Stanley Cup in hand, Los Angeles Kings eye free agent Zach Parise


Whether it was Ilya Kovalchuk or Brad Richards, the Kings have managed to find a way to get in the picture for the flavor of the month, a means to get in the door.

Of course, literally getting in the door at the Toronto agency that represents Richards was a struggle last year for the Kings’ brain trust, live on national cable TV in Canada. But they did eventually get in after it was unlocked.

These forays were always interesting. The Kings were runners-up in the free-agent bidding for Kovalchuk two years ago and among the invited teams to pitch for Richards last July 1.

But that all was long before the Kings came armed with a certain shiny new recruiting accessory: The Stanley Cup.

The ramifications of their Stanley Cup championship and its impact on the free-agent market will be tested for the first time starting Sunday. NHL free agency starts at 9 a.m. (PDT) and the courtship of New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise is expected to be at the top of the Kings’ list.

Making a hard push for the telegenic leader makes sense on many levels. The Kings’ governor, AEG’s Tim Leiweke, the man who brought soccer icon David Beckham to Los Angeles, has a history of going after the big names in the bright lights.

The Kings have just enough cap room and a pressing need for scoring on the left side. New Jersey has the past and the loyalty factor working in its favor to keep Parise in the fold. Minnesota has the home-state appeal — Parise’s father, J.P. Parise, played for the North Stars, scoring a career-high 75 points in the 1972-73 season.

Pittsburgh? There’s the presence of someone named Sidney Crosby, whose close friendship with Parise dates to his days at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s High in Faribault, Minn., where both played, although not at the same time.

Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi has a way of crunching the numbers with his staff but joked a few days ago that he felt with free agency approaching he was “staring at that board in ‘Beautiful Mind,’ except nothing is calculating.”

The financial numbers in free agency undoubtedly will be biggest for Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter of Nashville. Trade speculation involving Rick Nash of Columbus and the Ducks’ Bobby Ryan was rampant during the NHL’s entry draft. But talks concerning Ryan aren’t expected to accelerate for another few days, until the pieces of Parise, Suter and Nash fall into place.

One of the other biggest questions for the Ducks is the playing future of franchise icon Teemu Selanne. GM Bob Murray said Saturday night that he and Selanne had exchanged texts and would talk in a few days. By then, a decision could be reached.

The Ducks did get resolution with one player. Defenseman Justin Schultz, whom they drafted in 2008, ended a frenzied period of speculation by announcing he will play in Edmonton. Schultz took advantage of a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement that allowed him to explore unrestricted free agency — he played an extra season of junior hockey in British Columbia before his three years at the University of Wisconsin and did not sign with the Ducks.