Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold said it best in his opening comments of Monday’s press conference at the Xcel Energy Center:
“Somebody pinch me,” he said before introducing the two biggest free-agent signings ever in Wild history. “Because I feel like I’m still dreaming.”
Minnesota managed to set off fireworks early on the Fourth of July, signing the National Hockey League’s top free agents in this year’s market with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise agreeing to terms for identical 13-year, $98 million deals.
And just like that, with two strokes of the pen, the Wild are relevant again and look to be a top contender. Talk about fireworks that had the whole league abuzz.
As most know by now, it’s not easy being a Minnesota sports fan in general. And for a state dubbed “The State of Hockey,” it became just as painful to see our beloved hockey team fail to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year this past season and struggle to produce the way fans had hoped since gaining back a professional hockey team in 2000.
A jolt of life was wanted — no, needed — as passionate fans salivated at the possibility of these two prolific players, both young and in their prime at just 27, coming to aid a team that had never yielded a star of either of their status’ in the franchise’s young history.
On the offensive side Parise is one of the best. He helped push his former New Jersey team to the Stanley Cup finals before falling to Los Angeles. He posted 31 goals and 69 points during the season.
Icing on the cake is the strong tie Parise has to Minnesota. A native, Parise’s dad, J.P Parise, played for the Minnesota North Stars, while the young hockey star began his career alongside superstar Sidney Crosby at Shattuck-St. Mary’s before heading to famed Minnesota Gopher rival, North Dakota, for an equally stellar collegiate career before turning pro.
“I hope everyone can forgive us for where we (Parise himself and new teammate Suter) chose to play college,” joked Parise, adding how Suter was as much of a rival playing for Wisconsin. “But the idea of coming home and being around family had a big impact on me. Every kid who grows up in Minnesota would love to play for the Wild. That’s the way it is.
“And I can tell you we’re both excited to be here now.”
And the fans should have just as much excitement for the arrival of Suter. While the Wild have always been fairly strong on the defensive end, Suter’s size and ability to play the blue line is nearly unparalleled, thought by many to be the equivalent of his former Nashville Predators line mate, Shea Weber, as far as defensive skills go.
Hailing from Madison, Wis., Suter has ties to the area not only living in the state next door, but with his wife calling Bloomington home. Ties to Parise haven’t gone unnoticed by many onlookers as well, with the two admitting they had talked about playing together throughout the years after teaming up on Team USA to win the gold at the World Junior Championships in 2004 and again for a silver at the 2010 Olympics.
Only heightening the excitement for fans is the idea of the young prospects that are coming up through the ranks in Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Jason Zucker who are expected to make a big impact of their own.
Still, only time will tell how the season pans out, but I can tell you that I am looking forward to October more than ever and it was a move that certainly had this girl gone (Minnesota) Wild.