After shutting down questions about this future following a Game 6 loss in the Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings, potential unrestricted free agent Zach Parise addressed where he's headed during the New Jersey Devils' "clean out" day on Wednesday.
This comes after that infamous moment in the Eastern Conference final when his father, former NHLer J.P. Parise, appeared to play matchmaker between the Devils captain and John Tortorella's team.
As for his future in New Jersey, Parise was all about the optimism. From Fire & Ice:
"I like the people here," he said of his remaining a Devil. "I like the staff, my teammates. I like the area. There's a lot of good things about this place."
Parise was asked twice about the idea of signing with the Rangers and shot it down both times. "Don't try to get a headline out of it," he warned.
[...] "I've always like playing here," he 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 vibe from his media availability was that Parise wanted to return to New Jersey -- reporter Tom Gulitti noted, "Parise repeatedly talked about next season as if he'd be here" -- but his agents haven't had any talks with GM Lou Lamoriello during the season.
Gulitti of the Bergen Record had more on Parise's future on Wednesday:
If Parise, who turns 28 on July 28, gets to the open market, he will be the most sought-after forward available. Lamoriello has said many times that re-signing Parise is his biggest priority, but he did not conduct contract negotiations during the season. Although Parise has said many times he wants to return, he's only 2½ weeks away from fielding offers from other teams. Despite the doom-and-gloom financial reports from elsewhere, expect the Devils to make a competitive offer to keep their most important player.
It'll come down to whether Parise wants to stay with this franchise for the long term vs. the palpable financial (and in Minnesota's case, geographic) temptations headed his way this summer.
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