Free Agency 2012: Wild land Parise and Suter
One can name the Wild’s greatest moments on a single hand: the unveiling of the nickname in 1998, the first home game in 2000, and a Western Conference finals birth in 2003 that came on the back of two separate 3-1 series comebacks.
Since then, the mood has dampened where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers converge. Former fan favorite Sergei Zholtok, a key contributor on the famed 2003 team, passed away during the lockout in 2004. Star forward Marian Gaborik, the team’s first draft pick, departed for New York in 2009 after showing only flashes of his talent through an injury plagued stint with the Wild.
Then tragedy struck last summer. Derek Boogaard, the mammoth enforcer that fans affectionately called “the Boogie Man” died of an apparent pill overdose. A few months following Boogaard’s passing, former center Pavol Demitra perished in the Lokomotiv plane crash that claimed 43 lives.
Minnesota’s misery culminated in a remarkable fall from top spot in the West at Christmas to missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Now with two signatures GM Chuck Fletcher has turned the fortunes around of the increasingly moribund franchise.
The Minnesota Wild have surprised many across the league by signing both marquis free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to long term deals.
Both deals are worth $98 million over 13 years.
The two coveted free agents fully emerged after stellar performances for Team USA at the 2010 Olympics.
For many, Suter was the best American defenseman in Vancouver. He routinely shutdown the opponent's best line as the team earned the silver medal.
While in Nashville, the now former Predator teamed with Shea Weber to form one of the more formidable defensive pairings in the game. As the two progressed so too did the Preds, reaching the second round of the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Suter's stock has never been higher after a year in which he put up 46 points, a +15 rating, and played a staggering 26 minutes per game.
He leaves Nashville to bolster a promising if unproven Minnesota blue line. He’ll also likely serve as the linchpin on the team’s anemic power play.
Suter is an intelligent if not flashy passer. In other words, he may not show up on the high light reel but he'll never miss the tape.
While the big defenseman will help in preventing goals, Zach Parise will boost an offense that finished dead last in scoring in 2011-12.
In his last six seasons in New Jersey, the Devils Captain reached thirty goals five times, only missing the mark due to injury in 2010-11.
He joins a Wild team that hasn't had a thirty goal scorer since 2007-08.
Parise will likely play the wing for Mikko Koivu's top line, a combo that could see each reach career numbers. The left winger has never had the luxury of having a deft passer like Koivu as a centerman. Fifty goals is not out of the question.
In Parise, Not only do the Wild receive one of the best forwards in the game, but they also they get the best Minnesota born player since Neal Broten.
Whispers of Parise could be heard across the State of Hockey well before the Devils captain flirted with free agency.
Now the Wild, and more importantly the fans, have their man. Parise will be greeted as a celebrity rarely seen in the North Star state.
He could be for the Wild what fellow Minnesota native Joe Mauer is for the Twins: A homegrown centerpiece of the franchise whose presence alone will draw a crowd.
Suter's signing is a bonus; like getting a second prize in a box of cereal. And Wild fans have been treated to staleness for too long.
Expect those sweaters to be flying off the Mall of America's shelves real soon. Happy Fourth of July indeed.