May 26, 2024

Zach Parise signs with Avalanche in surprise free-agent decision

Zach Parise said it would be Long Island or nowhere.

It turns out, nowhere is located in Denver, Colorado.

As expected, Parise officially came out of retirement on Friday night.

But in a curveball, he eschewed a return to the Islanders to instead sign with the Avalanche, with Colorado announcing he’d inked a one-year deal worth $825,000.

“We are excited to add Zach to our group,” Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland said in a statement. “Over his impressive NHL career, Zach has always been a highly competitive and driven forward who is hard to play against. We look forward to adding his veteran presence to our locker room.”

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman first reported the news.

It was initially thought that Parise would stick to his proclamation on breakup day last season, that if he did make a return in 2023-24 it would be with the Islanders.

But as Parise ramped up training on his own in Minneapolis, that became less clear.

Ultimately, if Parise was going to come back, he wanted to go to a team that would give him a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

The Islanders, who are 20-17-11 and fired head coach Lane Lambert last week, do not look like a team that can reasonably hope to win a championship right now.

The Avalanche, who won the title in 2022 and currently sit in a tie for the Central Division lead, look like they can.

And Parise, who scored 21 goals as a 38-year-old on Long Island last year, can help them get there.

It’s not known what effect firing Lambert and hiring Patrick Roy as the Isles’ head coach had on Parise’s thinking.

But the Islanders’ salary cap situation, complicated by Ryan Pulock remaining on long-term injured reserve, always appeared to be an obstacle to a reunion.

Currently, the Islanders could fit Parise by dipping further into their LTIR pool.

But they will already need to clear out $2.75 million when Pulock is activated.

Signing Parise would have increased that number and made an already-hard looming roster decision tougher — all in the name of adding someone who, despite his decorated track record, is ultimately a question mark.

Still, if Parise ends up being the same player he was last season, the Islanders could very much use him

At the moment, their bottom six is down Casey Cizikas and potentially Hudson Fasching after the latter exited Thursday’s loss to the Canadiens after crashing into the end boards during the second period.

And Pierre Engvall, who returned from injury in Montreal, has been inconsistent at best all season and had a turnover-laden performance against the Canadiens.

Given that, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Parise would slot in on the second line right now had he signed with the Islanders.

But that will remain a hypothetical, and the Islanders will be forced to watch Parise continue his career elsewhere.

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