It's no secret that many NHL rosters tend to contain one or two guys who, when the proverbial dookie hits the fan, bring out the knuckle sandwiches and force feed them to the opposition. The NHL is often at it's best when the players are policing each other, ensuring that the guy who decides to take a run at a star player knows to think twice, else the 6'5" 240 lb. behemoth on the bench will ruin his face the next chance he gets. These enforcers are an ultimatum of sorts, protecting their teammates while adding a physical presence on the ice and a solid team-bonding presence in the locker room.
The Panthers are no different than any other NHL roster the last few seasons, employing the likes of Krys Barch, Steve MacIntyre, Nick Tarnasky, Darcy Hordichuk and others. With the Panthers allowing Barch to leave via free agency this offseason, there was a clear need for the Cats to acquire someone with the same desire for vigilante justice that Barch displayed during his brief tenure in Sunrise. Enter George Parros, who signed with the Panthers this summer for two years at a cap hit just south of $1m per.
Parros is certainly an imposing figure, one that will ensure the Panthers still have an enforcer to police teams who feel they can take liberties with Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann, or even budding superstar Jonathan Huberdeau. There's no question Parros will serve as an excellent body guard for the top talent on the Cats squad, but will he be able to contribute more than just his fists to the Panthers next season?
Traditionally speaking, Florida has had very little use for enforcers the last few seasons outside of their pugilistic capabilities. That goes for most NHL teams, as the guys who fill those roles tend to be third or fourth liners and see less minutes by default. The Panthers, despite having two different coaches with different styles and systems in Peter DeBoer and Kevin Dineen, held to the trend of limiting the ice time their respective enforcers would see in a night. Knowing that, was it really wise to invest nearly $1m a year into a guy who will sit on the bench roughly 52-55 minutes a game? Normally, my response would be a resounding, "NO," but in the case of Parros, I'd have to reconsider.
There's no question Parros, who scored all of four points last season in 46 games, isn't going to be lighting the lamp much. In playing his final season with the Anaheim Ducks last year, Parros averaged just under six and half mintues a game, and despite what he may believe when he was signed by the Panthers, he's likely to not see a significant uptick in ice time with Florida next season. He'll be a fourth line guy, and he'll be a healthy scratch some nights when the Panthers look to alter the game plan to account for the opposition's lineup. He'll be the guy who, as he's done so often in his career to this point, provides the team a physical spark when the rest of the skaters come out flat.
Despite his role as a player on the ice not likely changing much once he dons a Panthers sweater, his role off the ice will change. Parros won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks and was a dressing room leader in Anaheim, and with a room that's still coming together in Florida, Parros's leadership will come to the forefront once he settles in with his new teammates. He will be a stabilizing presence both on and off the ice for Florida, and GM Dale Tallon knew this when acquiring him this summer. Factor in his humanitarian work and his penchant for philanthropy, and Parros is clearly a man of impeccable character that fits the mold Tallon has tried to create with his "blueprint" over the last several seasons.
Is paying nearly $1m a year for a fourth line dressing room leader a bad fiscal decision? Perhaps, but on a team that is still below the cap floor, it's certainly less egregious. The Panthers need this type of player to help mold the roster further, to create a level of comfort and camaraderie on the ice and in the dressing room, and to continue to build the type of character that Tallon envisioned when he took the GM job several seasons ago. Parros will do just that, and hopefully push some of the current fourth-line guys for jobs as well.
The role of the enforcer in the NHL isn't a glamorous one, nor one that rewards the individual with anything other than a collection of cuts, bruises and PIMs. But Parros's abilities off the ice will justify his contract the next two years, and here's to hoping his time on the ice will be more productive than seasons past. The Panthers could certainly use it.