We're closing in on the start of training camp and pre-season games for the New York Islanders, and Zach Parise has yet to decide whether he's returning for a 19th NHL season known - at least publicly.
However, the closer we get to the start of the season, the more likely it feels that Parise won't be back for a third season on Long Island and that the Isles are proceeding with the expectation that they'll have to replace his energy, work ethic, and 20+ goals elsewhere.
Now, this opinion could age poorly. For all we know, GM Lou Lamoriello could open up his media availability on Monday, announcing that Parise has decided to return and has signed another one-year contract. Would that shock anyone?
Lamoriello has consistently stated that there will be a place on the roster for Parise if he wants to return, so hypothetically, that door remains open, but it's hard to believe that the 39-year-old has gone a whole summer with his family in Minnesota and not made a decision by this juncture.
What could be happening, and this is pure speculation, is that Parise is scheduling the appropriate time to sign an honorary one-day contract with his hometown, Minnesota Wild, and retire. The forward played nine seasons with the Wild after he signed there as an unrestricted free agent after seven years in New Jersey.
Parise didn't leave Minnesota on the best of terms and had a long-standing relationship with Lamoriello, the man who drafted him. It's conceivable he retires as an Islander from that perspective, but the pull to Minnesota may be stronger despite recent history.
This is generally the time of year when these types of ceremonial signings happen. Last year, after 24 seasons, former Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara signed a one-year contract and retired as a member of the Boston Bruins on Sept. 20. Other prominent players that have done the same with the team they spent the majority, if not all, their career with include Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, Brendan Morrow of the Dallas Stars, Owen Nolan with the San Jose Sharks and another former Islander, Olli Jokinen with the Florida Panthers.
After being bought out by the Wild, Parise regained a sense of purpose and love for the game with the Islanders, his father's former team. After struggling to earn ice time after a prolific and productive career in Minnesota, Parise proved to himself that he still had more to give, playing in all 82 games each of the last two seasons and winning the team's Bobby Nystrom Award, given to the player that best exemplifies leadership, hustle, and dedication.