The New Jersey Devils will continue to remain optimistic about Zach Parise until it's absolutely certain that he'll sign elsewhere during free agency. However, despite Parise being optimistic about a possible return, the Devils are toast in the hunt to sign their best player if he hits the open market.
In a piece by Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger, Parise made it quite clear the only team he's ever known is still very much in the running, but is realistic that a deal might not get done by the Sunday deadline.
Parise said today that his agents, Wade Arnott and Don Meehan, have been talking to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello the last few days. However, he acknowledged it is very possible there will be no deal before Sunday’s noon (ET) deadline for the start of free agency.
“If that does happen, my agents have done a really good job of doing the best they can to prepare me for it. But first and foremost, we want to try to get things worked out with New Jersey,” the 27-year-old left winger told The Star-Ledger.
Parise has always been a class act and while he admits the two sides are still in negotiations up until the set deadline, the 27-year-old would never admit his plans to fly the coup if that was indeed the case. Parise has far too much respect for the Devils and their fans to do something like that.
That's why you can take anything he said with a grain of salt at this point. But that's always the case with free agents in any sport before they make their decision on staying with or leaving their current team.
One would imagine that if both sides were really keen on getting things done at any cost, it would have been done already. Parise is likely to garner a ton of money on the open market as the marquee free agent and New Jersey surely knows that.
They will have to go above and beyond to keep Parise in Newark, which might be impossible to do thanks to the team's financial woes, according to Chere's report.
Will Parise still re-sign with the Devils if he hits the open market?
Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek would have liked to get financial help to bail him out of debts said to be $77-80 million in time to show Parise and his agents that the team was financially healthy. That almost certainly will not happen before Sunday.
Based on that fact alone, it isn't looking good for New Jersey. Clearly Parise wants to win, year in and year out, just like any other NHL player. If New Jersey's money problems get in the way of bringing in top-flight talent, Parise will have no desire to return for the long term.
The Stiffest forms of competition for Parise are teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, all NHL powerhouses who would be potential attractive suitors, according to the Star-Ledger report.
Not only do they have the money to outspend most teams, the Devils included, they are also desirable places to play in respect to chances of being a competitive team and winning a Stanley Cup.
If Parise and the Devils are unable to come to terms before Sunday and New Jersey allows him to hit the open market, there's no reason to believe Parise will then all of a sudden want to work something out, because he would have done so already otherwise.
The star winger would have no intentions of sending an all-out panic throughout the Devils organization by hitting the open market if he was just going to re-sign anyway. All indications are Parise will hit the open market and certainly explore possible future career destinations.
At that point, the Devils will be hoping the money offers for Parise will be much lower than originally thought, ultimately leading the star winger back to their team. But such an impact player like Parise will be highly valued in a weak free-agent market by some of the better teams in the league.
To say one of those power teams won't be able to muster up the goods to steal Parise from New Jersey isn't dealing in reality. If the Devils allow noon ET on Sunday to come and go, they will lose their best player.