After captaining the New Jersey Devils to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final on the heels of 31 goals and 69 total points, 27-year-old winger Zach Parise is set to be one of the most sought-after free agents in the NHL this summer.
Here's the latest news on the top contenders for Parise's services, from some of the East's top contenders to a hometown team hoping to add some offensive punch.
Of course, if the New Jersey Devils have their way, they'd just as soon this entire slideshow be for naught, as NHL teams (especially ones who just made it to the Stanley Cup Final) aren't generally in the habit of letting team captains in the prime of their careers walk out the door.
Earlier this month, New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello told the New York Times that re-upping Parise was "a priority," and when the Times asked Parise whether he'd like to remain in New Jersey his answer was enough to provide Devils fans with a measure of optimism about keeping the star.
"I’ve said all along I love playing here," Parise said. "I’ve always appreciated everything that this organization has done for me. My feelings have never changed."
We'll see if Parise sticks to that line once the gaudy offers start coming in.
This would be the absolute worst-case scenario for the Devils, as not only would it entail Parise leaving but it would also add insult to injury by his traveling to the Devils' most hated rivals—the New York Rangers.
According to the New York Post, the Rangers—who badly need an infusion of offensive talent—intend to make a play for Parise. However, if Parise's quote to the New York Times is any indication, then the boys in blue may be fighting an uphill battle.
"Later, when he was asked if it was possible that he would consider signing with the archrival Rangers, Parise quickly said: 'No. No way.'"
Of the gaudy contracts I mentioned earlier, the gaudiest may well come from the Minnesota Wild, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported Monday that the Wild are prepared to throw a fat, front-loaded contract offer at Parise, who hails from Minneapolis.
However, while the Wild have some pieces in place—including captain Mikko Koivu—the Wild are far and away the furthest away from legitimate contention on this list, and after coming so close to hoisting the cup last season, it will interesting to see how much Parise values compensation versus playoff contention.
When the Detroit Red Wings come calling, free agents have a tendency to listen. There's been no more storied franchise in the NHL over the past 15 years.
The Red Wings have hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup four times over that span, the most of any NHL team.
As the Detroit Free Press recently reported, the Red Wings are very much interested in bringing Zach Parise to the Motor City to pair with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. And with $20 million in cap space, the Red Wings are in a position to make Parise an offer he'd have to at least strongly consider.
If there's a team besides the Devils that has the best chance at procuring Parise, then my early money is on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported over the weekend, the Penguins are very much interested in making a run at the prized free agent after freeing up some salary by trading center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Pittsburgh has two big selling points to offer Parise. The first is a solid young nucleus of Sidney Crosby, reigning league MVP Evgeni Malkin, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, winger James Neal and defenseman Kris Letang.
The second is the Penguins' secret weapon in this whole thing, and it may just be enough to put Pittsburgh over the top if several teams present Parise with similar offers.
Parise and Crosby have been close friends for years, and the opportunity to play as part of what might be the most dangerous trio of young forwards in the NHL, with a buddy no less, might just be the cherry on top that's enough to land the Pens Zach Parise.