I'll take door number 20, Monti.
As noted by Diomedes7's poll last evening, there's a split in opinion that tilts towards Parise.
While I'm not fully convinced either is coming to the 'Burgh, without weighing any contract terms, this choice is a no-brainer to me: It's Suter without hesitation. Here's why ...
Zach Parise cannot prevent this photo from reoccurring.
No offense to Parise, but without him (and without Crosby for a good bit of the season), the Pens were the top scoring team in the regular season. Is offense really where the Pens need to improve? I'll give you a hint--The Pens were 17th in goals against.
Yes, I know that Jordan Staal is gone. So the Pens have replaced a 50-point third-line pivot with a 32-point third-line pivot. And before you argue that Staal's 50 points came over 20 less games, consider that Staal played over 20 mins. per game last season in a more offensive role than Sutter's 17:23. I'm not saying that Sutter's a full replacement for Staal's production, but he alone couldn't cause the Pens to drop out of the top 10 scoring teams all by himself.
If you watched the Pens lose to the Flyers, you know what killed this team's chances in the post-season: goaltending and defense.
There's a reason Ray Shero has drafted defensemen with his first two picks three out of the last four years--solid top-4 blueliners are generally harder to come by, and their longevity in the league is much greater than that of a scoring winger. Wingers don't start breakouts. Wingers generally don't shut down $10M players for nearly 25 minutes a night. And ferchrissakes, Dennis freakin' Wideman just got $5.5M a year until he he's 35. "Solid" isn't a word I would use to describe him on a regular basis.
The reason good defensemen can command such a premium is because four of them can eat up more than 45 minutes of ice a night. And if even one of them is having a bad night, that's 20-25 minutes of quality scoring chances for an opposing team. In the NHL, even the third line of a playoff team can take advantage of a single shaky blueliner.
Did we really need another example of shaky play from a top-4 defenseman?
The fact is, the Pens didn't trade a scoring-line winger on draft day (though some may argue that the Pens only have two of those to begin with). They did, however, trade a top-4 defenseman.
From an offensive standpoint, a guy who tallies 39 assists, and gets 22 of them on the power play, is a great addition. Better yet, it allows the Penguins to finally play with two defensemen on the man-advantage, something that could help decrease those 10 SHG. Yes, I realize that Zach Parise and his 31 goals last season would be disgustingly effective alongside Sidney Crosby. But in terms of sheer upgrade over what the Pens' roster has right now, nearly 27 minutes a night of Ryan Suter v. Matt Niskanen (or Paul Martin) is a bigger upgrade over 20 minutes of Zach Parise v. Pascal Dupuis. Yes, I said Pascal Dupuis--you know, the guy who scored 25 goals last season without a full year on Crosby's wing and also kills penalties.
Age isn't much a factor here. Both guys are 27 years old. But their career trends are going opposite ways. Parise's scored 94, 82, then 69 points in three consecutive seasons. Suter has a consistent 37, 39 and 44 points, with +/- ratings of +4, +20 and +15. And when you consider that Suter has seen an increasing Corsi QoC in 2011 and 2012 which both absolutely blow away anyone on the Pens' blueline last year, that's a gigantic selling point.
And we all know how good defensemen are effective later and for longer (and mature later) than scoring wingers. I don't have to make a Rob Scuderi reference here, do I? Oh the hell with it, just Google the topic. Or better yet, look at this statistic: The median Defensemen retirement age from 2000-2009 was .75 years later than for Forwards. I'd imagine that's because defensemen are NHL-effective for about a year longer than forwards.
This man's 68-point season at 40 years old in '02/'03 is all the evidence I need for this argument.
So when the Pens are thinking about which guy's going to be worth $8 million in 2020, they should consider how effectively defensemen age versus forwards. To me, that's not a long discussion.
Not Even Close, Assuming All Terms Being Equal
Taking the team's needs and career trends into consideration, I can't see why I would want Parise over Suter if the contract terms were similar. And therein lies the rub. If Suter's offered $8M/season to play in Falluja... I mean, the lovely city of Detroit for 9 years (until he's 36), and Parise could be had for the same price for each of the next 6 seasons (until he's 33), I probably lean Parise. Otherwise, the Devils' captain can ply his trade in the Land of 1000 Lakes for all I care while the Pens lean a top pairing of Suter/Letang for the foreseeable future.
**In case you're wondering, my Christmas in July wish list for the Pens is Suter for 7 years (hopefully somewhere around $7.5M/yr), and Shane Doan for 2 ($4M/yr?). I don't see both Suter and Parise in Pittsburgh come August.