Zach Parise & Ryan Suter to Minnesota Wild: Why Wild Are Stanley Cup Contenders

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Zach Parise & Ryan Suter to Minnesota Wild: Why Wild Are Stanley Cup Contenders
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The unfathomable is now a reality.

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, arguably the two most sought-after free agents in a decade, have finally signed their respective contracts.

In the exact same state.

For the exact same contract length.

Carrying the exact same cap hit.

With a now far-different Minnesota Wild.

As reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune via Twitter, Parise and Suter have both officially agreed to terms with Minnesota:

Parise will earn $98 million over 13 years, equal to a cap hit of just over $7.5 million. Per ESPN's Pierre LeBrun:

LeBrun also confirms that Suter has received an identical contract from the Wild:

It's a pair of shocking decisions that immediately skyrocket the Minnesota Wild into Stanley Cup contention.

The Wild, in fact, led the league in points for much of November and December before a disastrous slump dropped the squad to 12th in the Western Conference by season's end.

This year, however, they have different plans.

Parise's addition will transform what was originally a league-worst offense into an explosive, top-loaded group. 

Despite finishing dead last in the NHL with only 166 goals last season—22 fewer than the second-worst total—the team found bright spots in veteran Dany Heatley and up-and-comer Kyle Brodziak, the team's only two 20-goal scorers.

Now, Parise's presence in the group will give the Wild a top line to contend with.

The former 45-goal scorer is coming off of an impressive 31-goal, 69-point campaign with the New Jersey Devils, and—disregarding his injury-plagued 2010-11 campaign—has averaged over 35 goals and 74 points over the last five seasons.

Alongside Heatley and veteran Mikko Koivu, Parise will be able to prosper as the team's clear-cut star scorer while helping to improve the statistics of his fellow linemates. That trio will be followed by an underrated second-line of Brodziak, Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen, each of whom scored 35 or more points last season.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Even with Parise, the six-some can't be called one of hockey's elite, but it will serve as a tremendous improvement over last season's debacle.

Defensively, however, Minnesota may now have the best blue line around.

Ryan Suter will enter the lineup as the team's No. 1 all-around defenseman, without a doubt. The 27-year-old has recorded more than 30 assists for four consecutive seasons and finished among Nashville's top-four shot blockers for a whopping five years running.

He'll likely pair up with unheralded 29-year-old Tom Gilbert, who logged over 30 minutes of ice time in six of his 20 games with Minnesota after a trade deadline move from Edmonton. Gilbert also registered 19 assists and 115 blocked shots in 67 games.

Youngsters Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, each only 22, will compose the team's impressive second pairing of defense. Assets like powerplay quarterback Kurtis Foster and 2011-12 hits leader Nate Prosser also stand in the fold.

From every perspective, it's a flawless defensive corps.

Futher, the Wild have also taken steps to fortify their long-questionable goaltending situation.

Under-the-radar backup Josh Harding was re-signed to a three-year, $5.7 million contract earlier this summer and could stand to become a dual starter in 2012-13, while longtime veteran Niklas Backstrom remains one of the most reliable netminders in the NHL.

Are the Wild now truly Stanley Cup contenders?

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Suter and Parise's signings transform this young Wild squad—already a sleeper to contend for a playoff spot next spring—into a viable championship contender in a matter of minutes.

Today's dual signings, indeed, seem simply surreal.

Once reality sets in, however, a new dream will begin to form in Minnesota.

The Stanley Cup.

 

Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. In that time, he has written more than 400 articles and received over 590,000 reads.

Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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