Frank Seravalli: While Parise ponders, rest of hockey world anxiously waits

Posted: July 03, 2012

ZACH PARISE stood outside a nondescript office building in suburban Toronto on Monday and made an important announcement, with the entire hockey world — general managers, fans and fellow free agents alike — hanging on every word.

Except, Parise's announcement wasn't much of an announcement at all. He needs more time to decide his future.

Nearly everyone in said hockey world collectively grumbled. Parise's decision is the domino holding up nearly every other marginal free agent from signing.

Count me among those who don't understand the hostility. One of hockey's most cerebral players should be allowed a discernment process with six different franchises throwing nearly $100 million at him. Parise, hockey's prized free agent at forward, played out his deal in New Jersey and has afforded himself the right to decide.

"The goal is to make the most informed decision I can," Parise said in a statement. "I'm not putting a deadline on anything. It's such a long-term, important decision. You have to make sure you look at everything."

Not coincidentally, Parise's defensive counterpart, Ryan Suter, is doing the same, deliberating some 500 miles to the west in Wisconsin, where lucrative offers also rest on his table.

Where do the Flyers stand in all this? They've made substantial, 12-year offers to both players, as reported on Monday, ranging somewhere from $80 million to $100 million.

Chatter from these tight-lipped meetings peg the Flyers as an outlying possibility.

For Parise and Suter, it's not out of the question that they return to their original teams, in New Jersey and Nashville, respectively. Both players have suited up more than 500 times in their respective uniforms, the only ones they've ever worn since being drafted 10 picks apart in 2003.

Parise said he was going home to discuss his options with his fiancée and family. Home for Parise is in Minnesota, not New Jersey, and his hometown Wild are one of the front-runners. At the same time, thoughts of skating on a wing with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby — also known as an instant ticket to the Hall of Fame — have made the decision quite a bit tougher.

It is believed that Suter would like to remain in the Western Conference, though the Flyers and Penguins have made a hard push for him to come East. Detroit, Nashville and Minnesota are all throwing their money around.

As it stands, it seems most likely the Flyers will land neither ace. Given the sky-high prices, the labor uncertainty, and the potential free-agent class next season, that might not be such a bad thing.

Think about it: In one more year, the free agents are better — with Shea Weber, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, to name a few — and the Flyers' young guns will have 1 more year under their belts. The salary cap will be going up again and Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell will be coming off the books.

With either Suter or Parise, or both, the Flyers will be in salary-cap hell for the foreseeable future. And they will need to extend Claude Giroux to a massive contract at some point. There are maybe a handful of players in the NHL worth $100 million — and these two aren't part of that elite group.

The only problem is that it is believed the Flyers made a significantly higher monetary offer to both Parise and Suter than many of the other teams in the bidding war. Part of that, one would think, is to drive up the price for their Atlantic Division foes in Pittsburgh and New Jersey. In this high-stakes poker game, the Flyers are pot-committed at this point to at least see the flop.

If the flop is looking ugly, as it does right now, whenever Parise and Suter decide to pare down their lists, the Flyers should get a jump on the remaining market to fill their holes at right wing and defense.

Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr are still on the market, and their stock is rising every hour that Parise and Suter go unsigned. Any one of those teams in the bidding war sees Carle as a second-best to Suter and Jagr as a stopgap after Parise.

Parise only finished with 15 more points than Jagr last season in nine more games.

Although the Canadiens were believed to be a front-runner for Jagr, Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said Monday he has no interest.

Teams out of the Suter sweepstakes, like St. Louis — which is looking for a lefthanded defenseman to play on the point with Alex Pietrangelo — are lurking for Carle.

By nature, the Flyers are not a very patient team. That could work to their advantage here, with any inkling that Parise or Suter is not coming to Philadelphia. Carle already watched lesser defensemen Dennis Wideman ($5.25 million) and Jason Garrison ($4.7 million) cash in over the last few days. He is next in line.

Everyone is just waiting for the other skate to drop. For the Flyers, it just may be in their best interest to kick it off. n

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com

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