Free Agency Power Play Works For Wild

Has there ever been a bigger free agency splash by a Minnesota pro sports team than the one that occurred yesterday?

That’s what Grand Forks Herald reporter Brad Schlossman asked in this column that he penned for today’s editions.

The Minnesota Wild signed arguably the top two free agents available in the NHL this offseason, adding forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to 13-year, $98 million deals for each. Minnesota hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years, but everyone including Moorhead’s own Matt Cullen acknowledges that the bar has now been raised. 

It’s a pretty crazy scenario, really. Besides money and an extremely loyal fan base, it just doesn’t seem to me like the Wild have a whole lot to sell to free agents. It didn’t hurt that Parise is a Minnesota native and Suter’s wife has family in the state. And the Wild have the money to allow both players to play alongside each other.

It’s been a pretty forgettable decade-plus of existence, with one incredible playoff run in 2002-03 surrounded by years of flops. And during that time, at least until now, there’s been very few marquee players developed or signed by the team.

But that all changed on Wednesday. Parise and Suter are two of the best American-born players in the game. Parise is a good-scoring winger who once finished third in the NHL in goals scored in a season. Suter is an outstanding all-around defenseman who frequently is among the league leaders in assists at his position.

A lot of credit needs to be given to the Wild front office. By many of the accounts I’ve come across today, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher and Co. did a tremendous job selling the franchise’s future to Parise and Suter.

I heard one man call into a Twin Cities radio show and draw the inevitable comparison to LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh. They took their talents to South Beach, and Parise/Suter are taking their talents to the south beach of Lake Minnetonka, he said.

It’s a funny line. But hockey is not basketball, and two players can’t on their own elevate a franchise to the sport’s elite on the ice the way it can on the court. Minnesota will need other players to develop.

But having said that, the Wild should be a playoff team next season. And as the Los Angeles Kings showed as the No. 8 seed last season, all you need is to get into the playoff field.

5 Responses

  1. Arlan

    I have heard others compare the signing of these two to the Twins signing Mauer and Morneau. When you have a large percentage of your salary tied in two guys, it doesn’t leave much to surround them with quality players.

  2. Don

    Their yearly salaries are not that big of hit to the cap space. I think they are going to be around $7.5 million a year. By all reports both could have signed at other places for a lot more money.

    1. The cap hit is $7.5 but they’re actually making like $12 million a year on the front end and hardly anything in years 11-13, but I suppose that this structure was available from any other club that was willing to sign them. Look for the NHL to tighten the cap rules in the next collective bargaining agreement to address these front loaded contracts.

      In any case the Wild, I think, are only about $2 million under the cap at this point so they don’t have much room to make other improvements, at least this year. I’m not sure who’s coming off the salary cap rolls and for how much going forward though so perhaps they’ll be able to make additional free agent moves over the next couple of years and/or have room to retain players they like.

  3. Part of the reason the Wild have so little money left available is because of goaltending. I heard earlier this offseason that the team has more money tied up in goaltending than any other team in the NHL.

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