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Devils' Parise still hopes to avoid arbitration

by Dan Rosen /
Zach Parise used the words anxious, excited and nervous to describe his emotions as the arbitration hearing he wants no part of draws closer.

New Jersey's star left wing remains a restricted free agent and is scheduled to be in Toronto on Wednesday for a team-elected arbitration hearing. Parise is comforted by the fact that he will be a Devil for the 2011-12 season because even if his case is heard by an independent arbiter, he will be awarded a one-year contract that the team will accept.

But, Parise wants to be a Devil for longer than just one season, and he wants to be paid properly, especially considering he's potentially one year away from being an unrestricted free agent.

"I've said all along that's where I want to be, that's where I want to play so I haven't planned on anything different," Parise told Thursday night.

The problem Parise has now and the reason this whole process has him anxious, excited and nervous is he just doesn't know what is going to happen next.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told The Record last week that "the total focus right now" is on re-signing Parise. He gave himself some extra wiggle room under the salary cap to do that by saving roughly $3 million in the Brian Rolston for Trent Hunter swap he pulled off Thursday with the New York Islanders. The Devils now have about $8.5 million in cap space.

However, Lamoriello also told The Record on Thursday that he's not sure if he is any more optimistic now about getting a deal done with Parise prior to the arbitration hearing.

Parise did confirm "there definitely is dialogue" between his agents and Lamoriello.

"You know what it is, it's a pretty unique situation and I don't know," Parise said. "The whole time I've kept the negotiating pretty private, but it does start to get a little nerve-wracking at this time just because so many different things can happen and you just don't know what direction it's going to go right now."

Parise said he never thought about how the Rolston trade could affect him even though he is aware that with extra cap space the Devils are in a better position to give him a contract offer at his proper market value.

And, yes, Parise has done his homework and he has a pretty good idea of what he wants and what he's worth.

He averaged 36.5 goals per season from 2006-10, including a career-high 45 goals and 94 points in 2008-09. Parise suffered a major knee injury early last season and was gone for five months, but returned at the end of the season and says he's 100 percent healthy as he goes through his normal summer training program.

"That's how negotiating works and that's how contracts are figured out -- you look at what has happened around the League," Parise said. "So, of course, I have been looking and my agents have been looking at different things that have happened this summer. You have to be aware of what is going on and the numbers for different players that are your comparables."

Parise added that his friends and family are doing a good job of staying out of his business.

"They're all just anxious to see what is going to happen, but nobody is telling me one way or another what I should do or what they think I should do because they know I know best of what I want and what I want to do," he said. "They've done a good job of staying out of it, but I've definitely talked to my family about different scenarios and things like that.

"I'm still hoping and thinking that we're not going to have to (go to arbitration), but as it gets closer and closer you just don't know."

No matter what happens, Parise is ticketed to be in New Jersey by late August to start working out with some of his teammates prior to training camp. It's even possible he could find the 'C' on his sweater when the 2011-12 season begins.

But, all that is far from Parise's mind right now. He wants his cloudy future cleared up before Wednesday.

"You get anxious pretty much every day because you're anxious to find out what went on in the conversations and how everything went," Parise said. "It's also excitement to find out how things went in the conversations, where things are and where things stand. It's an exciting time, but nerve-wracking at the same time."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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