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Free-agent forward Zach Parise says he needs more time to make a decision

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The waiting game continues.

A second day of NHL free agency came and went without decisions from forward Zach Parise or defenceman Ryan Suter on where they'd like to sign. The top two names on the open market have both been given a lot of food for thought in the form of serious contract offers and are electing to take their time.

"The goal is to make the most informed decision I can," Parise told reporters outside of his agent's office in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday afternoon. "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."

With so many teams hoping to land Parise and/or Suter, the market was pretty much frozen solid on Day 2.

One exception came in Calgary, where Flames general manager Jay Feaster was thrilled to get Jiri Hudler's signature on a US$16-million, four-year deal. Feaster pitched hard for the Czech centre as soon as the market opened on Sunday and didn't want to be left empty-handed.

"We identified at our pro meetings, we had him as the guy we wanted to go after as that top-six forward," Feaster said on a conference call. "We demonstrated that to both Jiri and to Petr Svoboda, his agent, yesterday. ... We're excited about it."

The Flames GM learned a lesson last year. He made a major pitch for coveted free agent Brad Richards last summer and wasn't left with much in terms of a Plan B when Richards signed with the New York Rangers instead.

This time he ignored the more high-profile names and instead focused on Hudler, who had 25 goals and 50 points for the Detroit Red Wings last season.

"He's going to have even more opportunity to flourish in our organization," said Feaster.

The other signings Monday involved players staying with their current teams: Carey Price, a restricted free agent, agreed to a $39-million, six-year extension with Montreal; and New Jersey kept its goaltending tandem intact by inking Martin Brodeur to a two-year deal worth $9 million and backup Johan Hedberg to a $2.8-million, two-year contract.

Brodeur spent less than 24 hours on the open market and heard offers from other interested teams—including Chicago and Toronto—before electing to stay where he is most comfortable.

"At the end of the day, this is what I wanted all along," said Brodeur. "Circumstances happen sometimes in life that I can't control, and I can't say it won't happen again, but I am happy, and two years seems appropriate for me maybe to leave the game at that time.

"But I am not 100 per cent sure. Again, we'll how I feel and how well I am able to play."

It remains to be seen whether Parise will also find his way back to Newark. The 27-year-old is clearly being pulled in a number of emotional directions, with offers coming from the only NHL team he's ever played for (New Jersey), his hometown team (Minnesota) and a perennial Stanley Cup favourite that features good friend Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), among others.

"I still don't know," said Parise. "The list is still there. We're getting closer, that's all I can say."

Suter is trying to make a similar determination, with the Nashville Predators pushing hard to retain one of their anchors on the blue-line. A number of other teams are very interested as well.

It's quite unusual for the top free agents to mull over their choices for a couple days—a testament, perhaps, to what is believed to be a high number of lucrative, extended-term deals on the table.

Until those two make up their minds, most of the other free agents will likely have to wait. Defenceman Matt Carle and forwards Jaromir Jagr and Alex Semin are expected to be among the next tier of players that are snapped up quickly once Suter and Parise sign off on new deals.

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