NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 8: Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center on October 8, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Zach Parise is really good at hockey. He doesn't have a contract next season, and the Minnesota Wild could use him. He's from Minnesota. This seems too obvious, doesn't it?
It appears his home-state team needs him. It has plenty of cap room.
He's a free agent come July 1, absent a contract extension from the Devils that New Jersey doesn't appear to be in a hurry to hand out.
Parise -- whose father, J.P., played for the Minnesota North Stars for most of an NHL career that lasted nearly 900 games -- grew up in Minnesota. He played for J.P. at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a prep school in Faribault, Minn. He starred in college at the University of North Dakota.
The Wild, meanwhile, are a franchise without that identifiable star player. Yes, Mikko Koivu is a great player and a very good captain, but he's somewhat uncomfortable at times with the media, especially during the season. Dany Heatley is playing very well for the Wild this year, but he'll probably never score 35-40 goals in a season again. A healthy Parise, meanwhile, is more than capable of being the star scorer and face of the franchise.
It almost seems too perfect.
1500 ESPN's Jess Myers writes that Parise joining the Wild would be huge for the Twin Cities area.
The addition of Parise would be expensive, but would satisfy the need for more excitement, would pay immediate on-ice dividends, and would give the Minnesota NHL scene an offensive superstar the likes of which haven't been seen since Dino Ciccarelli had inflatable dinosaurs flying off the shelves in the Twin Cities in the spring of 1981.
Parise appeared on Paul Allen's show on KFAN in the Cities Thursday. He didn't tip his hand too much. He talked about his roots in Minnesota, and how he enjoys his frequent visits to the state. When asked about recently buying a new house in Minnesota, Parise was quick to note that people shouldn't read anything into that.
"As of today, right now, I like where I'm at," Parise said when asked about his situation. "I like playing in New Jersey. Things change, and you never know what will happen. I think it would always be cool for a kid to play where he grew up."
It doesn't sound like much, but Wild fans can cling to the fact that the door is hardly slammed shut. Minneapolis Star-Tribune beat writer Michael Russo has talked about the possibility several times, most recently during appearances on KFAN.
Like I said, it almost seems too easy.
Parise is going to have some serious decisions to make come July. If Minnesota formally expresses interest with an offer, it likely won't be the only one the star forward has to consider. Any team with a scoring void and cap room is going to be insane not to take a shot. Parise turns 28 this summer, and he's already had four 30-plus goal seasons in the NHL. Even if he falls short of making it a fifth this season, he'll be in demand.
It's a great situation for whatever team can sign him. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello has already played one of his available cards, saying he won't trade Parise. In reality, he can't, because the Devils are already having enough trouble drawing despite having a team that is in playoff contention. Trading the captain for prospects at the deadline would be a disastrous move, and that doesn't even take into account the damage it would do to the product on the ice.
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has been very protective of a stable of prospects that includes Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, and others. A Parise sweepstakes at the trade deadline would have put Fletcher in a very tough position. Now, he doesn't have to worry about making such a decision. If the Wild are to procure Parise's services, the most they would have to give up would be the mid-to-late round pick required to secure his negotiating rights for the week between the draft and free agency.
Of course, unless the Wild make that deal for negotiating rights, there will be the chance that this only looked good on paper. There are no guarantees, and Parise might end up in a different jersey next season. For now, though, the easy answer seems to be Minnesota, and that -- along with the team's recent uptick in its play -- should be music to Wild fans' ears.