Looking nondescript in a black baseball cap and a backpack over his shoulders, Zach Parise arrived back in Minnesota on Tuesday afternoon accompanied by his fiancée Alisha.
As much as Wild fans had hoped, there was no contingent of opened-arm Wild executives awaiting his arrival with a limousine and gargantuan check.
Instead, Parise, one of the most-coveted free agents in NHL history, said he has yet to make a decision as to which team will win the sweepstakes and inherit his services for the next 10 or 12 years.
“There’s a lot of things to factor into it and I think that’s why we’re taking our time with the decision,” Parise, the New Jersey Devils captain, said from baggage claim at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “It’s not something we can just make at 1 o’clock on July 1. It takes time to make sure you consider everything and you’re doing the right thing.”
The teams in the running are believed to be his hometown Wild, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Detroit Red Wings and the team that might be tugging on his heartstrings the most, the Devils, who drafted him in the first round in 2003.
Parise, 27, said he would return to his home his Orono and talk with family, which will likely include his father, former North Stars player and assistant coach J.P. Parise, and his mother, Donna.
But in the end, he said, “It’s a decision my fiancée and I will make together and that plays a lot into it. We just want to go somewhere that we know we’re going to be happy.”
As hard as it is to imagine since his agent, Don Meehan, said a decision could come later in the day Tuesday, Parise says that decision-making hasn’t started.
“We haven’t made a timetable or wanted to make a timetable,” Parise said. “I don’t want to put those types of restrictions on anything. You have to do the right research and it’s a life-changing decision.”
Conspiracy-theorist Wild fans, in suspense and praying he chooses the Wild, have felt there’s no way Parise would return to Minnesota to announce he’s snubbing the hometown team and signing elsewhere.
Told that theory, Parise laughed, saying, “This is where I live. Either way, we’re coming back here.”
Teams interested in Parise are believed to be offering contracts worth $100 million and above. Still, Parise never imagined how “stressful” this decision would be.
“There’s so much more than the money. That plays a very small factor in it,” he said. “My agent’s did a great job. You take the time to consider everything. You consider where you want to be for the next however long and however many years of your life. It’s a harder decision than I thought it was going to be.”
Parise said he will discuss everything with his family.
“I’m excited for it to be over pretty soon,” Parise said.