Looking back at Free Agency, the signing of P.A. Parenteau sort of slipped under the radar. The defense was in dire need of an improvement, so the signings of Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina got the bigger headlines. It also didn't help that Parenteau had spent the last few seasons with the Rangers, even if it was mostly with their Hartford AHL affiliate. To finish the trifecta, Parenteau reportedly had a clause in his contract allowing him to leave for Europe rather than play another year in the AHL.
Despite suggestions that Parenteau was going to be another Matt Moulson type of find, the popular opinion in our poll was that he would be either a 3rd liner or even off to Europe after camp. Injuries though are a wonderful thing for Islander fans, and the injury to Kyle Okposo opened up a spot on the top line. With 24 points in 37 games, Parenteau is second on the Islanders in points and 28th among all Right Wingers (per NHL.com stats). He's done this while the Islanders have been near the bottom in goals scored all season (they're currently 28th at 2.34 goals per game). He has already tripled his previous high in points, last season's 8 points in 22 games for the Rangers.
At $600k for this season, Parenteau's production is a complete steal. The two Right Wingers currently tied with him in points are Daniel Alfredsson and Mikael Samuelsson. They are costing their teams $4.8 million and $2.5 million respectively, with Alfredsson's contract being a 35+ contract. When you look back at last year's free agent period, there really wasn't much out there that the Islanders could reasonably sign when it came to wingers.
*Stats through Jan. 4, 2011
|Lee Stempniak||38||8||8||16||Coyotes||1.9 Mill|
|Colby Armstrong||22||3||2||5||Leafs||3 Mill|
|Ilya Kovalchuk||37||9||11||20||Devils||*6 Mill|
|Alex Frolov||40||7||9||16||Rangers||3 Mill|
|Ray Whitney||36||8||19||27||Coyotes||3 Mill|
|Raffi Torres||38||11||6||17||Canucks||1 Mill|
|Alex Tanguay||40||10||21||31||Flames||1.7 Mill|
|Ruslan Fedotenko||40||7||10||17||Rangers||1.8 Mill|
|Derek Boogaard||22||1||1||2||Rangers||1.6 Mill|
|Eric Nystrom||38||1||3||4||Wild||1.4 Mill|
|Tim Kennedy||32||7||17||24||NYR (AHL)||550K|
*Kovalchuk's salary this year is $6 million for a $6.66 million cap hit, but both are artificially deflated for cap/CBA purposes, as he'll be pulling in $11 million-plus for five seasons after next.
I tried to keep the list to offensive wingers (Boogaard is only there so I can mock the Rangers) and guys the Islanders could have realistically signed. Tanguay and Whitney have long solid careers, and you can't be disappointed that Parenteau is trailing them points wise. The Rangers who were unwilling to give Parenteau much of a chance last season signed four wingers in the offseason at a combined yearly salary of $7 Million and none of them are matching his production.
Let's not forget about the elephant in the room: The Islanders were reported to be talking to Kovy and possibly offering him a $10 million salary on what must have been, if it existed, a short-term deal. In the end, the long dragged out end, Kovy stayed with the Devils and is making $6 million for the next two years but jumps to $11 million-plus for the following five seasons. Although some of the blame for the Devils' collapse might be unfairly put on his shoulders, he hasn't exactly helped his case. As of Jan. 4 the Devils were paying $500k per point, while the Islanders were paying $25k per point by Parenteau.
What This Means Long Term
Parenteau is going to be a free agent, and after 8 years of trudging through the AHL he deserves his payday. We'll know more about his future with the Islanders when Okposo returns and we see how the lines and production shakes out. With Parenteau on track for a 40 point season, GM Garth Snow has once again shown an ability to recognize untapped potential in another team's castoff. Last year it was Matt Moulson who came out of nowhere and finished with 30 goals and 48 points, five times his previous high in points.
The success of these types of signings (and waiver pickups like Rob Schremp and Michael Grabner) shows that the Islanders scouting organization on the professional level is strong. It would have been easy to sign a few also-rans like Pisani, Asham or Nolan going into the season. It wouldn't have cost much more then Parenteau did and all three have a long NHL history. Going with Parenteau shows not just that the Islanders are willing to take a chance with someone, but they know who to take a chance with.
Hopefully when the day comes that the Islanders need to add that final player to be cup contenders, the player will be more Butch Goring and less Marian Hossa / Brian Campbell. There are plenty of teams that remain competitive year in and year out without making huge splashes in the free agent market or via trades. The reality is that the complete opposite tends to be true the last few years. Splurging on big contracts or with trades tends to hold teams back. When a player like Parenteau is a success, it's a good sign for the health of the franchise. Hopefully it leads to more guys getting signed quietly and making noise during games when it matters.