Everybody wants Zach

Has there been a hotter ticket than New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise on the free-agent stage in the last 10 years?

You can see how badly he wants to win, the pistons pumping as he hunts down a loose puck in the neutral zone and sends it into the open net to ensure the Game 5 win for the Devils at Madison Square Garden.

He’s the engine that drives the Devils, with due respect to the big wheel Ilya Kovalchuk, who is much better than I thought he’d ever be when they gave him that lifetime contract as a free agent.

But how can there be room for both players next season and beyond when the Devils ownership is an absolute mess and Parise can easily get $8 million US on the open market?

The Devils have no wiggle room because Elias ($6 million) and Dainius Zubrus ($3.4 million) aren’t unrestricted free agents until July 2013, the same with Marek Zidlicky on defence.

There are four scenarios: Parise stays in New Jersey; he goes to Detroit, where the Red Wings will sell him on playing with Pavel Datsyuk, he slides over to the New York Rangers; or Parise, who turns 28 in July, goes home to suit up for the Minnesota Wild.

The Rangers know going after Parise is a better deal than trading for Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash and his $7.8-million salary in exchange for some young assets such as Chris Kreider, Tim Erixon, Derek Stepan or J.T. Miller, a 2011 first-round pick.

If I was handicapping, I’d say Parise winds up with the Red Wings, who have had pro scout Mark Howe watching him all season, with the Rangers No. 2, the Devils No. 3 and the Wild No. 4.