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Hartnett: Handicapping Decision Day For Devils Free Agent Zach Parise

Parise Eager To Join A Winner, One Team Clearly Offers Him The Best Opportunity
Free agent Zach Parise has signed with the Wild (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Free agent Zach Parise has signed with the Wild (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

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By Sean Hartnett
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Zach Parise needed a night to sleep on the multiple offers he received on the first day of NHL Free Agency.

One-by-one, teams made their pitches to Parise by phone or in-person at the offices of Newport Sports Agency in Mississauga, Ontario.  Parise and his agents, Wade Arnott and Don Meehan sifted through the offers and eliminated many suitors.

Parise wasn’t giving anything away as he and his representatives were keeping their cards close to their chest throughout Sunday.  What is clear is that Parise wants to play for a winner and is set to put pen to paper on a monster deal.

At minimum, he’ll receive a $80 million dollar deal and at maximum he could accept a contract in excess of $100 million dollars.  Teams are looking to tempt Parise by offering a front-loaded contract that could include a first-year signing bonus of $12 million dollars.

Parise spoke publicly on early Sunday afternoon.  “I’m not at liberty to say right now who’s in… anything like that.  Just because it got to noon today, by no means does that say that the Devils aren’t one of my top teams,” he said in front of NHL Network cameras.

Case for the Red Wings:

Long before free agency began, the Detroit Red Wings were considered serious players for both Parise and Ryan Suter.  That hasn’t changed.  The Red Wings have made serious pitches to Suter and Parise, the best two free agents of the 2012 class.

For Parise, a Minnesota native and Suter, a Wisconsin native, Detroit is an attractive destination because of proximity to their childhood homes and the Red Wings’ reputation as a Western Conference power.

They have a strong core of stars already in place in Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Nicklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard.

After the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, the Wings are looking for a player who can handle the pressure of replacing a legend.  Suter certainly fits the bill.  They’re also looking to fill the leadership void left by Lidstrom’s retirement.

Zetterberg is the favorite to become Detroit’s next captain, but Parise would add a lot to their locker room with or without a letter sewn onto the front of his jersey.  His all-out style of play is reminiscent of Wings’ legend Steve Yzerman.

General Manager Ken Holland is prepared to move parts to fit Parise and Suter under the Red Wings’ salary cap.

”We’ve offered both contracts and we just have to wait and see how it goes,” Holland said Sunday night. ”If we get the big guys, we’re going to have to move some people to get under the cap when we need to before the season starts.”

Case for the Wild:

The Minnesota Wild can offer Parise a 40-minute drive from his Orono, Minnesota summer home.  Considering the numbers the Wild are said to proposing to Parise, he can easily afford a new residence closer to the Xcel Energy Center should he sign with the Wild.

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher is determined to offer Parise a larger contract than any team in the Parise sweepstakes.  The Wild have the advantage of being able to pay out both Parise and Suter higher contracts than any other team competing for both A-list free agents.

A return to his home state would be a tempting challenge for Parise.  That could be viewed as a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it.  Should the Wild sign Parise but miss out on Suter, he’ll be joining a team without a great deal of proven talent outside of Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley.

If he pulls on the Minnesota Wild sweater, Parise could help attract players to ‘The North Star State’ and give a shot in the arm to the franchise.

Case for the Penguins:

The Pittsburgh Penguins can offer Parise something no other team can — the opportunity to play on the wing of Sidney Crosby.  Parise and Crosby attended famed hockey boarding school Shattuck-St. Mary’s in separate years, but there is a strong link between the Parise and Crosby families.

Croby and Parise are longtime friends.  It appears that they’re very eager to play together in Pittsburgh.  Former Devils’ teammate Paul Martin and Crosby are playing key roles in pitching the Penguins to Parise.

Previously, Martin was expected to be traded away to create space to give the Penguins the flexibility to sign both Parise and Suter.  Martin is a big part of the recruiting team attempting to land Parise, so don’t expect him to be traded.

Should the Penguins land Parise, they would have a three-headed monster few teams NHL could boast in Parise, the all-world Crosby and Hart Trophy Winner Evgeni Malkin.  They would become the Miami Heat of the NHL.

Case for the Flyers:

Bob McKenzie stated on NHL Network that Parise received an offer in excess of $100 million dollars from the Philadelphia Flyers.  Parise would fit in seamlessly with the Flyers’ high-tempo offense, particularly on the left-wing of breakout superstar Claude Giroux.

The Flyers are a mostly youthful team and Parise is the kind of player who can bring this group together and take them to the next level.  Although Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere are highly-respected veterans, Parise would be the kind of leader who can fill the leadership void left by the uncertain status of Chris Pronger who is suffering through post-concussion syndrome.

Philadelphia is also one of the teams that made a ‘double pitch’ to Parise and Suter.  They’ve been one of the most aggressive teams this off-season and have always been a franchise that is very committed to building a winner.

Case of the Devils:

Of course, there is an attachment for Parise to remain with the only team he’s ever played for. Parise told TSN Canada last week, “I said all season, and I wasn’t lying, that my priority was to get something done with New Jersey.”

Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello visited Parise this weekend in Toronto and has put this ahead of all other off-season priorities, but were able to re-sign Martin Brodeur to a two-year $9 million dollar contract on Monday.

The Devils’ long-term financial problems are a big issue as they have a $77 million dollar debt hanging over them.  This playing largely into the doubt that the franchise cannot afford Parise or build the sort of team worthy of returning to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Case For The Kings:

As they say… if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  The Kings are definitely built to contend for future Stanley Cup championships.  Los Angeles isn’t desperate for Parise, but their interest is real and they’re going to be a Stanley Cup contender for years to come.

The Kings weren’t ruled-out by Parise’s camp on Sunday, but I don’t see Parise wanting to move all the way to the west coast.  Should he move west, the furthest he’d go would be Detroit or Minnesota.

Who’s out of the running?

Glen Sather and the New York Rangers took to heart the comments made by Parise on June 13.  Parise made clear that he had no interest in joining the Rangers telling reporters, “No, don’t look for a headline,” in response to the possibility of becoming a Ranger.  The Rangers did not contact Parise’s camp in-person or by phone on Sunday.

Carolina Hurricanes’ General Manager Jim Rutherford has been busy assembling talent this off-season including Jordan Staal, but admitted that the Canes weren’t on Parise’s list.

The Dallas Stars extended a ‘significant offer’ to Parise but were quickly rebuffed by Parise’s camp.

Stars’ General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk announced Sunday evening: “We’ve made a significant offer to Parise. They have indicated that they are going in a different direction.”

The Winnipeg Jets made an aggressive pitch.  They have a massive amount of cap space but are considered to be a team in the early stages of re-building their franchise.

Sean’s verdict:

Parise got his first taste of competing in the Stanley Cup Finals this season and will be eager to sign with a team that offers him the best chance to compete for multiple Cups over the next decade-plus.  While the Red Wings have a sterling reputation, the Penguins already a super-team without Parise.

He’s eager to join-up with close friends Sidney Crosby and Paul Martin.  When it comes down to it, I can’t see Parise resisting the opportunity to play with Crosby and the loaded Penguins.  Parise will choose Pittsburgh on Monday.

Where do you expect Parise to sign on Monday?