney Crosby has never had a big-time winger. Not true. He's skated alongside Mark Recchi, Marian Hossa and Bill Guerin, even shared a few shifts with the greatest player in NHL history.
Go ahead, look it up: On Dec. 16, 2005, Mario Lemieux's final game was on Crosby's left wing.
The Kid's had plenty of help.
But then, that's been the problem. There have been too many wingers, too many changes and not enough elite talent.
It's time to change that. And by time I mean this weekend.
Sign Zach Parise.
Get it done, Ray Shero.
Clear the ledger for the noon Sunday start of free agency, trade Paul Martin to create another $5 million in cap space, have a new No. 9 sweater stitched up (he and Pascal Dupuis can drop the gloves over it later), double-check that Martin's really gone, then book that nonstop out of Newark. Preferably with a 12:01 p.m. takeoff.
Think of it as the fitting sequel to the seismic news Thursday that Crosby became, really, a Penguin for life by agreeing to a 12-year, $104.4 million extension.
The deal itself wasn't a surprise, but the terms were in that Crosby's average salary will work out to - what else? - $8.7 million, the same he's making now and way below next season's NHL individual maximum of $14.03 million.
Has the No. 1 star of any sport ever settled for that much less?
Shero wasn't stretching it when he said "the team is very happy, very comfortable with the deal," even with concerns about Crosby's concussion history.
The Penguins did the right thing, and so did their captain.
Crosby made his concession, in part, because he's "really emotionally attached" to the Penguins and Pittsburgh, as agent Pat Brisson put it. No one should ever doubt that.
But be sure Crosby also took less to help lure Parise. And be very sure this all came to light yesterday for a reason.
Think the Penguins planned to limit coverage of this huge an event to a mere conference call with Shero and Brisson?
Think they wouldn't usually wait for Crosby to be in town?
This was all a giant Bat Signal sent over the New Jersey skies.
And that's fine. Whatever it takes, get it done.
For all we know, it already is done. There's cause to believe more than a seed has been planted. Crosby and Parise have been friends going back to prep school in Minnesota, and they're still tight enough that, when Parise and the Devils were in the Stanley Cup Final just now, Crosby shared a Staples Center suite with Parise's family.
Conversations happen. Ask the Staals.
Moreover, Parise sounds as if he has every intention of hitting the open market, telling the Newark Star-Ledger earlier this week: "If that does happen, my agents have done a really good job to prepare me for it."
But let's assume Parise isn't already Pittsburgh bound.
The Penguins have to pony up regardless. Parise is in his prime at 27. He's coming off 31 goals, a Cup run and a $6 million salary. To get him, it'll take multiple years and about $8 million per. The Penguins do have $15 million in cap room thanks to the trades last week, but that burns up quickly.
Have I mentioned Martin's got to go?
Shero does have other targets, notably defenseman Ryan Suter of the Predators. But the Penguins are blessed with young defensemen. There's no need there. Forget other forwards, too, unless you're excited by the Islanders' PA Parenteau or the Coyotes' aging Shane Doan.
Shero wasn't offering clues yesterday, other than to say, "We know who the free agents are out there, and we're certainly in a different spot cap-wise than we were a week ago."
Good. Put it all into Parise.
The potential benefits are immeasurable. The Evgeni Malkin-James Neal-Chris Kunitz line would have a legit alternate threat. The infusion of 30-plus goals to the roster makes a fine fail-safe if Crosby gets hurt. And the power play ... well, that's a puzzle for another day.
Listen to how Dan Bylsma last week described his ideal winger for Crosby: "You look for the speed, the aggressiveness, the attack on the puck, someone who likes to work down low, the confidence to play with a star. ... You're not necessarily looking for an All-Star guy, though that would be a good thing."
If Bylsma wasn't talking about Parise - we're assuming this isn't a done deal - then it's his precise profile.
Wayne Gretzky found his Jari Kurri early on.
Lemieux eventually found his Kevin Stevens.
Malkin has his Neal.
Crosby just gave at the office to get one of his own.
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Having over the hill wings doesn't count as having big time wingers. Look at the examples of big time wingers you give. Jarri Kuri was 20 when he was put on Gretsky's line. He hit his peak at 26 and after age 30 scored 50% fewer goals or less. Kevin Stevens was 23 when he joined the Penguins and his peak goal scoring ended after he turned 27. He probably wouldn't have fallen so far if it weren't for injury but it's normal for goal scorers to fall off at that age. James Neal is in his prime at 24. The wings on that line were a forechecker and a young sniper. That's exactly what Sid needs. (Neal and Kunitz would do just as well with Crosby) Parise is almost 28 now. His peak is 48 goals three years ago. He's older (for a winger), small and a left winger. He's a real good player but I don't see the fit for Crosby. Crosby is a playmaker and he's not physically imposing. He needs a bigger younger wing. He also needs a forechecker. If they don't get Crosby two appropriate wings, Kunitz should go back to Sid.
Submitted by: Steve on Friday, June 29, 2012
Ummm, I don't see how adding a defenseman -- even one as good as Suter -- solves the problems of a system under Bylsma that doesn't stress defense first. Simply put, the problem isn't so much the talent at defense, but the bad position the defense (and goalie) is put in by a system that is flawed defensively. The Pens do have plenty of young depth at defense to compensate for the losses of Zmac and Martin and quite frankly, if they don't either make room for these players on the roster soon, they either need to trade them, or fear losing them. When you have such prospects in the pipeline it's ridiculous to overpay for a FA defenseman (which everyone always does). I don't care how good Suter is in Nashville, he'll never be that good with the Pens since they don't play a system he can thrive in. Sure, sign Suter, just make sure you get a new head coach while you're at it. Besides, everyone knows Suter is going to Detroit to replace Lidstrom...it's more of a lock than any FA deal coming up. Crosby/Parise is like James/Wade. It's something everyone wants to happen, Sid, Zach, the Pens and especially the NHL. Does anyone think Sid signed such a generous contract with the intentions of playing with middling wingers for the rest of his career? Does anyone think Shero making every attempt to land Parise wasn't part of the negotiations? Sorry, but Crosby never had wingers to play with. A past his prime Guerin, an over-the-hill Mario, an old Recchi who didn't get along with Crosby to begin with and a Hossa who was only there for a cup of coffee don't count. As good as Crosby is, no one is ever going to see just how good Crosby can be until he gets another line-mate to take advantage of his play-making skills. A Parise/Crosby combo is worth the price of admission alone.
Submitted by: Dejan on Friday, June 29, 2012
Mike, the clear reference was to the "young" defensemen, almost none of whom participated much in the Flyers series. Click the blog link below for more discussion.
Submitted by: mike on Friday, June 29, 2012
"But the Penguins are blessed with young defensemen. There's no need there." Huh!? What playoff series were you watching Dejan? No need there? Not sure MAF would agree with you on that one.
Submitted by: Dejan on Friday, June 29, 2012
More on Crosby, Parise and other stuff today on the blog. That's also where I'll take any questions, comments, criticism about the column itself. http://blog.triblive.com/dejan-kovacevic/2012/06/28/wakeup-call-since-we-last-saw-starling/ Dejan