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Parise decision imminent

| Sunday, July 1, 2012, 7:16 p.m.
New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk, of Russia, (17) celebrates with Zach Parise after scoring an open net goal in the third period during Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Devils won the game 3-1. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
The Los Angeles Kings' Willie Mitchell and the New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise struggle to control the puck in the first period during Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Penguins believe they are on a short list of teams to land free-agent winger Zach Parise, who could decide Monday where he will play next season.

The Penguins went after Parise in a big way Sunday on Day 1 of the NHL free-agent period, league and team sources told the Tribune-Review. Their offer was the largest for a unrestricted free agent in franchise history, more in term and average annual salary than the seven-year, $50 million presentation to wing Marian Hossa four years ago to the day. Hossa ultimately signed with the Detroit Red Wings.

Parise, 27, reportedly was provided offers by at least seven clubs, including the New Jersey Devils, for whom he served as captain of a Stanley Cup finalist this past season.

With 194 goals and 410 points in 502 regular-season games, Parise is by far the most attractive forward available. The Penguins view him as a long-term fit to play with center Sidney Crosby, whose 12-year deal worth $104.4 million was finalized around noon. The Crosby contract is front-loaded, with $57.8 million due over the first five years.

The Penguins, who have spent within $1 million of the salary cap since 2008 and are expected to again next season, had never front-loaded a long-term contract during Shero's tenure dating to 2006. The Crosby contract, which picks up his $8.7 million annual cap hit and goes into effect for the 2013-14 season, is guaranteed in full.

The salary cap is set for $70.2 million next season, pending a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and Players Association. The Penguins were about $11 million under the cap after the first day of free agency.

General manager Ray Shero broke from tradition and did not comment on the first day of free agency.

Shero has not said whether Crosby's annual average or highest actual earning — he will make $12 million in each of the first three years and $9 million total in the final three years of the new deal — serves as a franchise cap on deals for other players, including the Penguins' own free agents.

The Penguins believed Parise would command at least $10 million annually from other clubs, specifically Minnesota. Other teams reportedly to make offers to Parise included Detroit, Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Carolina and New Jersey.

Crosby and defenseman Paul Martin each spoke with Parise, and Crosby is close friends with him. Parise, like Martin a Minnesota native, previously played with Martin in New Jersey.

“Unless something happens dramatically, the decision is in my hands,” Parise told TSN. “(I'm) confident after thinking tonight I will have a decision.”

The Penguins also made an offer to Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, the top player at his position on the market. Though the Penguins want to find a first-pairing fit for defenseman Kris Letang, the club entered free agency less optimistic about the possibility of signing Suter, 27, who reportedly was seeking at least a 12-year deal worth more than $100 million.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com or 412-380-5635.

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