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By Sean Hartnett
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On Wednesday afternoon, Zach Parise met with the media following the Devils’ Stanley Cup Final exit to the newly-crowned champion Los Angeles Kings.
Many predicted this would be an uncertain summer for the 27-year-old. Today, Parise cleared up some of that uncertainly by delivering a strong message to the New York Rangers. “No way,” is what Parise said in response to a question about the possibility of joining the Rangers.
When reporters continued to pepper Parise with follow-up questions, Parise again drew a line in the sand. “No, don’t look for a headline,” he said.
Ultimately, Parise is hurting his own free agent value by declaring he will not sign for the Rangers. Every agent who represents an NHL superstar wants their client to ‘flirt’ with as many teams as possible to drive up their overall price tag.
Parise has taken control of his situation and it appears that his desire is to remain with the only franchise he’s represented since being drafted by the Devils in 2003 from the University of North Dakota.
“This is a great place to play,” Parise said about the Devils’ organization on Wednesday. “I love playing here. I love being here.”
Devils fans shouldn’t interpret this as an automatic. Parise revealed he did not negotiate with the Devils during the regular season and the Devils’ exclusive window to sign Parise expires on July 1, thus opening up a competition for Parise’s signature.
Even though the Rangers are crossed off his list, there plenty of teams who will enter the Parise sweepstakes should he not come to an agreement with the Devils’ before free agency begins.
The Detroit Red Wings seem like an ideal scenario for Parise given proximity to his family, their ample amount of cap space and ability to lure free agents to ‘Hockeytown.’
Following Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement and dealing of Brad Stuart to the San Jose Sharks, the Wings have enough space to land both Parise and top free agent defenseman Ryan Suter.
Obviously, the Minnesota Wild are practically in Parise’s backyard. He maintains a summer home in Orono, Minnesota which is 40 minutes from the Xcel Engery Center. Like the Red Wings, the Wild have a significant amount of cap space but lack the complimentary players needed to bring Parise back to his home state.
Still, the Wild are pulling out all the stops and perhaps, landing Parise could make Minnesota a more desirable destination for free agent targets.
Former Wild GM Lou Nanne boldy delcared on Twin Cities’ KFAN radio that the Wild have what it takes to sign Parise. Nanne is predicting the Wild are going to make a massive offer to bring Parise back to Minnesota.
“I had dinner with [Wild owner] Craig Leipold on Wednesday night,” Nanne said on Tuesday. “I know Chuck Fletcher and Leipold really want Parise, and what Craig told me is how hard he’s going to go after him, and the kind of money he’s going after him [with] — I don’t see how Parise’s not coming here.
“It is going to be so substantial that I cannot see Zach Parise turning it down,” Nanne revealed.
The Philadelphia Flyers are believed to be readying a significant pitch to convince Parise to consider pulling on the orange and black. Philadelphia lacks the cap space but aren’t afraid to make major facelifts to their roster. This was seen during last summer’s offloading of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, two players who eventually teamed-up with the Kings to deliver a long awaited Stanley Cup parade to Los Angeles.
Given today’s comments about the Rangers, it’s fair to speculate Parise isn’t willing to sign with the rival Flyers. The ‘Parise Sweepstakes’ may become a two-horse race between the Devils and Red Wings. Or perhaps a three-horse race should the pull of returning to his Minnesotan roots prove to be strong.
The Devils might just have the edge given Parise’s quotes this afternoon. He feels very comfortable in New Jersey and is confident in the Devils’ future.
Martin Brodeur is set to return for another season and Parise is surrounded by talents like Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac and an emerging talents such as Adam Larsson. The Devils’ pipeline from Albany to Newark appears to be a strong as ever, though replacing Brodeur remains the Devils’ biggest long-term dilemma.
“I like the people here,” Parise said of staying with the Devils. “I like the staff, my teammates. I like the area. There’s a lot of good things about this place.”
Where will Zach Parise end up next season? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.