As opiners and fans we often declare value on players and picks with an authority we do not actually possess. Because despite history and assumed (sometimes falsely) sanity among NHL GMs, the changing variables of any open market also exist in the NHL: Supply, demand, consumer behavior.
Recent "rental" history and NHL GM behavior suggests it would be wiser for New York Islanders GM Garth Snow to hang on to pending free agent P.A. Parenteau, assuming a reasonable contract extension is reachable. 'Tis better to keep a good player than to assume you can replace him through free agency (when salary and term demand goes up) or promotion, where prospects develop at a pace well behind their hype.
Parenteau has told Montreal French-language media he would like to remain an Islander, and term is more important than money/salary. He also said he's not in a rush, as this is the first time in his career he's had leverage. He indeed has leverage, and desires security the Isles have mostly given to younger players. But smart money is on both player and team coming to an agreement before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
What could defy that smart money? A suddenly desperate market.
I don't think we're at the desperate market stage yet -- no meaningful trades have been made this month -- but increasingly NHL media report frustrated would-be buyers cannot find willing sellers, or at least cannot find sellers willing to accept a reasonable rental price.
TSN's Darren Dreger, among the most inside of insiders:
The Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and pretty much all of the teams we can assume to be sellers...aren't selling...at least not yet and this is contributing to the frustration some of the NHL's labelled buyers are feeling.
Contending teams are trying to make trades, but no one is biting.
In most years you'll hear "every team needs a defenseman," and that's no less true in 2012. But there has been more buzz about "top six" forward needs this year, as evidenced by the apparent sudden demand for Tuomo Ruutu -- who is a nice piece but hardly a game-changing piece:
The Star-Tribune's Michael Russo:
In other news, I just got off the phone with Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. I believe the Wild has strong interest in Tuomo Ruutu, but the price according to Rutherford is "real high" based on the amount of teams interested in him. Rutherford will talk to Ruutu's agent to see what it'll take to re-sign the free-agent-to-be.
Which brings us to P.A. Parenteau. Parenteau should be a hot commodity if the desire for top six forwards is real. A right-handed shot who can help any powerplay, Parenteau also has shown himself to be effective on multiple lines -- even when away from John Tavares -- as he's piled up 37 assists (fifth-most in the NHL) to go with 11 goals.
The superficial observer would call Parenteau's production Tavares-dependent, but any team sincerely scouting the Islanders and their pending unrestricted free agents would discover Parenteau is a good possession driver and, as a bonus, carries the feistiness and competitive fire that many desire for intense playoff hockey.
Because Parenteau is a flexible top-six forward who could also boost offense or possession on a third line -- his coach Jack Capuano repeatedly praises his flexibility -- he could be a target for any team needing a boost there. He's shown he can play with and help an offensive dynamo like John Tavares, and he's shown he can add production to lower lines, too.
Among the teams said to be in the market for forwards are the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, and perhaps the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche or Boston Bruins if injury concerns persist up front for the latter three.
(That's just a partial list; there is a lot of theorizing going out there to mix with actual reporting.)
What would it take for Snow to choose cashing in Parenteau rather than a contract extension? Aside from unreasonable salary/term demands from Parenteau, it should take an offer that blows Snow away. The Islanders have been in pick and prospect collection mode since trading down from #5 in the 2008 draft. Their farm system is now quite well regarded. As a low-spending team, the need to keep the cupboard full never goes away, but it's also the very same reason that Parenteau is probably worth more as a retained asset than as fodder for another scratch-off draft pick or might-be prospect.
We tend to assume every pending UFA is a rental-in-waiting, but really that shouldn't be so: You should only dump the UFAs who no longer fit, who want too much money, or who are easily replaced. Parenteau shouldn't fit any of those categories.
Dreger put this market dynamic like so:
Number one: Although, statistically not a lot may change between now and end the season, it is possible, and the benefits of a late season push both financially and developmentally has an impact on team growth. Number two: the hungrier the buyers get, the more willing they will be to pay a higher premium when the true list of available players surfaces in the coming days.
The only way that happens is if buyers get desperate. Supposedly there are a lot of them right now. Supposedly there are few sellers. Both are subject to change -- fewer buyers, more sellers -- in the next two weeks as the playoff races become clearer and more teams drop their hopes.
At some point you'd need both the Isles and Parenteau to be at an impasse and another GM to view it worthwhile to make it worth Snow's while.
It happens. It only takes one. There are Don Waddells out there who, through external pressures and internal patience, make short-sighted moves in a moment of weakness for the promise of a payoff that never comes. That's how Atlanta spent three draft picks and a checking forward for 22 games (including playoffs) of Keith Tkachuk. (The one first-round pick would've been two first-rounders had Tkachuk re-signed.) That same year is also how Alexei Zhitnik only fetched Freddy Meyer and a 3rd (Mark Katic) from Phialdelphia in December, but two months later with the deadline looming Waddell coughed up former 8th overall Braydon Coburn.
Is there a GM in Waddell's state of mind right now? Not likely. That's why Parenteau, still 28, probably stays.