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If the New Jersey Devils lose Zach Parise on July 1, they might as well play the 2012-13 season without their heart and soul.
On the surface, there's nothing very imposing about him. Parise is 5'11" and 195 lbs, about as average-sized as an NHL player can get. But there is nothing average about the way he plays the game. He is a fast and agile skater with a quick wrister and a hard slap shot. He can go in close to the net and excel in the dirty aspects of the game or he can dominate from the outside.
It's not just about offense with Parise. He plays hard defense and he can deliver punishing checks. He excels on the forecheck, where he turns defense into offense in the blink of an eye.
While the Devils want him back badly, so do the Minnesota Wild, the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. All three of those teams will offer him more than the Devils.
Expect a full-court press from the Wild. They will get his attention because he's from Minnesota and they will present him with a boatload of money. But in Pittsburgh he can play on a potential championship team and he can play with Sidney Crosby.
The two are joined at the hip. While Crosby was the best player on the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team, Parise filled that same role for the United States. They both played at the Shattuck St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota. They both have an appreciation for each other.
It might take some time, but a pairing of Crosby and Parise could be the stuff of legends... and championships. Parise will sign with the Penguins.