Welcome to LWOS Hockey’s summer series. After the historic 2016 NHL Free Agency period, it’s a good time to look at the best free agent signing in the history of all 30 NHL franchises. Up next: The all-time best Minnesota Wild free agent signing.
Make sure to check out the previous articles in our 2016 summer series here.
The All-Time Best Minnesota Wild Free Agent Signing
July 4, 2012, is a date that will always matter in the history of the Minnesota Wild. Four days into free agency two of the biggest names available, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter would sign with one of the youngest franchises in the NHL. The evaluation of these signings is still to be fully written, but early results have been favorable for both players.
— NHL (@NHL) July 4, 2012
Actually, it’s players in this case as well as a date: July 4, 2012. Independence Day 2012 is the most important event in Wild’s existence, with the possible exception of the franchises’ inception. And history, albeit one that only dates back to 2000, will certainly look back to this date as a pivotal day for the State of Hockey’s only professional squad.
In a single press conference, the Wild took two of the most desirable free agents off the market in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Native Son Comes Home, Wisconsin still close.
Parise had been a life-long New Jersey Devils winger and one of the most electric forwards available on the open market. Since entering the league in 2005, Parise is in the NHL’s Top 25 points scored with 619. His goal scoring ability as leadership were key components to give the Wild a spark. He had registered 194 goals and 216 assists as a focal point in the Devils offense. Hailing from Minneapolis, MN, the chance to return home was too great, despite the success of the Devils, for whom he was originally a 17th overall draft pick in the fabled 2003.
Ryan Suter, the nephew of NHL all-star and University of Wisconsin alum Gary Suter, also had spent his entire career with the Nashville Predators. He was taken in the first round, 7th overall at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Suter spent a year with the Wisconsin Badgers before joining the professional ranks. In a twist of fate, the Predators would also select Shea Weber from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, now well known as one of the premiere defenseman factories anywhere.
The younger Suter was fresh off a 46 point 2011-12 season in which the Predators enjoyed the services of their young stud defensemen seemingly for the last time. A mere two-weeks later the Philadelphia Flyers would extend an offer sheet to Shea Weber signed and Nashville matched. The cost-conscience Predators and more or less made Suter’s departure a catalyst for the retention of Weber.
The Wild had been a highly defensive team with the personality of longtime head coach Jacques Lemaire still in the teams’ DNA. Squeezing every bit out of the often talent-barren squad, the Wild depended on low scoring games and outstanding goaltending efforts to win on most nights. Adding the skilled native-son forward and steady two-way defender, was a bold move to change a club that finished dead last in goals for during the 2011-12 campaign.
Parise was an offensive catalyst that immediately transformed the Wild top line. A team starved for offense suddenly had a winger that could be a force on the scoresheet. Suter is an anchor that has led both the Wild and the entire NHL in time-on-ice since the 2012-13 campaign. Averaging over 28 minutes a night, he still had the energy to add 164 points while prowling the Minnesota blueline.
When the two players signed on the Fourth of July, 2012, they inked identical contracts both regarding dollar amount and term. The 13-year $98 million contracts were an enormous investment. The Wild were and are a middle-market NHL team that now had a pillar in both the forward and defensive units. The thought was to build around these two products of the Gopher State.
The deals also included full no-movement clauses. Meaning the two excellent players will be part of the Wild’s expansion protection list when Las Vegas, or any other franchise in the future, enters the league. There will be no latitude for the Wild to lose either of these contracts, which are subject to recapture should either Suter or Parise retire early. Also, it limits Minnesota to only two other defensive protection slots on a blueline with a few key prospects and young players that will take some wrangling not to lose for free.
Fireworks from these twin contracts are still happening. For the time, the contracts are a decent value for top line players. The key is that nine years remain on each of them, with Suter and Parise both past their 40th birthdays when they expire.
If the Wild make a serious Stanley Cup run or two, the deals are a success. The Wild added the anchors of both their forward and defensive corps in one swoop. However, if Minnesota still manages to make the playoffs largely as a team destined for an early exit this could be another example of general managers behaving badly on the NHL’s equivalent of Boxing Day.
Parise’s impact has been superb, with 209 points in 259 games for the Wild to lead the Wild since his arrival. Suter’s impact is best described as exceptional. Especially when considering his steady two-way play, point production and an incredible amount of minutes played.
The full impact of July 4, 2012, will not be felt for many, many seasons in Minnesota. Suter and Parise won’t be UFA’s again until 2025. But the impact to date has been impressive with plenty of time to add to the list of accomplishments.