Devils name Zach Parise captain

NEWARK, N.J. -- His future with the franchise may be in question, but the New Jersey Devils affirmed their commitment to Zach Parise by naming the 27-year-old winger team captain Wednesday.

Veteran forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias will serve as alternate captains.

Parise said he was taken by surprise when notified about the decision at a team meeting Wednesday morning, but he was thrilled, nonetheless.

"I'm excited for it," Parise said. "It's a big honor."

Coach Pete DeBoer said it was a group decision made by him, general manager Lou Lamoriello and the Devils' coaching staff.

"When you look at Zach as a coach, this guy plays the right way, prepares the right way, handles himself the right way. There's really not a lot of flaws in his character in how he plays the game," DeBoer said. "I've always been a believer that your best players -- if you're going to win -- have to be your most honest players. I think he fits that category."

Parise's contract status -- he is playing on a one-year, $6 million deal -- didn't factor into the decision, DeBoer said.

"Anything that doesn't happen on ice-level, I try to block out," he said.

Parise, who reached a deal in July to avoid arbitration with the Devils, cannot be re-signed until Jan. 1, 2012. Whether he remains with the organization that drafted him in 2003 or becomes a sought-after free agent remains to be seen. When asked about what the leadership post meant to his future with the team, Parise was ready.

"What did that take, five questions?" he said jokingly. "I was expecting that to be talked about today. I don't know how many times I have to say it: I'm here and I want to be here."

Although he missed almost all of last season with a knee injury, Parise has had four seasons of 30-plus goals, including a career-high season in 2008-09, when he scored 45 goals and had 49 assists.

"It's well-deserved," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "He's the future of the organization and he's grown to become a dominant player."

How will he stack up against other Devils captains?

"Well, he's got to stay here, that's the bottom line," Brodeur said with a laugh. "That's how we're going to know how good he is for [New Jersey] as captain."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.