Report: Carolina to make play for Zach Parise

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From Luke DeCock of the Charlotte News and Observer comes this news about Carolina’s offseason acquisition strategy:

For the first time, the Hurricanes have identified a first-line caliber winger to play with Eric Staal as their top priority.

General manager Jim Rutherford has declared that owner Peter Karmanos is willing to spend the money, and a not-too-subtle whispering campaign has identified New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise as the No. 1 target.

Financially, this strategy makes an awful lot of sense for Carolina. Parise will be arguably the top free agent available come July 1 (depending on your feelings for Ryan Suter, of course) and few teams have the Hurricanes’ financial flexibility.

At the time of writing they have 18 players under contract for next year with almost $20 million in cap space — and don’t have to sort out Jeff Skinner’s next contract until 2014.

Just two questions: One, how much is Carolina willing to spend? And two, does Parise want any part of the ‘Canes?

Based on the contracts given to franchise cornerstones Eric Staal (seven years, $58 million) and Cam Ward (six years, $38 million), it seems Karmanos and Rutherford have no problem breaking out the checkbook — something they’d almost certainly have to do for Parise, who could be eyeballing that nine-year, $60 million deal Brad Richards signed with the Rangers last summer.

But will Parise make money his main priority? Other teams rumored to be interested include Minnesota (the hometown allure) and Detroit (the “being centered by Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg” allure).