New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in March 2010.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are outstanding hockey players, clearly the top talents in the free agent class of 2012.
And the team -- or teams -- that end up signing them surely will conclude that it was worth the wait to get them. But the wait for Parise and Suter to pick their employers is lasting longer than nearly anyone anticipated.
Parise's agent, Wade Arnott, said it was possible Parise would make up his mind Monday night, after consulting with his fiance and family members, then announce his decision today.
Perhaps, but the Parise camp also had predicted Sunday that he would make his choice known Monday.
"I'm getting closer, but haven't made a decision," Parise said in a late afternoon meeting with reporters outside of Arnott's office in suburban Toronto. "I haven't set any deadlines."
The Penguins are on a fairly long list of teams with a vested interest in what Parise decides because they project him as a linemate for Sidney Crosby. New Jersey, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and others also have big plans for him.
The same is true of Suter, who the Penguins would like to deploy with Kris Letang on their No. 1 defense pairing. Suter has been holed up on a farm in Wisconsin, sifting through offers that include one from the Penguins.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero did not speak with reporters Monday about Parise, Suter or any other subject.
While Suter largely has been removed from public scrutiny the past few days, Parise has been monitored closely, and a group of reporters gathered outside the Newport Sports headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, while Parise was meeting with his representatives Monday.
There was speculation that Parise would announce his choice in the informal press briefing after his visit to Newport's offices, but he declined to make a commitment then.
"We're getting closer, that's all I can say," he said.
Parise wold not identify the teams still in contention for his services, other than to say that he has not ruled out returning to the Devils. Although he has preserved that option all along, ownership's financial troubles seemed to be conspiring against that.
Monday, though, New Jersey re-signed goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg to seven-figure salaries, and Parise said general manager Lou Lamoriello assured him the Devils can afford to retain him.
"He said that won't be a problem, so that's not weighing into it right now," Parise said.
He also spoke with Brodeur, who urged him to return to New Jersey.
Although New Jersey's front-office issues might not be a complicating issue in Parise's decision-making process, the Blackhawks' arrival in the bidding for his services appears to be.
Chicago had not been viewed as a major player in the fight for Parise until Monday afternoon, when word leaked that the Blackhawks were moving aggressively to attract him.
It is unclear what Chicago is offering, and few details on any proposal to Parise have been made public. Although the Penguins' financial package might not be the equal of some others, they can offer a perk no one else can -- a spot alongside Crosby -- and hope that will help to lure Parise here.
How Parise is weighing various factors isn't known. It's pretty clear, however, he plans to commit only after assessing all the information at hand.
"The goal is to make the most-informed decision I can," he said. "I'm not putting a deadline on anything. It's such a long-term, important decision that you have to make sure you look at everything."