Ex-Leafs GM: Zach Parise Is Red Wings’ Top Option

One of the worst-kept secrets of the upcoming NHL offseason is that the will express interest in soon-to-be free agent forward , currently involved in the Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the New Jersey Devils.

Will the Wings be able to convince Parise to skip town on the Devils, avoid the temptation of signing with the nearby New York Rangers, and head to Detroit?

Gord Stellick, the Maple Leafs’ GM from 1988-89 and a current broadcaster for the Leafs and Rogers Sportsnet, told the Wall Street Journal’s Mike Sielski that the Wings are prepared to go all-in in their pursuit of Parise.

“He is their guy,” former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Gord Stellick said. “[The Red Wings are] never going to go after an unrestricted free agent as hard as they’re going to go after Zach Parise.”

Strong words from Stellick, and the latest indication that Detroit may use a substantial portion of its available cap space to try to land Parise. The 27-year-old winger had 69 points during the regular season and has 12 more in the postseason during the Devils’ current run.

He’s the type of goal-scorer the Wings have been missing — he had 31 this season, 38 in 2009-10 and 45 in 2008-09 — and is the type of all-around, hard-nosed player that Mike Babcock covets.

Parise also will be, along with Washington sniper Alexander Semin, one of the very few elite forward targets expected to hit the market this summer. Other players like Dustin Penner, Shane Doan and Ryan Smyth could find their way to free agency, but none have the upside and remaining skill level of Parise.

Parise might find it hard to leave the Eastern Conference, especially if both New Jersey and the Rangers — the two teams left standing on that side of the playoff bracket — throw their full weight into a free-agency campaign for him. But Parise has expressed his admiration for the Wings’ style of play and, specifically, . By coming to Detroit, he could not only help the Wings in their quest to get back to the top of the Western Conference, he also might be able to provide Datsyuk with the help he needs on Detroit’s top line.

Free agency does not begin until July 1, and Parise won’t even begin thinking about his future until his team either is eliminated from the playoffs or captures the Cup.

Barring a major shift in the plans, though, Detroit will be waiting when Parise finally hits the market.

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