Zach Parise isn't officially a free agent yet and he made it clear Wednesday that he's got a bit to learn about the process.
Speaking at Devils breakup day, which could have been Game Seven if not for Steve Bernier's ill-fated check on Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, Parise was asked if he was thinking about signing with the Rangers during the offseason. His answer didn't leave him much wiggle room.
"No. No way," Parise said."Don’t try to get a headline out of that."
Lesson number one of free agency is that saying there's no way you'll ever sign with a particular team will inevitably lead to headlines like the one you see on the top of this page. That's especially true when you are captain of the Devils and the team you are emphatically ruling out is the one from the other side of the Hudson that you ousted in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Lesson number two is that you never, ever rule out a team in New York until you actually sign a contract with another team. It's true in every sport, but especially true in a hockey world that still sees the Rangers as a free-spending outfit that they will have to beat out in order to sign Parise or anybody else.
That's not actually true anymore, but better to err on the side of keeping other teams guessing about your plans. Parise might want to sign with the Devils or the Red Wings, but it's pretty short-sighted not to do everything in your power to maximize the salary you receive from the team of your choosing.
Or Parise might not know where he wants to sign at all. You have to look at the context of where Parise said "No way" to the Rangers.
He's in the Devils' locker room just after the team fell short of the Stanley Cup, surrounded by teammates and likely feeling a bit emotional about the whole situation. Under those circumstances, it is easy to understand how a player could go a little farther than anyone might have expected when he got a question about the team that has cast its shadow over the Devils for the Jersey side's entire existence.
Parise will almost surely listen if/when the Rangers come calling and nothing he said on Wednesday substantially changes the possibility that he will say yes to their offer. The only way we'd believe Parise's really not interested in the Rangers is if he says that he saw what happened to Scott Gomez and Bobby Holik and hopes to be mentioned again without a stream of expletives after his name once he leaves New Jersey.
Short of that, Parise's "No way" is nothing more than an easy headline to kick off the NHL offseason.
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