Zach Parise on undecided Islanders, NHL future: ‘I think it would be here or nowhere’

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Zach Parise Islanders
Zach Parise
Photo courtesy of the New York Islanders

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Zach Parise sat at his locker and stared into the abyss that is the unknown.

His Islanders had just been eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime of Game 6 in their first-round playoff series on Friday night and while his teammates undressed and spoke with the media, his aura and locker remained unbreached.

Teammate and winger Kyle Palmieri walked over and gave him a hug, the two touching foreheads before he left. But an almost-despondent Parise remained rooted at his seat well after his teammates — and the media — left the room.



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“What was going through the head? Probably the same as everyone. A little bit of shock,” Parise said during his exit interview on Monday. “Especially in that situation, losing in overtime and it abruptly ending like that. Everyone’s in a little bit of shock. All the work that you put in throughout the 82 games is over. It never gets any easier.”

Parise, however, is 38 years old and coming off a second consecutive season with the Islanders in which he’s played in all 82 games of a taxing season in which he’s performed as the team’s ultimate utility belt — getting time on the power play and penalty kill while remaining a fixture on the shutdown third line.

Now, his contract is up and the unrestricted free agent is faced with the decision most players his age are forced to encounter: Keep playing or retire.

“Of course, it’s going through my mind but I haven’t decided anything,” Parise said. “I’ll take a couple weeks and get away from stuff for a little bit and just see where it’s at. But I haven’t decided anything yet.”

Islanders Hurricanes Game 6 OT
New York Islanders, including Zach Parise (11), Kyle Palmieri (21), and Brock Nelson (29), react to an overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Friday, April 28, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. The Hurricanes won 2-1, taking the series. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

There is nothing to suggest that Parise is slowing down. He scored 21 goals and averaged 16:09 of ice time in his 18th NHL season — his best campaign since 2019-20 with a Minnesota Wild team that ultimately bought out his contract a year later.

“He’s the standard,” Islanders star Mathew Barzal said of Parise. “Off the ice especially. The way he treats his body. He probably works out probably more than anybody. He focuses on the game at all times. He’s just a pro… Everyone’s taking a little piece from Zach’s work ethic.”

However, as he prepares for the summer of uncertainty, he’s provided an early forecast of just two options.

“I think it would be here or nowhere,” Parise said. “That’s how I feel like that’d be. I can’t say for sure but I feel like it would be up to me and my decision.”

That’s a testament to the veteran’s appreciation for the Islanders, the same team his father, J.P. played for from 1975-1977 after being acquired from the Minnesota North Stars in a deal that began turning the fortunes of the expansion franchise.

“I remember when he got traded here almost saying that he was dreading coming here, that’ he’d never been, and he was dreading it,” Parise said. “Then he said he fell in love with the place and then was devastated when he had to leave. I understand what he’s talking about. This is a great place to play, a great community. The organization is outstanding. For us to be able to share something like that is pretty neat.”

Zach Parise Islanders Blue Jackets
Zach Parise (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Parise added that playing for general manager Lou Lamoriello, the man who selected him 20 years ago with the 17th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft for the New Jersey Devils, is “the best,” while echoing a former teammates sentiments that every player in the league “should be required” to play at least one season under the Hall-of-Fame executive. “You learn how to be a pro.”

The combination of familial ties and familiar faces provided the perfect tonic for Parise to re-spark his adoration for the game of hockey, which understandably took a hit when the Wild bought out his contract following the 2020-21 season.

“The last couple years in Minnesota were tough. It was just a difficult thing to go through, a difficult situation to be in,” Parise said. “I’m fortunate that it worked out to be able to come here and most importantly just enjoy coming to the rink again. You rediscover why you love the game and what you love about it.

“I’m so grateful to be able to have done that and do that here. There’s really not a better spot to do it with that team.”



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