‘I can play the game’: Zach Parise reflects on tough season with Wild

The Minnesota Wild was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 last Friday night.

That means the Wild is now in off-season mode, while other teams compete for a championship. While players took Tuesday to clean out their lockers, they also had exit meetings with coach Dean Evason and general manager Bill Guerin. One of those was veteran winger Zach Parise, who spoke candidly about a 2020-21 season that didn’t meet his expectations.

Parise came to Minnesota on a 13-year, $98 million deal that has four years remaining. This year, he played in 45 games and his seven goals were the second fewest in his career. His time on ice was the second fewest of his career, and he was left off the Wild's power play. He spent time on the NHL’s COVID-19 list, and was a healthy scratch both during the season and for the first three games of the playoffs against Vegas.

He said Tuesday his exit conversation with Guerin and Evason will stay in-house. After last Friday’s loss, he called having to sit out the first three games a "sideshow."

"I can play the game, there’s not a doubt in my mind on that. It was a different year than I’ve ever had from that standpoint. There’s never been any doubt in my mind that I can play the game and be productive and contribute to this team and help this team win," Parise said.

Parise returned to the lineup in Game 4 of the playoffs, after Marcus Johansson went down with a broken arm. In four playoff games, Parise had two goals and an assist. But all he could do the first three games was sit and watch, wondering if he’d play.

"I think watching them play for those first three games in the playoffs was brutal. You play the game and you start each season so excited about the season with the prospect of playoffs and playing in the playoffs. When you have to watch your team play, that’s tough. That was hard," Parise said.

Parise said he intends to be with the team when the next training camp starts, and hopes there’s playing time to compete for. Ultimately, that decision might not be up to him. If Evason and Guerin feel the team’s future doesn’t involve him, they could pursue a trade or buyout his contract.

Parise made it clear Tuesday he’d like to stay in Minnesota if that opportunity exists.

"I’ve always enjoyed playing here. We’re invested in the community here, the last thing you want to do is up your family and move and get out of here. I don’t want to play anywhere else," Parise said.


Kirill Kaprizov, coming off a historic rookie season with the Wild, will board a plane to Russia on Tuesday and see his family and friends for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Kaprizov set Wild franchise records with 27 goals and 51 points in his first NHL season.

He followed that up with two goals and an assist in seven playoff games. But will it be enough to get the Calder Trophy?

"Honestly I’m the type of person that doesn’t look for personal accolades. I’d much rather have the team win and the team do better than my own personal gains," Kaprizov said.

Guerin’s top priority is keeping the newest Wild star in Minnesota. Kaprizov can become a restricted free agent, but talks have been ongoing to keep him with the Wild.

"I’m not one to predict the future and predict what’s next. I’m confident we’ll come to a good agreement. I like everything, the team has been good to me so I am very happy here overall," Kaprizov said.