With free agency approaching, Parise isn't tipping hand

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2012 - 11:29 AM

The Devils captain -- back in his home state and coveted by the hometown team -- is letting the process play out.

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Zach Parise laughed while watching the Defending the Blue Line NHL Players Charity Game from the bench at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The NHL's biggest offseason show might not have been the awards gala in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. It was who showed up at Ridder Arena.

Zach Parise headlined a Defending the Blue Line charity event in his hometown that featured autographs, pickup hockey and, yes, plenty of questions about what Parise will do next.

And if he knows, he sure isn't giving any indication. At least publicly.

"I've got a lot of people asking what's going on, and we'll get things figured out pretty soon hopefully," Parise said.

"I haven't really given much thought to anything. It's been pretty nice."

It likely won't last.

The New Jersey Devils captain can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He made $6 million this season, scored 31 goals and led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final. He can expect to make a boatload more money going forward.

But where?

The Devils have exclusive negotiating rights with Parise, but he said last week to reporters in New Jersey that to his knowledge his agents and Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello had no talks during the season.

Asked Wednesday if there had been any talks since the Devils' season ended in a six-game loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Parise smiled.

"We've kept everything pretty quiet, and we're going to do the same thing for however long it takes," said Parise, a former Shattuck-St. Mary's and North Dakota standout who grew up in Bloomington.

The Wild cannot comment on specific players. But it's no secret the team would love to get a player with local ties of Parise's caliber locked in with a pricey, long-term deal.

Minnesota is not alone. Several teams with ample salary cap space -- like the Wild --will make a hard run at Parise, 27, if he's not re-signed in New Jersey before July 1.

And it remains a big "if.''

"As a player, [free agency is] something you work hard to try and take advantage of, but at the same time it might get a little stressful," Parise said of the next 10 days.

About the only certainty so far is that Parise will not end up skating in a blue shirt at Madison Square Garden.

Asked by New Jersey media last week about joining the New York Rangers, Parise gave an emphatic "no way."

He clarified the statement Wednesday.

"I was put on the spot there a little bit," he said. "We'll see what happens."

Several of the hundreds of fans who lined up to meet Parise during an autograph session at Ridder Arena wished him luck and gave not-so subtle advice.

One fan point blank asked Parise if he was coming to the Wild. Another, no more than 7 years old and wearing a Devils T-shirt, asked the same thing with an almost scared-to-know-the-truth look.

"I got a couple of recommendations from them," Parise said. "They've got great fans here."

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