The captain insisted he wanted to stay with the team that drafted him, the group he led to the Stanley Cup final.
He admitted his contract situation was "in the back of my mind" during that final season of his deal. There were so many reasons he wanted to re-sign, but his first (and likely final) taste of unrestricted free agency was just months away.
"It's so hard," Wild star wing Zach Parise said.
Parise, 31, is one of the few players who have been in the shoes of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, 25, who is in the final year of his deal and still without an extension. Like Parise did during his final season with the Devils, Stamkos said he wants to remain with his original team and thinks a deal can get done.
"I wasn't lying," Parise said of his saga.
But he ended up choosing to sign with his hometown Wild on July 4, 2012, he and buddy defenseman Ryan Suter each getting 13-year, $98 million deals, with Suter leaving the Predators. Parise says he's completely happy with how things have worked out for him. He can empathize with the decision that Stamkos, a Markham, Ontario native, may have to make.
"There's a lot of things you have to look at," Parise said. "You have to look at who has the (salary) cap room; the guy is going to be making $10 (million). You've got to find a team … with good young players, a spot where you're going to get utilized properly.
"It's tough being in that situation, being a captain. That's your team. The guys look up to you and respect you. It's not easy."
No situation is exactly the same, and neither are those of Parise and Stamkos. Parise's Devils had financial uncertainty stemming from ownership issues, and then-general manager Lou Lamoriello didn't negotiate during the season. Stamkos has a world-class owner in Jeff Vinik, and the communication lines between the sides are open. Yet, though GM Steve Yzerman called re-signing Stamkos his "No. 1 priority" in June, no one knows if the Lightning has even made an offer.
Parise said he and his wife, Alisha, discussed their next step often during that 2011-12 season, though he didn't think it affected his play on the ice. With the Devils reaching the 2012 Stanley Cup final, losing to the Kings, Parise ultimately had just a few weeks to decide what he wanted to do with the July 1 start of free agency looming.
Parise's father, J.P., who died last year, played for the North Stars in the 1960s and '70s, which made the Wild attractive. "Everyone grew up wanting to be (Mike) Modano or (Neal) Broten, playing with the Stars," Parise said.
Some, especially north of the border, assume something similar can be said for Stamkos and his hometown Maple Leafs. Parise said he kept an open mind until the end, making a point to go home and spend time alone thinking. That's the one piece of advice he had for Stamkos if the Lightning captain's deal doesn't get done during the season.
"If you're going to decide to wait for (after) the season, go home and be by yourself," Parise said. "When you're surrounded by everything, it's tough to think of leaving. I'm not telling him to leave, but for me, the best thing is we went home just for a couple weeks (and) tried to figure out what to do."
Parise said the Devils also made him an offer in free agency.
"It's fun," Parise said. "You're getting courted by every team. It's flattering. It's humbling. It's a really neat thing. … For (Stamkos), it's one time, (get an) eight-year deal (with the Lightning) or seven somewhere else."
Parise then thought of Stamkos' age and smiled.
"So he'll probably get two more (times)."