Zach Parise spent most of the season on the fringe of the Wild's depth chart, a change for the veteran forward after being at the forefront of the team's offense for years.
The shuffle cast doubt on Parise's standing with the organization, but General Manager Bill Guerin said Parise still fits with the Wild.
"Zach proved that he's still a guy that can play, and he did great for us in the playoffs," Guerin said. "It's definitely a different role for Zach, but he's been great all year. We've talked to him a number of times and he understands."
Parise began the season in the top-six forward group but eventually slipped to the fourth line and had his minutes scaled back before he was a healthy scratch for three of the last four regular-season games. He was also idle for the start of the playoffs, not appearing until Game 4 when injury forced coach Dean Evason and Wild brass to adjust the lineup vs. the Golden Knights.
"This is business," Guerin said. "This is not personal. This is not meant to be a soap opera. Dean and I, we don't subscribe to that stuff. … This is all about winning hockey games, and we're making difficult decisions every day.
"Not everybody is going to be happy with them, but we're not here to make everyone happy. We're here to win hockey games."
Parise finished the series with two goals and an assist. He had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 regular-season games.
Since the season ended, Parise mentioned the "sideshow" — but Guerin felt Parise, who turns 37 in July, handled the season professionally and wasn't a distraction.
Guerin said the team had numerous talks with Parise, including a chat before the playoffs — telling him to be patient and that he would "score a big goal" for the team down the road.
"When Zach got back in the lineup, we fully wanted him to try to prove us wrong," Guerin said, "and he did to some extent, and he came back improved. You think we were mad about that? We were happy. He scored the goals, and I was in my box watching the games clapping. We were happy for him.
"So these aren't personal decisions. They're not easy ones. But they're ones that we have to make, and they're not going to be popular all the time. So that's just the way it is."
Earlier this week, Parise said he plans to be in training camp. He has four seasons remaining on a 13-year, $98 million contract, and it's not a given that he stays on the fourth line.
"Zach put himself in a really good position at the end of the year," Guerin said. "We'll never say never. You can't pigeonhole guys. You can't say, 'You're going to be here, and that's it,' and not budge. Why would we do that? We're only going to hurt the team. So you have to be open-minded, and you have to be flexible."