At the beginning of this past hockey season, odds seemed low that the New Jersey Devils would be keeping Zach Parise long term. The franchise had been unable to reach a long-term agreement with Parise the prior summer and instead he agreed to a one-year contract for $6 million.
The Devils were coming off a disastrous season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Expectations were that they would be entering a rebuilding phase and that Parise may be traded during the season.
Further adding to the speculation that Parise would be out was the financial state of the Devils. Facing a large amount of debt and a co-owner looking to sell his stake in the team, the franchise was strapped for cash. It was reported in the New York Post that the NHL had been advancing money toward the Devils in order to make payments.
On June 8, Chris Botta of Sports Business Journal reported that a deal had been reached by an unnamed investor and owner Jeff Vanderbeek that would allow the team to get out of debt. Further good news came as The Star Ledger reported that the Devils had made over $32 million from their playoff run.
Finally, Parise's conference with various members of the media following the Stanley Cup Finals strongly indicated a desire to remain in New Jersey. Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record noted that Parise spoke multiple times as if he was on the team for the next season.
Parise also stated twice that there was "no way" he would sign with the New York Rangers. He also indicated that a deal may be reached before July 1, when he will officially be a free agent. Finally, he said "no" when asked if he could envision playing for another organization.
A recent report has emerged that Minnesota Wild will go after Parise and will not be outbid. However, the report consists of here say information and could be totally inaccurate. On the other hand, Parise is from Minnesota and the team has enough cap room to sign him. Another possible suitor could be the Detroit Red Wings, who pried Brian Rafalski away from the Devils after 2007.
At this point, the odds point strongly toward Parise returning to the New Jersey Devils. His words at the press conference were not the usual PR lines that free agents will say. Parise harmed his own market value with his words, that is not something that a free agent intending on leaving would do.
As for the Minnesota Wild, they are rebuilding currently and have Mikko Koivu locked into a long-term deal at $6.75 million a year. It frankly does not make sense for them to offer Parise a contract no one will come close to matching. They already have Koivu signed for more money than Ilya Kovalchuk in terms of cap hit per year. Clearly that is too much, and overpaying another player while rebuilding does not seem logical.
Parise has given every indication that he wants to remain a New Jersey Devil. With the team's finances stable, the odds are very strong that he will return to them next season.