The Minnesota Wild Twitter account said it all: “WE GOT ‘EM”.
The EM of course refers to the acquiring of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in free agency. Both signed identical 13 year, $98 million contracts ending their runs are free agents. Arguable the two best free agents on the market in the NHL this year have signed together in the hopes of bringing hockey back to relevancy in one of its great American States.
For the Wild, this is a massive win. Referred to as near afterthoughts in the negotiations for these players, they were used as a footnote on July 1st when reports surfaced that an offer was made to both on day one of free agency. Not looked at as one of the major players in the league, the Wild suddenly vault themselves into contender status in the West. In a division where the Canucks have dominated for now a few years, it seems like the competition will be much stiffer. We remember that the Wild were leading the Western Conference in December last year and were looked at as a surprise in the league. Captain Mikko Koivu got hurt and Dany Heatley stopped scoring and team regressed to their expectations falling well short of the playoffs.
While Parise and Suter on the surface don’t look like perennial super stars, ala Crosby and Chara, they certainly add enough to give this team realistic winning expectations. I half-heartedly tweeted today that Parise’s 69 points last season were just 2 more than P.A Parenteau who himself signed for 4 years and $16 million with the Avalanche earlier this week. On the surface, purely on numbers, the two are comparable but Parise offers elements that go beyond the box score. He’s a tough player that can be on the ice in every situation. He’s a leader in all rights, and someone not shy about being vocal. And now, he’s home, in a setting that will only feel too comfortable for the Minnesota native.
Many will ask why the two didn’t team up with the likes of Crosby and Malkin in Pittsburgh, or the legendary Red Wings. With the Wild, Suter and Parise have a chance to do it on their own, on their terms, and now not under the shadows of anyone else. It’s a huge risk, in terms of dollars and expectations, but both surely know that. I admire the risk, and the desire to bring a mediocre team up. I just wonder if in a year or two they’ll see the team staying stagnant and perhaps not adding around the two, simply for financial reasons, and regret the long commitment. It took 4 days for a decision to be made, but how many games it will take for Wild fans to lose their patience if the two struggle off the bat?