NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — With free agency looming in less than three weeks, New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise has crossed the rival Rangers off his list of potential future employers.
Meeting with the media for the first time since New Jersey lost the Stanley Cup in six games to the Los Angeles Kings two days ago, the 27-year-old Parise reiterated that he would like to continue playing for the Devils and would even consider signing before free agency starts on July with the right deal.
When asked if he'd play for the Rangers, a team New Jersey defeated in the postseason, he was short and simple: "No."
"Don't try to get a headline out of this," Parise quipped Wednesday as the Devils cleaned out their lockers at the Prudential Center.
Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said re-signing Parise, who earned in excess of $5 million last season, would be a priority for the Eastern Conference champions.
Lamoriello also said it would be up to goaltender Martin Brodeur to decide whether he wants to return next season. If the 40-year-old goaltender is up for a 19th season, and he has indicated he is, the team will have a new contract for him.
Lamoriello will be busy in the offseason on the free-agent market. In addition to Parise and Brodeur, defensemen Bryce Salvador, Peter Harrold and Mark Fayne (restricted), backup goaltender Johan Hedberg and forwards Petr Sykora, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter all need contracts.
Parise, who was called the heart of the Devils by coach Peter DeBoer, is the most important. Coming off a major knee injury that limited him to 13 games in 2010-11, he scored 31 goals in the regular season and added eight more in the postseason. He also was a penalty killer and relentless two-way player.
Parise, who refused to discuss his upcoming free agency in the regular season, does not have a timetable for getting a new deal. He also did not believe that his agent, Wade Arnott, and Lamoriello had contract talks during the season.
Lamoriello refused to comment on talks with Parise.
Arnott did not immediately answer an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on Parise's free agency.
"We're going to keep all that stuff between Lou and I, as we always have," Parise said. "I've said all along I love playing here. I've always appreciated everything that this organization has done for me. My feelings have never changed."
This is Parise's first go-around with free agency and he said he intends to listen to his agents and try to enjoy it. However, he added he will make the final decision and it all won't come down to money. It also will depend on being with a winner and getting along with a new coach and teammates if that is in the cards.
Parise often made comments during the season — as most of his teammates did — about how enjoyable an experience it was to work for DeBoer, who just finished his first season in New Jersey. Certainly that will play into the mix, as will the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup finals.
On top of all that, Parise is just the ninth player in franchise history to wear the "C'' on his jersey. He's often spoken on how proud he is of that honor, and many of those who came before him — Bruce Driver, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias, among them — have helped the organization to Stanley Cup titles. He's yet to do that, of course, so that carrot is still out there for him.