It was pack-up day in Newark on Wednesday, meaning the Devils' media contingent had its final availability with players before they head off in opposite directions for the offseason.
After New Jersey lost its chance at a Stanley Cup in Game 6 on Monday night, Zach Parise declined to discuss his future so soon after the disappointment. Today, Parise addressed the Devils' press and said what would be expected -- that he would like to remain with the only franchise he has ever known.
“I’ve always like playing here. That’s never changed. We’ll see where this takes us right now, but this is a great place to play and I love playing here. I love being here.”
That Parise quote is courtesy of Tom Gulitti's Fire & Ice blog, which can be read here.
Here is Rich Chere's blog from the Newark Star Ledger.
"I know what’s ahead and the decision-making. I guess we’ll have to get the conversations going pretty soon.” -- Parise in Chere's blog.
Parise also said multiple times that he had no intention of signing with the division rival Rangers("no way") if he got to free agency July 1. You can read Andrew Gross' Ranger Rants blog here. That's not good news for the Rangers, who you know would prefer to sign Parise rather than give up all the assets Columbus will be requiring in a Rick Nash trade.
The big question is whether the Devils will be able to sign Parise in the next 17 days. They have exclusive negotiating rights, and as of now, there's been no negotiations. That surely will change any day as the Devils make it a priority to attempt to re-sign their captain with a competitive offer.
If unable to come to an agreement, Parise will become a free agent July 1 and there will certainly be a frenzy for the forward's services. The Wild and Detroit Red Wings are two teams that undoubtedly plan on going after Parise hard, and if you take Parise for his word and the Rangers indeed would be making a fruitless effort, Parise's hometown Wild moves a rung up the ladder.
My thoughts: Usually when you get this close to free agency, you test it. Parise could always go back to the Devils after July 1, but players like Parise get the opportunity of being able to test the open market during the peak of his career once. Usually you get this close, you're at least curious to know who comes after you and for what price.
This is why I believe Ryan Suter, too, will test free agency. But you know the Devils will make one heck of an effort to extend Parise's contract, as Nashville is trying to do with Suter.
In the case of the Wild, it's planning on offering Parise/Suter a boatload of dinero if they get to July 1.
Now, money's not everything. There comes a point where a long-term deal worth $75 or $80 million for Parise doesn't sound a whole lot different than $70 or $73 million (I'm grabbing numbers out of thin air).
That's why even though there's zero doubt the Wild's willing to pay Parise more than anybody else, it's ludicrous to think he's just going to come here because the Wild ends up offering $500,000 or a $1 million more annually than another team.
Anybody who has watched Parise play in the Olympics, anybody who watched Parise's face during the Devils' most impressive run to the Stanley Cup Finals, anybody who has ever talked to Parise knows for a fact that Parise ... wants to win first and foremost.
Whether it's the Devils, the Wild, the Red Wings or the dozen other teams that plan to make overtures, they'll all have to sell Parise on their long-term program, on the fact that their franchise presents him with the best chance of winning on an annual basis over the length of his contract.
The Wild would have to present a bigtime sales job on Parise, one it believes it can execute -- if it ever gets the chance to sit down with him.
The Devils will try to make that difficult over the next 17 days.
Speaking of Parise, he is scheduled to participate in the Defending the Blue Line NHL Charity Game and autograph session on June 20 at Ridder Arena. For information on how to get tickets,click here.