Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have both agreed to 13-year mega contracts with the Minnesota Wild. The Wild confirmed the signings on their website Wednesday.
"WE GOT 'EM! Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are coming to the #mnwild!" the team posted on Twitter, launching a Fourth of July celebration that on a 100 degree day has Minnesota hockey fans looking forward to ice.
Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo reports the Parise deal is worth $98 million over those 13 years. Terms of Suter's deal have not been disclosed.
"Ryan and I had talked through the year about playing together," Parise said on media conference call Wednesday afternoon. "We kept in touch throughout the process and we decided and are excited to play with each other."
"This is a great day in the history of the Minnesota Wild," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement on Wild.com. "We are extremely excited to add the collective skill, experience and character of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to an already promising roster. We view this as a rare opportunity for us to transform our franchise by adding two marquee players, who are both in the prime of their careers, at the same time. I am grateful to Zach and Ryan and I am also thankful for the substantial commitment and support of Craig Leipold throughout this process. This is a huge step forward in our quest to bring a Stanley Cup to the deserving fans of the State of Hockey."
HOMETOWN HOCKEY HEROES
Parise scored 31 regular season goals last season with the New Jersey Devils before exploding for eight goals and seven assists in a deep playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals. It was reported that Parise was agonizing over the decision before returning home to the Twin Cities to talk it over with family.
Zach Parise was born in Minneapolis and is the son of former North Stars player J.P. Parise. He played at hockey powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's and the University of North Dakota.
"The opportunity to play at home meant a lot to me. My parents were excited. I love coming back here in the summer," Parise said. "Every kid growing up in Minnesota would love to play with the Wild. That's the way it is."
Suter, 27, the 7th overall draft pick in 2003, gives the Wild the blue chip defenseman and blue line threat perennially absent from the franchise. Suter scored a career-high 46 points last season with the Nashville Predators, where he has spent his entire career until now.
MINNESOTA FANS A 'SECRET WEAPON'
Predators president and general manager David Poile said Suter's decision came down to "family reasons."
"I felt like we had a ‘secret weapon' working in our favor during these negotiations…the spirit and dedication of you fans of the State of Hockey," said Wild owner Craig Leipold. "It's no secret that both Zach and Ryan have strong ties to this area. They've had first-hand experience with the extraordinary pride and unrelenting passion of our fans. Ultimately, I firmly believe that you fans were the deciding factor in their decision and so my final "thank you" is reserved for you."
BIGGEST FREE AGENT SIGNINGS IN MINNESOTA HISTORY?
The signing of Parise and Suter is possibly the biggest free agency haul in Minnesota sports history – even more than the Vikings' acquisition of Brett Favre.
"This is, without a doubt, the biggest day in the history of the franchise, and the Wild have to immediately begin to be thought of as not only a playoff team, but a real threat," Wild blog Hockey Wilderness posted in reaction. "Let that soak in for a minute Wild fans. Take a moment out of your Independence Day celebrations and celebrate the fact that the Wild actually do exist. Take a moment, then try to put your feelings into words and tell your thoughts on these two rather massive signings."
Russo reports the glue to the deal could have been Jake Dowell – an Eau Claire, Wis. native who is friends with Parise and played with Suter at Wisconsin. The Wild agreed to a two-year deal with Dowell.
The signings give the Wild a projected first line of Parise, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Suter and Jared Spurgeon.
"Teams can look good on paper and don't make the playoffs," Parise said. "We like what they are doing here."
The Minnesota Wild are already capitalizing on their two new stars, keeping phone lines open on the Fourth of July holiday for season ticket sales. Operators are standing by until 5:00 p.m. at 651-222-WILD.
With Ryan Suter out of town, the Wild are waiting until Monday to introduce the players.