Over the last week or so, we’ve seen a handful of surprising names hit the NHL’s waiver wire. While younger players like Teemu Pulkkinen occasionally become available for nothing, we don’t usually see rock solid veterans placed on waivers. The New York Islanders bucked that trend earlier this week, placing P.A. Parenteau on the wire after a few fresh faces pushed to make the team out of training camp.
It was surprising since New York signed him to a one-year contract in July. Most expected the wing to compete for time inside of the Islanders’ top-six, and perhaps even see some time on the team’s top power-play unit as well. That isn’t how things shook out, though.
With a glut of talented younger forwards pushing for playing time — Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier both impressed this preseason, while Joshua Ho-Sang is waiting in the wings at the AHL level — New York needed to make some room.
Virtually no one expected it to be Parenteau.
#Isles will be placing PA Parenteau on waivers today, according to a source. Certainly a surprise there.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2016
While the waiver move was unanticipated, it wasn’t shocking to see the New Jersey Devils put in a claim for the 33-year-old. That’s because — despite the Islanders’ choice to waive him — Parenteau brings plenty to the table for his new team.
He skated on an awful Toronto Maple Leafs squad last season and still managed to score 20 goals and 41 points. That total was good for second on the team, and no one in Toronto managed to score more goals than Parenteau did. Going a bit deeper, he had the highest points among all Maple Leafs forwards and has been a consistent positive possession player throughout his career.
On the surface, adding Parenteau might just look like another potshot from a team that is desperate for offensive pop. While that is certainly part of the motivation, the Devils are a demonstratively deeper squad than they were at this time last week. New Jersey has been looking to add depth on the wings over the last few seasons, and Parenteau gives it another strong option to work with.
It seems likely that Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall will begin 2016-17 on a line together. The former is the Devils’ top pivot, while Hall is among the best left wings in the NHL. There have been some question marks down the right side, though, and Parenteau allows head coach John Hynes some flexibility as he pieces together his forward lines.
Throughout the preseason, we saw the Devils attempt to use Devante Smith-Pelly and Beau Bennett alongside Hall and Henrique on the top line. Both played well during stretches of time, and it seems that Smith-Pelly has the inside track on the top right wing role. He can crash the net and win board battles while Henrique and Hall try to do the heavy lifting offensively.
That means we will likely see Mike Cammalleri and Kyle Palmieri flanking Travis Zajac on the second unit. Considering where the Devils were just a few seasons ago in terms of forward depth, that top six isn’t half bad. These line combinations would leave Parenteau to flesh out the third unit along with Jacob Josefson and rookie Pavel Zacha.
While that top nine isn’t the most flashy group, the Devils have to be happy with how their forwards have fallen into place. Smith-Pelly might still be on shaky ground on the top line, but New Jersey now has a few options to work with in the coming months. Parenteau is an outstanding backup plan, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him spending time on the Hall/Henrique line if Smith-Pelly struggles out of the gate.
We could see Palmieri bumped up to the first line, but that’s highly unlikely since he was essentially glued to Zajac during five-on-five play last season. That leaves Parenteau or Blake Speers as possible safety nets should Hynes want more from his top right wing. Beau Bennett is also in the mix, but he’s slated to start the season as a healthy scratch.
Coach John Hynes confirms Reid Boucher and Beau Bennett the healthy scratches up front.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) October 13, 2016
All in all, this is a decent setup for the Devils. They aren’t overly committed to any particular line combination, and they can actively seek solutions to problems that arise instead of simply hoping they work themselves out. Even if Smith-Pelly holds his own on the top unit, Parenteau is skating with strong players on the third line. Zacha, in particular, is worth keeping an eye on.
He’s a dynamic offensive player and is capable of both setting up and finishing chances. Consider the season Parenteau had playing with Tyler Bozak last season, and it’s not difficult to see him putting up bigger numbers even in a somewhat reduced role with the Devils in 2016-17.
Looking at the bigger picture, this makes even more sense. General manager Ray Shero has been aggressive in trying to fix the organization’s noted weakness at forward since taking over the team, and he’s been able to make several something-out-of-nothing plays at forward. Parenteau is the latest in that line of moves, and he could prove to be one of the most successful additions to date.