Zach Parise smiled, then deftly eluded the question with a skill that comes with repetition.
He hopes to remain with the New Jersey Devils long-term, he said. The fact that he is playing on a one-year contract had more do with circumstances than calculation.
Parise and his teammates practiced at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, preparing for Friday's game with the Wild. For Parise, a Minnesota native who played at Faribault Shattuck St. Mary's and then at the University of North Dakota, this is a homecoming. His dad, former North Stars winger J.P. Parise, watched practice from the stands. Zach, his fiancée and parents were all scheduled to have dinner Thursday. Oh, and Parise will also get his first look at the house he recently bought in Orono since the deal closed. About 35 family and friends will be at the game Friday.
So, with Parise about to become a free agent, a lot of Wild fans would like the talented winger to land in Minnesota permanently. The team could use his stellar two-way play, and the Wild figures to have the salary cap room to at least be a player should Parise hit the free-agent market. Because he signed a one-year deal with the Devils -- done with arbitration looming and contract talks going slowly -- he can't talk extension with New Jersey until after Jan. 1.
Parise will be fielding questions about his future all season. All he would say Thursday was that it was great to get home to Minnesota, even for just one game.
But what about that future?
His dad thinks the most important thing for his son will be to be with a team that has a good chance to win. Right now the Devils are struggling on the ice and off, with the franchise in financial difficulty. There are reports the team is headed toward bankruptcy.
"Money will be a factor, of course," J.P. Parise said. "But he likes to win, he likes to have a chance, he likes to compete. ... That's why he decided to accept a one-year contract. He wants to see where [the Devils] are heading, what kind of players they have. They have acquired some good young players. He's not going to rush into anything. He'll take his time, analyze the whole thing.''
As J.P. said, it should be interesting to see what Zach does. The two will talk, but the decision, of course, will be up to Zach.
• Wild coach Mike Yeo said right winger Cal Clutterbuck and center Darroll Powe sustained charley horse injuries in Wednesday's victory in Edmonton and are both doubtful for Friday. "I'm not real optimistic they'll be in the lineup," he said.
• Casey Wellman was skating on the second line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen at Thursday's practice. Kyle Brodziak centered the third line with Nick Johnson and David McIntyre.
• Center Cody Almond was called up from Houston of the AHL, where he had two goals in 10 games.