Image courtesy of wild.nhl.com
There were big teams in competition for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the two biggest free agents of the season. The Penguins, the Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks (specifically for Parise), even the Carolina Hurricanes were tossed about as probable destinations for the two players. Glamorous places, all. Filling Nicklas Lidstrom's spot on the Detroit blueline? Playing alongside Sidney Crosby or Patrick Kane? Who would want to pass any of that up? Or, even if it was a long shot, there was still a chance that both of the guys would sign with the Nashville Predators and the New Jersey Devils, their respective original teams.
No one really believed that the Minnesota Wild were in the mix, regardless of if the team popped up in rumors or not. They've missed the playoffs for the past four seasons, and while they have a decent prospect pool and some good goaltending -- and generally are a pretty ok team -- there wasn't the whole allure of joining a ready-made contender. Folks overlooked the fact that Suter and Parise might just be the final ingredients needed to create that contender.
The Wild didn't overlook that. They knew that they had family on their side. Parise is from Minnesota, and Suter's wife is as well. You can emphasize loyalty to one team as much as you want, but you can't fight family. Nashville GM Davil Poile basically said as much, despite being disappointed at his former defenseman's decision:
"I think disappointment would not adequately describe the word I would like to choose," Poile said. "Disappointed and little surprised based on all the conversations we've had."
Poile said the Predators were not given last chance to match the Wild's reported offer of 13 years at $98 million. "We asked him what the reason was and he said it was for family reasons," Poile said.
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello basically said as much as well. The Devils were up ther until the process' very end, but there's some appeal there for playing in front of your family and your home state 41 times a season. Also, Suter and Parise are two Team USA vets who both expressed interest in playing with each other.
The Wild laid down some serious cash for the two players, signing them to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts. You can't deny that this signing puts the Wild back on the map for the first time in a while. When you take into consideration the fact that the Wild were the best team in the NHL at one point last season before the wheels came off of the bus, there's a strong potential for them to be a major contender in the Western Conference next season.