"I never would have thought about that less than a year ago," said Parenteau, signed as a free agent by the Islanders to a one-year, one-way contract. "That's the business, I guess."
He was courted in July by a few teams interested in the pair of hands that scored 20 goals in just 35 games with the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford last season. However, the decision for the 27-year-old Parenteau came down to the two teams from New York.
"Islanders and Rangers," said the native of Quebec. "There were other teams interested, too. But from the end of last season, I thought I'd be back with the Rangers. You never know how things will work out sometimes. When free agency started, the Islanders were the one team that really made me feel good, really made me feel like I was going to get an opportunity. The main reason I came here was because I genuinely felt like they would give me a chance, and because I thought I had a chance."
Then Parenteau learned on Friday night that he would begin training camp on the right side of franchise center John Tavares, and his belief was cemented. Parenteau smiled. "Playing with JT today, that's a sign of what's in front of me. He's an unbelievable player. The puck just sticks to him."
Looking back, Parenteau is grateful for his three years in the Rangers organization. He mentioned how tough historically it has been for young players to break through on Broadway, but head coach John Tortorella provided him with his first real shot in the NHL. The 6-0, 200-pound right wing played 22 games last season for the Rangers, scoring three goals and adding five assists.
Although Parenteau politely said "I really couldn't give you an answer," when asked what has stood in the way of regular employment in the big league, the knock on his game has been his skating. After a morning skate at the Coliseum before a game last season against the Islanders, Tortorella was asked about Parenteau. The coach raved about his player's attitude and hands, but openly questioned his ability to get where he has to go. "I don't know about the skating," said Tortorella.
Relayed the anecdote today after practice, Parenteau remembered the day well. To Tortorella's credit, after he saw the quote in the daily newspaper clips, he met with Parenteau to apologize. "I appreciated that," said Parenteau. "He said it didn't come out the right way. There was no issue with me."
About his skating, Parenteau said, "I feel like I've gotten better each year I've been in the pros. I work hard at it. I didn't see it as a problem at all last year in New York or in Hartford. As a matter of fact, I think playing the last month of last season consistently with the Rangers was a big benefit for me. You get the fast tempo and the regular schedule you don't get in the NHL. Tortorella's practices were hard work and we skated a lot."
By the end of the season - Parenteau scored in the shootout against the Flyers on the final day, but the Rangers lost the game and a playoff berth - the right wing felt like an NHL player.
"I don't want to be known as just a goal scorer," said Parenteau, who had an assist and was plus-3 against the Islanders in a Rangers' 4-3 win at the Coliseum on March 30 (think Garth Snow didn't notice?). "That last stretch of games with the Rangers really had a positive effect on my game. I'm a different player than Matty Moulson, but I'm in a similar situation and look what happened with him. I love the attitude I saw out there from my new teammates today. I think I'm ready to play an important role for the Islanders."
So far, Islanders head coach Scott Gordon sees the possibility of Parenteau being this year's Moulson. "We're not bringing him in to be a checker," said Gordon. "He's a scorer."
What a New York/New York story it would be.
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