Zach Parise: Devils aren't out if I become unrestricted free agent Sunday
Days from unrestricted free agency and the chance to be romanced by other NHL clubs willing to pay big bucks for his signature on a contract, Zach Parise insisted the Devils are still very much in the picture.
Parise said today that his agents, Wade Arnott and Don Meehan, have been talking to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello the last few days. However, he acknowledged it is very possible there will be no deal before Sunday’s noon (ET) deadline for the start of free agency.
“If that does happen, my agents have done a really good job of doing the best they can to prepare me for it. But first and foremost, we want to try to get things worked out with New Jersey,” the 27-year-old left winger told The Star-Ledger.
Parise said even if he becomes unrestricted, it does not mean he has ruled out staying with the Devils.
“Not at all. I’m sure a lot of people will think that, but that’s very far from the case,” he said. “If it does happen to get to Sunday, that’s by no means saying I don’t want to go back to New Jersey.
“I know the perception would be, ‘Oh, he wants out.’ But that’s not the case. I haven’t been lying. I’ve said all along how much I like playing in New Jersey. So that wouldn’t be me saying, ‘I don’t want to play there anymore.’ ”
Lamoriello would not comment on negotiations.
“You’re always talking,” the GM said, “but I don’t want to comment on it.”
Even before he led the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings, losing in six games, Parise was viewed as the premier potential free agent this year.
The Detroit Red Wings are believed to be poised to make the biggest offer, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild also in the mix.
Parise said just after the playoffs that he would not sign with the Rangers, but there are many who wonder whether his agents could change his mind if the Devils’ arch rivals offered enough money.
Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek would have liked to get financial help to bail him out of debts said to be $77-80 million in time to show Parise and his agents that the team was financially healthy. That almost certainly will not happen before Sunday.
Considering the Devils' unstable financial situation, I just don't know that they will be able to fork over the cash for Parise. If they want to, I imagine they will have to move out some other sort of big contract, like Patrik Elias.
It's really too bad because Parise looks good in a Devils uniform. My best guess is he will be somewhere in the Western Conference next season.
Even if Zach Parise doesn't re-sign on the dotted line to return to the New Jersey Devils prior to the start of free agency, there's no reason to believe the team for which he has spent the last seven seasons is completely out of the picture.
Parise told Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger on Tuesday that New Jersey would still be a strong candidate for his services -- even if no deal were struck by the noon deadline on Sunday.
"I'm sure a lot of people would think that, but that's very far from the case," Parise told the paper. "If it does happen to get to Sunday, that's by no means saying I don't want to go back to New Jersey.
"I know the perception would be, 'Oh, he wants out.' But that's not the case. I haven't been lying. I've said all along how much I like playing in New Jersey. So that wouldn't be me saying, 'I don't want to play there anymore.'"
In addition to the Devils, the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins and, perhaps, the New York Rangers are the teams rumored to be very interested in luring the New Jersey captain.
In 82 games this past season, Parise connected for 31 goals and 69 points. He struck for eight goals and 15 points in 24 postseason games to finish sixth in playoff scoring.
"If [no deal were made by Sunday], my agents [Wade Arnott and Don Meehan] have done a very good job of doing the best they can to prepare me for it," Parise said. "First and foremost, we want to try to get things worked out with New Jersey."