Parise's status is going to be among primary issues in what promises to be an eventful offseason for the Wild, and in his three playoff games that he showed that after 16 NHL seasons, he's got more left in the tank. He made his presence keenly felt in the three playoff games he's been asked to play.
Parise, 38, scored a colossal goal in the Wild's 4-2 victory in Game 5 Monday -- putting his team up 2-1 in the first phase -- and started the rush that uttered Ryan Hartman's go-ahead goal in the Wild's 3-0 Game 6 victory on Wednesday at Xcel Energy.
That is a goal and assist in three matches, for those keeping track, out of a winger that had been scratched in six of those seven previous games. In every one of those games, he played on a line with centre Hartman and Kevin Fiala.
"He's played great," coach Dean Evason said. "We have talked about it earlier: Everybody that's not in the lineup on a given night remains prepared and ready to playwith. Clearly, Zach's been there and done that along with the mindset was right coming back. That has enabled him to fit into the group."
The 13-year, $98 million contract Parise declared on July 4, 2012, has been bound to become an albatross for the Wild, though management expected they could have advanced to a Stanley Cup Final or 2 at the meantime. They, naturally, didn't -- though it's still up in the atmosphere with Game 7 of the first-round series set for 8 p.m. CDT Friday in Las Vegas.
Ryan Suter signed an identical contract at the same period as Parise, however, the defenseman remains a top-four blue liner. Parise wasn't a leading forward this year, even though he scored 28 and 25 goals in his previous two seasons.
The point is, Parise has four years left on a deal which will pay $10 million more but with an annual salary cap hit of just under $7.54 million. He had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games this year, and because he had fallen out of trainer Evason's spinning -- and been transferred off his spot on the power play until that -- it appears that the Wild are going on, or trying to.
It's unclear what, if any, disconnect there is between Parise and Evason. Interviews that season have been group encounters via Zoom, and as the season wound down, Parise wasn't made available until after his first playoff appearance at a Game 4 loss at Xcel Energy Center last Monday. With the Wild down 3-1 in the series, he wasn't about to start a vein.
"The final thing I would like to do is really a diversion," he explained.
Inserted into the lineup after Marcus Johansson broke an arm ran right into a place in Game 3 -- Parise was a conspicuous presence on the ice. He's not quite as fast as he once was, but the man knows how to score in close, because he revealed in Las Vegas when he corralled a rebound behind the internet and fired a hard shot off the back of Vegas goaltender Marc-Andrew Fleury.
On Wednesday, he slipped a contested puck behind the blue line to Fiala, beginning a two-on-one which Hartman finished for a 1-0 lead just over 4 minutes into the third period.
But even if the Wild are becoming ready for life without Parise, moving him at a trade will be about hopeless, and with the (draconian) expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken coming this summer, general director Bill Guerin is going to have a harder time transferring the veteran ahead than he did last February, when Parise waived his no-trade to get a chance to play with late father's New York Islanders.
Parise can enable a team, particularly in the postseason, but his regular season numbers this year do not appear to merit a $7.5 million cap hit for the subsequent four years.
But Parise has shown this week he may be an albatross rather yet.