Sid Hartman: Parise made tough call to leave Devils

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2012 - 1:24 AM

His conversations with Ryan Suter helped him decide that coming to Minnesota was the right decision.

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New Wild forward Zach Parise said he initially intended to stay in New Jersey.

Photo: Reinhold Matay, Associated Press

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Zach Parise said he definitely planned on re-signing with the New Jersey Devils until Ryan Suter came up with the idea of leaving the Nashville Predators so the two NHL superstars could play together, which led to them both signing with the Wild on Wednesday.

"I really liked playing out [in New Jersey]. We had a good team. I liked my teammates and I like the area that we live in," Parise said Sunday. "I guess as this process went on, as the season went on, I started warming up a little bit to the idea of coming back here to play.

"When July 1st came and we had the opportunity, I got a lot of information from my agents and found out how great of a place [Minnesota] would be to play, and I guess talking with Ryan, we both decided it would be a great fit for both of us.

"I shouldn't say that [originally] I didn't want to come here. I just really liked where I was at. I really liked playing out there. It wasn't that I didn't want to come, it's just where I was I was comfortable and I liked it."

Parise said he and Suter had been texting each other throughout the season to see what the other was thinking.

"Obviously we both were focused, he was with Nashville and I was focused on what we were doing with New Jersey and going to the Cup Finals," Parise said. "After the finals, you find out that you have about two weeks to start making some decisions, but we kept in contact and we thought this would be a good spot."

Changed mind

Parise's father, J.P. Parise, was a Canadian who played with the North Stars for nine seasons. Zach Parise said J.P. considered Minnesota "one of his favorite spots, loved it playing here and wound up living here."

Still, many close to Zach, 27, didn't think there was a chance he would come to Minnesota this soon in his career.

"You know what I would say, I really started seriously thinking about it a little bit before July 1st. Just in talking with Ryan, I would say that's when I really started to take the whole process seriously. Like I said, when you're so overwhelmed and everything with going to the finals, that's the last thing on your mind, is what you're going to be doing after July 1st. But I would say around then, I really started to concentrate on what I wanted to do."

And yes, Devils President Lou Lamoriello said he did his best to keep Parise on his team, but he couldn't change where the Minnesota native was born. "Our offer was competitive and we did not have, at any time, a phone call [indicating] we needed to change it, or it had to go up," Lamoriello told the New York Post.

Added Parise: "It was really hard, that was one of the hardest calls I've ever had to make," Parise said about his decision to leave New Jersey. "[Lamoriello] has been so great to my family and to me. He runs a first-class organization there. That was a very tough phone call for me to make. He was very good about it. He understood. He didn't pressure or anything, he understood where I was coming from."

Parise said one factor in his decision was the organizational outlook for the Wild, with many outstanding young players in the system. His agent even told him that the team's prospects might be the best in the NHL.

"That was a big draw to me," Parise said. "It's a long-term contract and you want to make sure that this team is going to be competitive for a while.

"It really came down to these two places, and as hard as it was to leave New Jersey and everything there, we definitely made the right decision."

And Parise, who started skating at age 2 or 3 at the Met Center, thinks it will be pretty cool that he will be wearing the same No.11 on his uniform that his father wore for the North Stars.

"Both [my dad] and my mom were really exited that we'll be coming back here," he said.

Tense moments

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier reported that there were some tense moments on his recent trip to Afghanistan to visit the troops as part of a USO Tour with other NFL coaches.

"We had to be moved out of some places because of some things that were going on around us," Frazier said. "But our troops and our guide, the people from USO along with the National Football League, did a good job of protecting us and keeping us out of harm's way. There were moments where we were on the edge of some situations. But everything worked out just fine."

Bjugstad undecided

Nick Bjugstad, the Gophers hockey standout selected 19th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL draft, spent time at their development camp last week in Coral Springs, Fla. He said that if he decided to pass up his final two seasons with the Gophers and turn pro, it would be a tough decision.

"There are pro and cons on both sides," said Bjugstad, who would figure to make more than $900,000 as a rookie under an entry-level contract if he made the Panthers roster. "I should probably write them down on a sheet of paper and add everythig up."

Said Florida GM Dale Tallon: "It's up to him. If he wants to turn pro and fight for a roster spot, we'll go forward. If he wants to go back to school we will let him do that. We never tell kids to play junior or leave school."

Jottings

• Wade Arnott and Neil Sheehy, the agents for Parise and Suter, respectively, made a killing with each getting some 3 percent of the $98 million that each player will earn over the 13 years of their contracts with the Wild.

• John Williams, only 64 years old and a former great Gophers offensive lineman, died unexpectedly Sunday. His wife, Barbara Butts Williams, is a member of the five-person Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority overseeing the new Vikings stadium.

• The Arizona Republic ran a story this week about former NBA All-Star Norm Nixon's relationship with Michael Beasley, who signed with the Suns for three years at $18 million after the Timberwolves declined to make him a qualifying offer. Beasley started working with Nixon last year at the request of Wolves President David Kahn. Said Nixon of Beasley's signing with the Suns: "Phoenix got a steal, trust me. If the Suns are rebuilding, here's a guy who can play 10 years and be one of the best players in the league. I don't give that compliment out easily."

• Since being released by the Twins and signing with the San Diego Padres in June, former Twins starter Jason Marquis has posted a 3.71 ERA in 43 2/3 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts. In 34 innings with the Twins this year Marquis struck out 12 and posted a 8.47 ERA.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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