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Wild land top forward, defenseman in Parise, Suter

Wednesday, 07.04.2012 / 5:12 PM / NHL Free Agency 2012

By Dan Rosen and Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writers

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Wild land top forward, defenseman in Parise, Suter
Wild land top forward, defenseman in Zach Parise, Ryan Suter

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter spent nearly 72 hours weighing lucrative offers from several NHL teams after the free agent market opened Sunday. For the Minnesota Wild, the payoff was worth the wait.

Minnesota landed the top two players in the free agent Class of 2012, agreeing to 13-year contracts with both Parise and Suter on Wednesday morning -- making it a Fourth of July celebration for the ages in the State of Hockey and a monumental day in the history of the young franchise.

Both deals are for 13 years and $98 million, which locks up each player through the 2024-25 season. Each carries a salary-cap hit of $7.538 million per season.

"This is a great day in the history of the Minnesota Wild," general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "This is a huge commitment on [owner Craig Leopold's] part, on our organization's part. It took a lot of courage and commitment for all of us to go after these players.

Minnesota landed the top two players in the free agent Class of 2012, agreeing to 13-year contracts with both Parise and Suter on Wednesday. (Photo: NHL.com Illustration)

"As for Ryan and Zach, we are extremely excited to add their skill, their experience and their character to what we feel is already a pretty promising roster."

There were reports this week that Parise and Suter had talked to each other about possibly playing together, and the Wild became the beneficiaries as one of the few franchises that could afford both of them.

Suter said it was late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning when the idea of both players signing with Minnesota started to look like a reality.

"Ryan and I have talked throughout the year," Parise said. "You always say to each other 'Wouldn't it be great to play with each other and to play on the same team.' Was it realistic all the time? I don't know. With different teams, you have to have the availability."

Parise said, "I know how great a player Ryan is. I played with him on different teams at several tournaments. To have the opportunity to play with a guy of that caliber is a great opportunity. We kept in touch throughout this process. You have to do what is best for you. We decided that for both of us the best fit would be Minnesota and we are excited that it worked out."

Parise was the Devils' captain this past season and played in New Jersey for his entire seven-year career after the Devils selected him in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft. He has 194 goals and 216 assists for 410 points in 502 games.

He had 31 goals and 38 assists for 69 points in 82 games this past season and helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2003. Parise confirmed that had he not chosen the Wild, he would have stayed with the Devils.

"There is no question we're disappointed," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "It's a very unfortunate thing when you have a player of his stature that has come right through the ranks and, at this given time, a decision is made to go elsewhere. Right now, there is nothing we can do about that and we'll just go forward.

"Our offer was competitive and we did not at any time have a phone call that we needed to change it or it had to go up. So it was competitive."

However, Parise couldn't resist the temptation to go home and play for the Wild. Not only is he from Minneapolis, his parents, including former NHL player J.P. Parise, still live there and Parise has a home in the Twin Cities area.

"It was a very big part of it," said Parise, who turns 28 later this month. "The opportunity to play at home meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to my family. My parents were so excited when they knew I was considering coming back home. They were very excited. When we made the decision, they were really excited. That played a big part in it. I grew up playing here and I love coming back in the summers. I just thought that we enjoy it here so much, it would be great to be here year round."

Parise played four seasons of high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minn. His father worked in the program when he was there. He went on to play two seasons at the University of North Dakota.

"This is a great day in the history of the Minnesota Wild. This is a huge commitment on [owner Craig Leopold's] part, on our organization's part. It took a lot of courage and commitment for all of us to go after these players."
-- Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher

The Wild need Parise to boost their offense. They were last in the NHL last season with 2.02 goals-per game and 27th on the power play at 15.1 percent. Parise has scored at least 30 goals in five of his six full seasons (he missed 69 games of the 2010-11 season with a knee injury). Parise scored 45 goals and put up 94 points in 2008-09.

Parise joins a forward group that already includes Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen. Mikael Granlund is considered one of Minnesota's top prospects and could make the team this coming season.

Suter, meanwhile, becomes the bedrock of the Minnesota defense.

He had seven goals and 46 points for the Nashville Predators this past season, forming arguably the League's top defensive pairing with Shea Weber and the backbone of a Stanley Cup contender along with goaltender Pekka Rinne.

A Madison, Wis., native, Suter averaged 26:30 of ice time per game in 2011-12, a career-high and the third-most in the League. He will be 28 years old in January, and Suter has collected at least 37 points in each of the past four seasons.

Suter joined the Predators at the start of the 2005-06 season and quickly developed into a franchise cornerstone. He has averaged at least 23:59 of ice time in each of the past four seasons.

Suter said the call to Nashville GM David Poile on Wednesday was one of the toughest he's ever had to make.

"Ryan has told me in every conversation that money was the not the most important criteria," Poile said in a conference call with reporters. "He told me today that our offer was substantial. He told me it was not about the money when it came to the final decision. As I said to him, and this was all the things that we had talked about, I said, 'I don't know why you are not signing with us,' and he told me it was for family reasons. I guess that is where the disappointment comes in. I know family is important in all this. I can't fight that or argue with that. The disappointing part is that is not what we talked about all year long. I think we met Ryan's desires and criteria on every front and so today is very, very disappointing."

Poile made three trades before the deadline in February, hoping to bolster the Predators for a Cup run and please Suter and Weber with the additions of Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad. He also welcomed back Alexander Radulov, who left the team despite being under contract to play at home in the Kontinental Hockey League before the 2008-09 season, near the end of the regular season.

The Predators dispatched Detroit in the first round, but Radulov and Kostitsyn were suspended for a game in the second round for breaking curfew, and Nashville lost to Phoenix in five games.

"As far as the future, we have to move on," Poile said. "We would like to get a defenseman to replace Ryan and we could do that in many ways. It could come as a free agent and it could come as a trade. I want to get the right player and the right fit. Secondly, more importantly, our focus turns to our captain, Shea Weber. He's a player that we want to build our team around. He's at the top of his game and is a Norris Trophy finalist. He knows what we think of him and we want him to be in Nashville for years to come."

Suter joins a Minnesota defense that has several young talents but lacked an anchor, a guy who can play more than 25 minutes and in all situations. Obviously, the Wild expect Suter to be that guy.

Minnesota welcomed the Wild into the NHL for the 2000-01 season, but in one day the 2012-13 edition has become the most talented roster in club history.

The Wild have made the playoffs only three times and advanced past the first round once, but they could be among the top contenders in the Western Conference with the additions of Parise and Suter, as well as the arrival of a few elite prospects in the near future.

Quote of the Day

Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals