Parise told Tom Gulitti of The (Bergen) Record's Fire and Ice Blog that it is still his desire to re-sign with New Jersey.
"I like the people here," Parise said. "I like the staff, my teammates. I like the area. There's a lot of good things about this place.
"I've always like playing here," he added. "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."
Parise's warm feelings didn't extend to the other side of the Hudson, however. Gulitti reported that Parise said there was "no way" he would sign with the rival Rangers, shooting down the idea twice while speaking with reporters at the Devils' breakup day.
That may comes as news to Parise's father, longtime NHLer J.P. Parise, who earlier this spring said his son would "fit right in there" with the Rangers before backing off the ill-timed statement, which came as the Devils were squaring off against New York in the Eastern Conference Final.
If Parise makes good on his threat to shun the Rangers, whom the Devils beat to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2003, it would limit his options on the open market.
New York is definitely one team that would be interested in the services of the winger who has put together five straight 30-goal seasons, including a 31-38-69 line this past season. And the Rangers are a club that certainly has the financial clout to make Parise the kind of offer he would command on the open market. There will still be other suitors of course, with Detroit, his hometown club in Minnesota and perhaps even the likes of Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia or Toronto among the teams that could offer lucrative long-term deals to the 27-year-old.
The Devils may not be able to match those offers. New Jersey is mired in a messy financial situation that includes nearly $80 million owed to banks from the building of the new Prudential Center in Newark, not to mention the salary cap implications with Ilya Kovalchuk already on the books for a 15-year, $100-million deal.
Still, Parise's first choice is clearly to stay in New Jersey, and his Devils teammates want to see that happen as well. Goalie Martin Brodeur, who is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, wants the club to focus on keeping Parise first.
"I think Zach is a big thing to the organization. They have to take care of that first. There's no doubt about that," Brodeur told ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang. "They need to try to lock him in and lure him into staying."
Strang also tweeted similar comments from Kovalchuk, who told her, "That's our first priority this offseason, to re-sign [Parise] … He's our leader."
Brodeur, who has played all 1,191 of his career games in New Jersey and led the club to each of its three Cups, has become almost synonymous with the Devils, but NHL.com Dan Rosen noted that Brodeur called Parise "the face of the Devils," adding, "People see him, they see the Devils."
Now it's just a matter of whether New Jersey can make sure people keep seeing Parise in a Devils uniform.
Photo via Facebook/Zach Parise
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