There will be plenty of twists and turns in deciding Zach Parise's hockey future in the coming weeks, but Devils fans had to feel gratified on two counts Wednesday with the news from Parise that he would entertain contract talks with the Devils prior to free agency and that he would not sign with the New York Rangers.
Parise warned reporters to not make a big deal of his comments on the Rangers, but in a sublime way it tells you how much of a Devil Parise has become. In the past, prominent Devils like Bruce Drive, Bobby Holik and John MacLean have signed with the Rangers, but Parise insisted that won't be his path.
Now, whether his path includes a return to New Jersey will be impacted by a number of factors. Even if player and team are madly in love, the Devils' financial situation may well preclude them from adding another big contract to go along with the mega-deal Ilya Kovalchuk signed in 2010. Also, there is a new collective bargaining agreement going to be in place at some point and it's only guesswork now as to what the salary cap and other provisions will be whenever it is completed.
“I don’t really know. I think that’s something that we’ll have to find out," Parise said of the team's finances. "I don’t know if things have happened. We’ve only been paying attention to what’s going on on the ice. None of that has affected the team but I don’t know where that all stands today. I’m sure everybody wants to find out."
But all things being equal, Parise told reporters Wednesday: “I like the people here. I like the staff, my teammates. I like the area. There’s a lot of good things about this place.”
Parise also answered no to the question could he envision himself playing for another organization.
That's all great news, but so far there have been no talks about keeping Parise in New Jersey.
“I’ve always liked playing here,” Parise said. “That’s never changed. We’ll see where this takes us right now, but this is a great place to play and I love playing here. I love being here.
“The future looks great," he said Wednesday when the team took its official photo and cleaned out their belongings. "It really does. I think Adam Larsson is going to be an unbelievable defenseman in the league and I think you just saw the beginning of what (Adam) Henrique is going to do. I think he’s going to be a great player. So, the pieces are there and Travis (Zajac) has still got some years left in him. He’s still young. So, a lot of the important parts of there.”
And being the team captain is something Parise takes very seriously.
“That’s a pretty special thing to be a captain of a team and I think it went pretty well in the first year. Not a lot of players have that opportunity in their careers, so it’s a great position to be in. Like I said, I think it went pretty well. I think it makes a difference.”
"He's a priority. We've said that from day one and he will remain a priority," GM Lou Lamoriello said. "Other than that, I don't have anything else to add. We don't really talk about negotiations. That's something philosophically I don't believe in."
Lamoriello did say he is unsure of whether he will have the funds from ownership to keep Parise and other players.
"We'll certainly know more about that in the very near future," Lamoriello indicated. But he did go on to say money has not been an issue in the past.
"There's a wall up between that end of the team and myself. Nothing affects what I'm doing or has affected it. I'm sure what has to be taken care of will be taken care of in the very near future. In my opinion, things will get settled."
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