In five days, two of the biggest players in the history of the New Jersey Devils franchise will officially have the option to move on.
Although those two players have very different off-season plans ahead of them, the Devils would like to ensure that they are both back in October in red and black, with plenty of work to be done.
Long-time goaltender Martin Brodeur recently returned from a vacation with his family where he went to discuss his plans for his career moving forward. Before leaving, he said he was nearly positive that he was going to come back, and that he simply needed to discuss the matter with his wife and kids.
Brodeur also said that he wanted to have his decision set by July 1, the day when free agency opens up for all unrestricted free agents.
After speculation following the Devils' loss to the Kings in game six of the Stanley Cup Final that Brodeur could possibly play elsewhere in 2012-2013, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello put that to rest, saying that "Marty will be a Devil for as long as he wants to be."
With that said, there should only be a matter of time until Brodeur lets the Devils know for sure if he wants to come back next season. If that is a yes, which he has hinted that it most likely will be, Brodeur will likely be signed to a one-year deal that could ensure that he finished his career off in New Jersey.
Then, there's Zach Parise.
For the last three weeks, every Devils fan -- and pretty much every hockey fan -- has seen all the possibilities for the Devils captain, who will become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday.
For the Devils, the best-case scenario is obviously Parise and the Devils coming to terms on a long extension before Sunday. Before the Penguins, Wild, Red Wings, Rangers or anyone can even talk to him.
That simply does not seem like a possibility.
With talks of the Wild throwing Parise anywhere from $100-million to $117-million deals, it seems only normal that he would wait and test free-agency waters over the next few weeks.
The Penguins opened the possibility of signing Parise this past week when they traded Jordan Staal and freed up cap space for the future.
The Rangers will likely still take a run at Parise, despite his remarks two weeks ago when he said he would not sign with them. They are the Rangers, and they do believe they have the chance to sign everyone and anyone, so expect general manager Glen Sather to give Parise a call.
The Red Wings have been in the race since the beginning of talks, and other than the Devils, they are the most success-proven team that is interested in the Devils winger. The Wild, Rangers and Penguins simply don't have the same chances and stats that the Devils and Red Wings can bring to the table, along with surrounding him with a winning attitude and solid players.
Reports said that the Devils and Parise would begin talks on Monday, and it will be hard to tell if there is any progress until Sunday.
For now, Devils fans can only hope.
When the Devils were welcomed home by hundreds of fans standing in the rain following their ousting in the Stanley Cup Final, the fans around Parise's SUV chanted, "Come back, Zach."
Parise told them, "Don't worry."
Well, soon enough, fans will start to worry. And soon enough, there will be an answer to the biggest off-season question in the history of the Devils franchise.