By his own admission, Zach Parise does not know what his future holds. But he knows the organization he wants no part of.
Parise had a simple, direct response when asked if he could envision signing with the Rangers as a free agent this offseason.
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That was just part of a wide-ranging interview session with the Devils’ captain on the team’s breakup day following their series loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.
“It still sucks. We [were] hoping we would be playing [Game 7] tonight,” Parise said Wednesday. But the Devils were still proud about what they had accomplished.
The Devils finished the regular season with a 48-28-6 record, good for 102 points and the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. The 2011-12 season marked the 13th time in franchise history the Devils recorded 100-plus points. The appearance in the Stanley Cup final was the Devils’ first since winning the franchise’s third championship in 2003.
Still it is a virtual certainty that the reigning Eastern Conference Champions will not return wholly intact even with the salary cap expected to increase to $70.3 million.
The Devils have 15 unrestricted free agents highlighted by Parise and Martin Brodeur. Brodeur reiterated yesterday that his initial feeling is that he wants to return, before adding he owes the organization a final decision before the July 1 free agency period.
Parise is a different situation. The soon-to-be 28-year-old is, along with Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, the top prize on the unrestricted free agent market.
The Devils’ captain finished the regular season with 31 goals and 69 points, and scored eight goals and 15 points in the playoffs.
Even though he would not rule out signing a contract with the only NHL home he’s known prior to July 1, Parise said his first foray into unrestricted free agency is “exciting.”
“He’s a priority; we’ve said that from Day One,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said of Parise. “He will remain a priority.”
Lamoriello appeared unconcerned about the franchise’s shaky financial state.
The Devils are $200 million in debt and owner Jeff Vanderbeek “is actively working on restructuring the debt,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in his State of the Union Address prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.
A recently published report suggested the Devils earned $32.3 million during the playoffs.
“There’s a wall up between that end of the team and myself. There is nothing that [has] affected what I’m doing [or] has affected it. What has to be taken care of will be taken care of in the very near future. In my opinion, things will get settled,” Lamoriello said.
Parise said the players were ignoring the issue.
“We’ve only been paying attention to what’s been going on on the ice,” he said. “But I don’t know where that all stands today.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for all your offseason news from the Devils, Rangers and Islanders.