Is Devils' Parise in Rangers' future?

Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers defends

Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers defends against Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Madison Square Garden. (May 14, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

J.P. Parise kicks off the conversation with a warning.

"My son has said he's waiting until the end of the year to decide anything, and that's what he's told me, too," Parise said. "And that's because he knows I have a big mouth."

Zach Parise and the Devils are tied at 1-1 with the Rangers, three wins away from getting a crack at a Stanley Cup. Beyond that, Parise is six weeks away from unrestricted free agency. He would easily be the top forward on the market, and the list of suitors is as long as the list of teams with salary cap room and enough funds to offer a long-term, front-loaded contract to the 27-year-old wing.

A couple of things seem pretty certain, even without any guidance from J.P. Parise, whom we'll get to in a moment. The first is that the Devils' incredibly ugly financial picture, with managing partner Jeff Vanderbeek reportedly searching for a partner with $80 million to pony up and a mountain of debt on the Prudential Center, will prevent the Devils from offering Parise anything close to market value before July 1, Cup or no Cup.

The second is that the Rangers, the team Parise is currently trying to defeat for the Eastern Conference crown, will be at or near the head of the line, as they were for Brad Richards, the top free-agent forward this past July. Parise's representation is Newport Sports, the same as Richards', and there are plenty of executives around the league who could easily see Parise joining John Tortorella's band of hard workers for 2012-13 and well beyond.

This is where Parise's father comes in. You'd have a hard time coming up with a player who scored a more crushing goal in Madison Square Garden in the last 50 years than "Jeep" Parise's overtime winner at 11 seconds on April 11, 1975, that eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs and began to tilt the local hockey focus away from the city and out to Long Island.

"I never wanted to come to New York. I thought it was a dirty, ugly place," the elder Parise, now 70 and living in retired comfort in Minnesota, said. He had played for the old Minnesota North Stars before coming to the Islanders. "And I spent three years there and it was terrific, the fans there, Islanders and Rangers, they're so passionate, it's hard to see that in a lot of other places.

"So you get some stupid things in your head about a place, and it turns out to be very different."

J.P. Parise has no advice to offer his son about where Zach will end up. J.P. talked to Tortorella in Vancouver at the Olympics in 2010, where Tortorella was an assistant and Parise a key member of the silver-medal winning U.S. hockey squad.

"Zach likes Torts a lot," J.P. said. "Zach knows how to work, he doesn't shy away from the discipline part of it. He'd fit right in there."

J.P. Parise knows his son will have as many as 10 clubs bringing PowerPoints and open checkbooks soon enough, and he won't make a peep about it until the time comes.

Zach spoke Thursday about blocking out the outside world during this postseason.

"We've done a good job of concentrating on what we have to do and not allowing these underlying stories to take over what we're trying to accomplish," he said.

As for his dad, J.P. has only offered unspecific advice, and that was well before this Cup charge began.

"All I said was, don't make a decision based on emotion, in the heat of things," J.P. said. "He's waited a long time to be in this position . . . He loves the Devils, he loves Pete DeBoer and Lou Lamoriello. There's time for all these things to be decided."

And so the Devils captain continues Saturday afternoon on his quest to bounce the rival Rangers. Whether he can beat the Rangers will be decided in the next 10 days. About a month after that, Zach Parise may very well join them.

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