With the addition of top free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter the Minnesota Wild have sent shock waves through the NHL. I am A Wild fan myself and going into the free agency period I held my breath hoping that Parise would decide to return home to play for the Wild. However, when I heard the news that Suter would also be joining Parise my excitement went through the roof of my 2001 Oldsmobile Alero.
The fact that both of them signed identical 13 year 98 million dollar deals is like a cherry on top for Wild fans. But how did the Wild manage to sign both of the top free agents on the market when so many “top contenders”(Pittsburgh, Detroit, New York, Chicago) had their sights on the two American born players? In an article written by Tal Pinchevsky, a staff writer for NHL.com, Tal points out that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had his sights set on this year’s free agency particularly because he knew Parise and Suter might be available. Fletcher decided not to spend big money in the last couple off seasons, which now in hindsight looks like a solid well thought out plan. Fletcher though, who won a Stanley Cup as an Assistant GM to Ray Shero in Pittsburgh did make big news last year at the draft in St. Paul by acquiring Danny Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from the Sharks as well as Zach Phillips (San Jose’s pick) while parting ways with Brett Burns and Martin Havlat.
The result of those deals hasn’t come to fruition yet, partly due to an injury ravaged roster in the second half of last season. I believe this lack of success in the second half last year gave Chuck the motivation and the absolute NEED to make his roster considerably better. Scoring and defense were issues for the Wild down the stretch (scoring historically), and adding a shutdown 24 minute type D-man like Suter and add a 30 goal scoring tenacious forward in Parise should help in both areas immediately.
So how good can the Wild actually be? Can they compete with Vancouver for the Northwest? Will the ‘Heater’ return to his old goal scoring ways with Parise now in the lineup and a Healthy Koivu centering them? Will Michael Granlund emerge as a rookie star like many think he will do? Can Niklas Backstrom return to his Vezina caliber form? All these questions and more will be debated for the next few months among Wild fans, and we will truly not know the answers until at least halfway through the season or longer. One thing is for certain though; Wild fans FINALLY have something to truly look forward to. And for 13 more years they can watch two of America’s best homegrown talent play in front of America’s best hockey town. These are exiting times in the ‘State of Hockey’.