Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara Bring Familiarity And Leadership To The Islanders

Zdeno Chara is 44 years old and heading into his 24th National Hockey League Season.

Zach Parise is 37 years old and had his contract bought out by the Minnesota Wild after this past season.

So why would the Islanders, a team that is expected to contend for the Stanley Cup this season, add both of these players to the roster?

The answer is quite simple…they could very well be missing pieces to the championship puzzle.

“I think the abilities that they still have, in my opinion, will certainly enhance what we have,” said Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello.

29 January 2009: Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara #33 and Devils forward Zach Parise #9 chase the puck down the ice during the New Jersey Devils 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, MA.*****Editorial Usage Only*****

What the Islanders have is most of a returning group of players that reached game seven of the Stanley Cup Semifinals this past season with most of those players also part of the team that made a run to game six of the Eastern Conference Finals the year before.

With the signings of Parise and Chara to one-year deals, the Islanders filled two roster spots.  Forward Jordan Eberle was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft an defenseman Nick Leddy was traded to the Detroit Red Wings to free up some salary cap room.

Kyle Palmieri, a trading deadline acquisition, was re-signed and could find himself on the Islanders’ top line playing with Anders Lee and Matt Barzal.   Parise could then wind up on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom.

“(Parise) can play in all situations,” said Lamoriello who selected Parise in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft when he was the General Manager of the New Jersey Devils.

”We feel that what we’ve seen of him over the last couple of years, although he certainly isn’t in his prime, but he knows how to play the game and with the group that we have will compliment and be a decided asset in it as far as success.”

ST. PAUL, MN – APRIL 07: Minnesota Wild Left Wing Zach Parise (11) follows the play during an NHL game between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche on April 7, 2021, at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

The Islanders could have drafted Parise in 2003, but then General Manager Mike Milbury opted for right wing Robert Nilsson with the 15th overall selection.  Two picks later, Parise was taken by the Devils and there are still many Islanders fans that are not happy about it.  Not only did Parise turn out to be a terrific player for the Devils and also for the Wild, but he could have been a second-generation Islander at the start of his career.

His father, the late J.P. Parise, put the Islanders on the NHL map when he scored an overtime goal to eliminate the Rangers in game three of the 1975 opening round playoff series.  Lamoriello tried to acquire Zach in a trade during the 2019-20 season, but it didn’t work out, But, better late than never, the Minnesota native is finally an Islander and he’s well aware of what this group is all about.

“You always feel like there’s a certain way that Lou’s teams play,” said Parise.  “The way they compete, top to bottom they always play the game the right way and that was always the case in New Jersey.  I’ve skated with Brock (Nelson) for the last couple of years.  I’ve known Anders (Lee) a little bit.  Playing with Greener (Andy Greene) for that long a time.  Those type of things help with the transition.”

While Parise could have been an Islander at the start of his career, Chara was as he was selected by the Islanders in the third round of the 1996 NHL Draft.  Chara made his NHL debut for the Islanders playing 25 games during the 1997-98 season.  He played four seasons for the Islanders before he was dealt to the Ottawa Senators in the trade that brought Alexei Yashin to Long Island.

Chara would sign as a free agent with the Bruins and captained the B’s during his entire 14 year stay in Boston including a Stanley Cup title in 2011.

BOSTON, MA – APRIL 11: Washington Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals on April 11, 2021, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

The Islanders believe that Chara, who spent last season with the Washington Capitals, still has a little gas left in the tank.

“His size, his frame and the way he plays the game,” said Lamoriello.  “I think it will be an asset to our goaltenders as far as certainly giving them a lot of vision, penalty killing which has been his fourtay for years, I think in his all-around presence.”

Chara should be able to fit in seamlessly with the Islanders, a team that not only has enjoyed playoff success over the last three seasons but is also a group that already has a tremendous amount of leadership.  The veteran defenseman received phone calls from multiple teams, but he ultimately chose to return to where it all started for him…on Long Island.

“I think leadership is very important,” said Chara.  “But it’s coming from the top from the management through the coaching staff onto the players and I really believe the leadership throughout the whole line is very strong.  I’m just looking forward to being part of it and contribute on and off the ice the way I can.”

As the Islanders continue to make that climb up the championship mountain, they continue to look for ways to get better and to add pieces that will complete the recipe necessary to finally hoist the Stanley Cup.  With Chara and Parise coming on board, the Islanders have added two players that bring some intangibles to the table as they wind down their NHL careers.

“Both of these players also bring a character about them,” said Lamoriello.  “They’ve both been captains of teams.  They’ve also been highly character as far as the way they play the game, they way they compete in a game and we’re excited to have both of them.”

And they are both excited to be Islanders.  For Zach Parise, it’s a long time coming to call Long Island home.  For Zdeno Chara, it’s been a long time, twenty years to be exact, since he last put on an Islanders jersey.  It would be fitting for these two veteran players, both with prior ties to the franchise, help the Islanders get over the hump and reach the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.


About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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