Parenteau, a right wing who turns 33 before this season is over, is the classic Leafs reclamation project for this first year of their rebuild.
He was drafted by the Ducks in 2001 (15 years ago!) in the 9th round. (The 9th round!) He saw no NHL action until 2006 after a trade to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played 5 games and impressed no one.
They traded him to the New York Rangers in the traditional bucket of pucks deal for a conditional 7th round pick. He had 8 points in 22 games for the Rangers in 2009-2010, his next chance at NHL time.
By this time, his AHL points pace was consistently very high, at over a point per game most years. For reference, this is William Nylander territory. He was the fourth highest in the league in points in 2007-2008 playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack.
He signed with the New York Islanders as a free agent in 2010, and he made the team out of camp and put up 53 points in 81 games playing on the top line—nine years after he was drafted and in his first full season in the NHL. The Islanders extended him for a year, where he had 67 points in 80 games.
In the summer of 2012, the Colorado Avalanche signed him as a UFA to a four-year deal for $4 million a year. Colorado, not notoriously smart about these things and often required to overpay to attract talent, may not have ever asked themselves how much his astonishing success with the Islanders might have been due to playing on a line with John Tavares.
His lockout-shortened first season with the Avs was excellent, but he struggled to produce points in the next year. This was the infamous year Colorado rode a lucky power play and hot goaltending all the way to a flame-out in the first round of the playoffs, while putting up dreadful shot differential numbers. He was playing with the top guys, Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog, but particularly with that second duo, the points didn't come.
In the summer of 2014, he was traded to the Montréal Canadiens for Daniel Brière. The deal was primarily a contract trade, where the Avs got a guy Michel Therrien didn't want with one year left, and Montréal took on the last two years of Parenteau's similar cap hit contract on the chance he might rebound on their team—a team that relied on luck and a hot goalie to overcome really poor shot differentials. It didn't go so well.
Parenteau started hot, as did the whole team, got injured with a concussion, played okay to poorly when he was back, and ultimately had to force his way back into the lineup by having his agent publicly complain about him not being played.
Montreal is goal starved and PA Parenteau with 196 pts over the previous 4 NHL seasons is a healthy scratch.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) March 11, 2015
He had slipped right into Brière's place in the pressbox, as he was often healthy scratched when he wasn't injured.
The Canadiens played him in one game prior to the deadline, and they did not move him, although it is assumed they tried. In the summer, they bought out the final year of his contract.
The Leafs signed him on July 1 for $1.5 million.
What's he done as a Leaf?
After 10 games of shuffling the lines, Babcock put Parenteau with Bozak, and there he's stayed. They've had Shawn Matthias with them, then James van Riemsdyk and now Matthias again, with van Riemsdyk out.
He didn't start out hot, and Babcock recounted a conversation he had with Parenteau where he told him he could either work harder and keep his career going or not and be "mad at another coach."
Parenteau is a shooter, not a passer. He scores goals (11 so far), a lot of them on the power play, and he's been a bit lucky with a shooting percentage that's a bit over his career average, but he's also shooting a lot and is very high on the team rankings in individual scoring chances. He fits so well with Bozak because Bozak is a passer, not a shooter.
His goal scoring rate is back up to where it was in his best year in Colorado, and his Corsi relative to his teammates is actually better than it was in Montréal, where it was easier to be above average. He's a very good driver of offence who is okay to middling-bad at even strength shots against.
In total individual shots for, he's the third highest forward on the team after only van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri. In terms of scoring chances for, he's top six amongst forwards in chances per 60 minutes in all situations, but he drops down the list at even strength.
He's been an excellent player under Mike Babcock's system, which is light years different from what he's been doing for the last three years. He is very good on the power play; he's steady, hard-working, not in the slightest injury-prone; and he plays really, really well with Tyler Bozak.
As a fill-in top six to top nine guy, he's just fine at a more realistic price than Joffrey Lupul commands. He can be the sort of structural piece every team needs to build on—the classic 15-20 goal guy—at a low price. The Leafs have to keep some guys after all!
Move him out?
His value has to be higher now than it has been since the day the Avs gave him a big contract and almost ruined his hockey career. He's 33. He's a good quality utility player, and he's hot on Mike Babcock's power play, but he's riding some luck too.
Tyler Bozak's line as it is now should not be expected to be a top line on the Leafs of the future, and keeping him another year is unlikely to make him fetch more on the market.
It wouldn't be hard to find someone on the free-agent market going cheap again next year to fill in if they want a veteran presence. They rebuilt this guy, why not do it again with someone else?
Should he stay or should he go?
It wouldn't be a tragedy if the Leafs kept him. He seems to be a stand up guy who can play up and down the lineup, and he gets better when he moves up (unlike Shawn Matthias).
He is a reclamation success, and now is the time to cash in. I'd love to see him traded with Tyler Bozak to a team that wants a ready-made scoring line and second power play unit—just add decent left wing and stir. The return on that could be substantial. There is also talk that the Islanders might be in the market for a guy who has chemistry with Tavares, so he may be the right guy to go back where it started.
Even more, I hope he writes a book after he retires. I really want to read the chapters on Patrick Roy and Therrien.