|If he doesn't re-sign with the Devils, Zach Parise will become the top forward in the 2012 free agent market. (Photo by Getty Images) |
– The last thing Zach Parise was thinking about Thursday as he sat in the spacious visiting locker room at Joe Louis Arena was whether or not he would be wearing a different shade of red next season.
“You know, just kind of from going through this ... people come up with stuff and you never know what's true and what's not,” Parise said, of the numerous rumors that he’s heard about his future. “Even now, you try not to pay attention to it and try to focus on what you're doing. We've got two games left and then the playoffs, so that's the last thing on my mind.”
Foremost on Parise’s mind was Thursday night’s game as he and his New Jersey Devils prepared to face-off against the Red Wings, who are finally feeling healthy after a month-long battle with injuries that decimated their lineup.
“It's always tough playing these guys,” Parise said. “Every team goes through the injury thing and it looks to me like they've got a lot of guys back in and healthy. You have to make sure you're smart with the puck. If you're losing draws or turning it over, you'll be chasing it around the whole night. When these guys get the puck, they don't like to give it back, so we have to make sure we're smart with it.”
Rumors of Parise’s future began to surface last summer when he and the Devils avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $6 million. However, if he hits the open market this summer there certainly won’t be a shortage of suitors throughout the league with Toronto, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Detroit, just to name a few, prepared to pitch offers to the former 45-goal scorer.
Toronto general manager Brian Burke knows Parise well from their time together with Team USA. Burke assembled an American team that featured Parise as a key piece to a silver medal-wining team at the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Kings have long been trying to find a high-end forward, and no doubt, the Wild will make a push to sign the winger, who is a Minnesota native.
Then there’s the Wings, who should have plenty of room under the salary cap to pursue a top-flight UFA like Parise, just the second player to score 30 or more goals five times in Devils’ history.
While a decision on his future may not materialize for several months, Parise – an admitted fan of Pavel Datsyuk
– is impressed by the Wings and their commitment to excellence.
“I think they play the right way,” he said. “They play hard. The puck-possession is great. The way the D get involved is awesome. They play a great style of hockey. Really fun to watch.
“I feel like they're always the best in the West and they're always the team you have to go through if you want to win the Stanley Cup. So, it'll be good, a good challenge for us. You just watch them on TV and you know how good their players are and how good they play together. It'll be a good match for us.”
So what is it like to play against his favorite NHL star?
“He's awesome. He's my fav,” Parise said, of Datsyuk. “He's my most favorite player to watch. He does everything out there. Just some of the passes he makes ... even the pass (Wednesday) night, the passes he makes to set-up guys are unbelievable. He does everything and plays the game the right way. For any player, just watching him and you try and mimic some things he does out there ... it's not fun playing against him but he's fun to watch.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose