Zach Parise plans on attending Wild training camp ahead of next season.
A player with four years left on his contract doesn't usually have to make a declaration like that, but such is the murky reality between the Wild and one of its faces of the franchise. Uncertainty about Parise's future peaked in the playoffs and has spilled over into the team's offseason.
"I have no problem coming back in here ready to go," Parise said Tuesday in a virtual interview after his exit meeting with Wild brass. "That's where my mentality is right now. You always hope that you come back with a clean slate and come back and spots are up for grabs. I'm very confident that if spots are up for grabs, I'll be able to grab one of those.
"That's what I'm looking forward to, and then we'll see what happens."
After being a focal point of the Wild offense since signing a 13-year, $98 million contract in July 2012, Parise fell down the depth chart this year until he was eventually completely out of the lineup.
He was a healthy scratch for three of the last four games in the regular season, this after he was benched one game in March for overextending a shift in a loss. Parise was also idle for the start of the Wild's first-round playoff series against the Golden Knights.
"The hardest part is watching your teammates play, not practicing on a line consistently," Parise said. "Watching them play in the playoffs for those first three games was brutal. You start each season so excited about the season but with the prospect of playoffs and playing in playoffs. When you have to watch your team play, that's tough. That was hard."
Not until Marcus Johansson suffered a broken arm did the Wild utilize Parise, ushering him in for Game 4 on the fourth line, where he spent most of the season when he wasn't scratched or sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols.
“I'm sure in every situation you can look back and wish or hope things were handled differently or done differently, but that's too easy to do. There's a lot going on throughout the course of a season. I am not sitting here complaining about the communication.”
Ahead of Game 5, Parise was promoted to skate alongside Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman and delivered a goal in the 4-2 victory at Vegas. In Game 6, he assisted on the game-winner in the Wild's 3-0 shutout and scored again during the team's 6-2 letdown in Game 7 to get eliminated. Overall, his two goals and three points tied for the team postseason leads.
"I've known the whole time that that's the player that I am and can be," Parise said. "Given the opportunity, there was no doubt in my mind that I can play and contribute."
In 45 regular-season games, Parise recorded seven goals and 11 assists while averaging 13 minutes, 57 seconds — his lowest average ice time since his rookie season. The franchise leader in power-play goals, Parise was rarely used with the man advantage as the season progressed. He had zero power-play goals for just the second time in his 16-year NHL career.
His involvement with the power play wasn't discussed in his Tuesday chat with the team, but Parise is hopeful he can rejoin the unit.
"I've taken a lot of pride and I've always felt like being around the net and being a net-front guy on the power play has been my strength," said Parise, who has tallied 69 of his 199 goals with the Wild on the power play. "I feel like I've been one of the better players in that position in the league So hopefully next year I'll get a chance to be back there because I just feel like that's my biggest strength is around the net and scoring goals around the net."
While Parise believes it's best to keep his conversations with the Wild private, he said he didn't have a better feeling about what transpired after his exit meeting. General Manager Bill Guerin and coach Dean Evason are scheduled to talk to the media on Thursday.
"I'm sure in every situation you can look back and wish or hope things were handled differently or done differently, but that's too easy to do," said Parise, who will turn 37 in July. "There's a lot going on throughout the course of a season. I am not sitting here complaining about the communication.
"As far as anything could be handled differently, I don't know. I'm not sure if things could be or not."
Ready for return
Asked if he would be open to a trade, Parise mentioned the term left on his contract and said he intends to show up for camp, hasn't been told otherwise and doesn't want to cause speculation.
"I've always enjoyed playing here," said Parise, whose deal includes a no-movement clause and an annual cap hit of approximately $7.5 million. "We're invested in the community here. So the last thing you want to do is up your family and move and get out of here. I don't want to play anywhere else."
That's what would make Parise satisfied, continuing to get on the ice with the Wild.
"I can play the game," Parise said. "There's not a doubt in my mind on that. It was a different year that I've ever had from that standpoint, but there's never been any doubt in my mind that I can play the game and be productive and contribute to this team and help this team win."