ST. PAUL, Minn. – Mark Parrish’s homecoming didn’t work out.
The Minnesota Wild bought out the final three years of the right winger’s contract on Wednesday, ending Parrish’s frustrating return to his hometown market. Parrish cleared waivers and is now an unrestricted free agent.
Wild general manager Doug Risebrough said the 31-year-old Parrish became a salary cap casualty because the club got too close to the ceiling.
“I had to just look at certain scenarios, including his salary versus his performance,” Risebrough said. “I just felt like this is an opportunity to buy somebody out and let the player move on and the team move on.”
After starring at Bloomington Jefferson High School in the Twin Cities area and then at nearby St. Cloud State University, Parrish spent his first seven years in the NHL as a net-crasher who averaged nearly 25 goals per season with the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings. He signed a five-year deal with Minnesota worth more than US$13 million in the summer of 2006, eager to play in front of friends and family.
But he was bothered by injuries and never fully gained the trust of Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, who made Parrish a healthy scratch several times down the stretch last season. Parrish had 16 goals and 14 assists in 66 games after tallying 19 goals and 20 assists in 2006-07.
Parrish served as team captain three times – the Wild rotate that honour on a monthly basis – but was often criticized by Lemaire and Risebrough for uneven and inconsistent performance.
“I can’t say it didn’t work,” said Risebrough, who said he deserved some of the blame because he negotiated Parrish’s contract. “The unfortunate thing is when you have a big signing like that, people are looking at big production. But the team was successful, and Mark was a part of that. We won a division title and Mark was a part of that.”
The Wild were in need of salary cap space for flexibility during the season, and Parrish became the obvious target. According to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, which first reported Tuesday that Parrish was placed on waivers, the Wild will save slightly less than $2 million against this year’s cap with the buyout. They are on the hook for two-thirds of the final $8.35 million of Parrish’s contract.
Parrish didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.