Hometown Ties could bring big time Free Agents to Minnesota
In their short existence, the Wild's biggest foray into free agency was losing Marian Gaborik to it in 2009. But after their most disappointing season yet and without a playoff series victory since 2003, the Wild are preparing to make big moves come July 1. They hope home cooking will help.
Both New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter have ties to the Twin Cities area. Parise, the son of former North Star great J.P., grew up in Minneapolis and attended the famed Shattuck St. Mary's High School south of the Twin Cities.
Although Ryan Suter himself hails from Madison, Wisconsin (where he played his college hockey for the Badgers), his wife is from Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.
The Wild enter the free agency period nearly twenty million dollars under the projected $70.1 million cap. Minnesota can afford to offer both men high end deals that would keep them among the league's highest paid players.
Beyond the hometown allure, the Wild boast one of America's best pure hockey markets. No disrespect to Nashville or Newark, but no one refers to New Jersey or Tennessee as "the state of hockey," a moniker Minnesota adopted long before the Wild's inception in 2000.
Minnesota's home ice advantage at the "X" as the fans call it is one of the strongest in the league. The prospect of playing in front of raucous crowds from October through April could appeal to Parise and Suter, noted big game performers.
Still, both men enter free agency in the prime of their careers at 27 years old. In the last few years each has experienced heartbreak in big moments.
Both were members of the silver medal winning US olympic team that fell to Canada in overtime in 2010. More recently, Parise captained the Devils team that lost to the Kings in six games in the Stanley Cup finals.
Suter's Predators have bowed out in the second round the last two years. In other words, both men want to win and win soon.
If the Wild can convince Suter and Parise that they will be the final pieces in turning a rebuilding team into a contender, they still have a shot at signing one if not both of the marquis free agents.
The organization has a deep cast of top prospects that should be making an impact on the league in the near future. They also kept their impressive goalie tandem in tact by resigning steady backup Josh Harding earlier this offseason.
The addition of a top line forward and a shutdown, puck moving defenseman would give the Wild a formidable roster in a weak division.
Furthermore, the Western Conference is as open as ever. The eighth-seeded Kings just won the Stanley Cup, and a number of reported player movements could change the landscape out West completely.
Nick Lidstrom retired leaving the once dominant Red Wings without their best player. Rumors have stars Roberto Luongo, Shane Doan, Shea Weber, and the aforementioned Suter on the move from their respective playoff teams.
With two signatures on Sunday, the Wild could assert themselves as bonafide favorites in a suddenly open West.
For Wild fans, they hope Parise and Suter can go home again.
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