Ryan Suter and Zach Parise Signing Makes Wild Team to Beat in Western Conference

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJuly 4, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04:  Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils looks on as Dustin Brown #23, Anze Kopitar #11, Justin Williams #14 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrate Kopitar's goal in the second period of Game Three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

After dominating a much anticipated NHL free agency period that was highlighted by two star players, the Minnesota Wild are the team to beat in the Western Conference.

The two most highly-coveted players in the free agent pool, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, have come to terms with the Minnesota Wild.

Michael Russo of the Star Tribune broke the story first early Wednesday afternoon to make it a very happy July 4 for Minnesota fans. Not very long after, the Wild's official Twitter confirmed the acquisitions.

BREAKING: WE GOT 'EM! Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are coming to the #mnwild! More to come. After you exhale, RT to #WelcomeZachAndRyan

— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) July 4, 2012

The Wild have been just a blip on the radar of the Western Conference in recent years as they've failed to make the playoffs since the 2007-08 season when they lost in the first round. But that all changes now.

Let me get this straight: The Wild are not the best team in the West, nor are they favorites by any means. But after the level of revolving hype that this free agency has built around Suter and Parise, them both landing in the same spot puts a bulls-eye on their back.

Minnesota struggled mightily to score goals last season, finishing last in the league with 177 goals. In fact, that's 17 goals less than the next lowest total. But by adding Parise to the fold, it undoubtedly gave Suter a reason to believe that the lack of offensive efficiency wouldn't last.

Parise showed his leadership and efficiency throughout tough times last season. Even though he was written off as a sure-fire bet to change teams in the offseason, the Devils captain willed his team to a Stanley Cup final berth and showed no signs of giving up in an improbable run. The American is a threat to notch 40 goals, year in and year out. 

He finished with 69 points in the regular season in 2011-12 and added 15 points in New Jersey's playoff run. He'll join Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu to make a suddenly formidable attacking squad. 

Suter dominated the blue line alongside Nashville linemate Shea Weber on a Predators team that had one of the strongest cores in the NHL. It's unclear how heavy the drop-off will be after losing his gigantic linemate, but he's proven through adversity to be a strong defender and that shouldn't change in Minnesota.

If either player ever feels unmotivated at times, they can look at their ridiculous contracts and realize how important they are. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun outlines the deals on Twitter.

Ryan Suter also got same $98 million over 13 years with Wild

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) July 4, 2012

Deal is $98 million over 13 years for Parise

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) July 4, 2012

His ability to jump up on the offensive play will bode well for Minnesota's lack of scoring. Suter finished just outside the top 10 in defenseman scoring with 46 points. 

Suter will also be able to log ridiculously significant ice time with Minnesota and become an unheralded 30-minutes-per-game player. He finished third in the league with 26:30 of ice time per game last season. He'll likely play alongside Jared Spurgeon, who only notched six penalty minutes in 70 games last year.  

Although, the Wild have their work cut out for them if they're going to be formidable in a competitive Western Conference. Goals are slightly harder to come by than in the Eastern Conference, which Parise will have to get accustomed to. 

Regardless, Minnesota has attracted plenty of attention throughout this process and will be the team to beat come next season.