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Parise's first choice is to stay with Devils

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils captain and impending unrestricted free agent Zach Parise offered two definitive pieces of information about his future when he spoke to the media at breakup day Wednesday:

1. He is very interested in re-signing with the Devils.

2. He has no interest in signing with the Rangers.

Parise, who would be the most coveted forward on the free-agent market if he isn't signed prior to July 1, was clear on both points during his 20-minute chat with reporters at Prudential Center.

He was asked twice about the potential for ever playing for the Rangers, the Devils' No. 1 rival and the team they beat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and both times emphatically responded "No," and added, "Don't try to get a headline out of it."

More importantly for the Devils, Parise, who was drafted by New Jersey in 2003, said he wants to return and there definitely is a chance that he could sign a new contract prior to July 1, when he can become an unrestricted free agent.

In fact, Parise was asked flat out if he could see himself in another uniform, and he said no.

"I like the people here. I like the staff and my teammates. I like the area," Parise said. "There's a lot of good things about this place.

"I have always liked playing here, 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."

Of course, what Parise said Wednesday and what happens by July 1 or after can be different completely. He made a point to mention how the Devils were less than 48 hours removed from a 6-1 season-ending defeat in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, so he hasn't had much time to think about his future in the great detail that it requires.

"And that's the truth. I'm not just giving you lip service," said Parise, who had 31 goals and 38 assists in the regular season, plus eight playoff goals, tied for the League lead. "I know what is ahead, the decision making. I guess we'll have to get the conversations going pretty soon."

There were indications throughout his session with the media that Parise not only wants to return, but expects to be back.

For instance, when asked about the hunger he has now after getting within two wins of the Stanley Cup, Parise said, "I think all of us are going to come prepared next year and be ready. It [stinks], so we'll try not to have that happen again."

When asked about his leadership style in his first year as a captain, Parise said he learned a lot going through the experience with all of the media attention in the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, and added, "I think that alone will help me for next season."

Parise also noted how having stability behind the bench with coach Peter DeBoer is important because, "We know who is going to be here next year."

Whether Parise is might come down to the advice of his agent, Wade Arnott.

While saying the decision on his future is one he will have to make alone, Parise did note that he will trust Arnott as he goes into this process because, "That's why you have agents. You respect their advice. They have done this before, so I guess this is one point where you have to listen to them and take their advice. It's my first time doing it, so I'll see what they say."

To nobody's surprise, the Devils want Parise back.

"That's the guy that I think it's obvious that we need to sign him because he's our leader," Ilya Kovalchuk said. "We've got to sign him."

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said Parise is "a priority," but he would not talk about any contract negotiations. He also noted that the Devils' financial issues should have no effect on roster decisions.

Parise said he was not aware of any contract negotiations that went on during the season, and Lamoriello typically leaves them to after the season anyway. Martin Brodeur is the only player since the work stoppage that has signed an extension with the Devils in the middle of the season.

"I hope the Devils will be able to keep him because I think he is the face of the Devils," said Brodeur, himself a potential unrestricted free agent. "He's a kid that people, they see him and they see a Devil. They see the type of work ethic he has and that says a lot to other guys. I said it after the game the other day, first year as a captain, not too shabby to bring a team like us to the Stanley Cup Final.

"It's a big priority for the Devils to get him signed."

It seems like a priority for Parise to re-sign, but indicating he's interested in returning and expressly disinterested in playing for the Rangers doesn't guarantee that he will.

"Fortunately the season went long enough where I could put [my future] away and not worry about it, but now I guess you have to face the music sooner or later," Parise said. "You know what? I'm excited about it because it's something as a player that you don't get to do very often. But with that being said, hopefully we can get things worked out here."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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