Updated: June 15th, 2012 2:07pm
Zulgad: Zach Parise, Wild both have decisions to make about future

Zulgad: Zach Parise, Wild both have decisions to make about future

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by Judd Zulgad

Zach Parise made two things clear this week as the New Jersey Devils cleaned out their lockers after losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

One, the soon-to-be free agent has no interest in signing with the New York Rangers and two, he would like to re-sign with the Devils.

On the first point, we will take the Minneapolis native at his word. Perhaps enough bad blood has built up between the Devils and Rangers that the man who served as New Jersey's captain simply can't see himself making the short trip to play on Broadway.

On the second point, we will give Parise the benefit of the doubt and speculate that he was simply being polite while talking to reporters who cover the Devils and standing on team property.

Realistically, there would appear to be little chance that Parise remains with an organization that has significant financial issues and almost certainly won't be able to pay the hottest free-agent on the market.

That means when NHL free agency opens on July 1 that Parise will be in a position to hit an almost immediate jackpot.

Former North Stars president and general manager Lou Nanne, who remains extremely plugged in when it comes to NHL matters, told the "Reusse and Mackey" show during his weekly appearance on 1500 ESPN that after talking to Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold he believes the team is going, "to throw the kitchen sink" at Parise in order to land him.

There also is an expectation the Wild is going to put on a full-court press for the services of Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, who also will hit the unrestricted free-agent market on the first day of July.

It's clear that Leipold is tired of watching the NHL playoffs on television, while the Xcel Energy Center sits vacant (imagine all the potential revenue that is lost) each spring. The Wild has not qualified for the postseason since 2008 and it's pretty obvious the team's fan base is no longer just happy to show up at the X because it's a nice arena.

The Wild already has created some excitement with the expectation they will get a significant boost with the potential addition of several youngsters next season.

Center Mikael Granlund tops a list that includes forwards Charlie Coyle, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Zack Phillips and defenseman Jonas Brodin. Winger Jason Zucker already saw action with the big-league club late last season.

The addition of Parise and Suter, however, would mean the Wild would go from having hope for the future to having an immediate chance to be extremely competitive deep into the springtime.

The issue is that Parise and Suter are going to be pursued by several teams, some of whom are going to point out that they provide a much better chance to win immediately than the Wild. The Detroit Red Wings come to mind, as do the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nanne even mentioned the Florida Panthers as a sleeper team and also threw in the Boston Bruins.

Nanne said Parise could get more than $8.5 million a year, and there has been speculation the son of former North Star J.P. Parise might be in line for a 10-year, $90 million offer. That's the type of deal the Penguins reportedly are talking about with star center Sidney Crosby.

The Wild has the cap room to make this work, but the conversation that will have to take place will be this: Is giving huge bucks to Parise now the smart move for the long term?

The Wild should begin showing progress next season with the influx of young talent and while having Parise playing on the top line would be a boost at the box office and on the ice, the reality is that he will be 28-years old when next season begins.

He's coming off a year in which he helped the Devils reach the finals and had 31 goals and 38 assists in 82 regular-season games. This came after Parise played in only 13 games in 2011-11 because of a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Parise would be well past his prime (38) when the contract expires, if indeed it ran for 10 years. And you would have to imagine any deal he gets will include some type of no-trade or limited-trade clause that would make moving him difficult, if not impossible.

This is not to say Leipold and Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher would be making a mistake by landing Parise, or Parise and Suter early next month.

The pair would bring immediate excitement - excitement that could only be killed by a lockout on Sept. 15 when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires - to a franchise and sports market that is in desperate need of a spark.

The Wild isn't the only one that's going to have to make some decisions regarding what is the best direction to take.

Parise will have to do the same.

He reportedly has purchased a house in Orono and will be getting married this summer. His family remains in this area and there might be something to be said for playing in the same town where his father spent much of his NHL career.

But Parise also could decide that he enjoys Minnesota summers far more than winters and that he doesn't need the pressure or spotlight of playing at home.

Any Minnesota athlete who thinks it's easy to play in front of the hometown fans should probably spend a few moments in an off-the-record conversation with the Twins' Joe Mauer.

Parise could be a star in Detroit or Pittsburgh, but he wouldn't enter as the sole focal point in those situations. All eyes at the X would be on Parise from day one.

In all likelihood, Parise and the Wild separately have come to conclusions on what they feel will be the best approach. It will be interesting to see if they turn out to be on the same page come July 1.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Brett Bulmer