Ranking the 10 Best Player Acquisitions in Minnesota Sports History
In the history of Minnesota sports, there are plenty of things to forget. That's why when the Minnesota Wild announced they were signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to massive free-agent contracts on Wednesday afternoon, it got all Minnesota sports fans fired up.
With the addition of the two biggest names on the NHL free-agent market, it made me wonder what other free-agent signings have paid huge dividends for the franchises in Minnesota.
Of course, some acquisitions are better than others, and that's why we'll rank the best player acquisitions (free-agent pickup or trade) in Minnesota sports history.
10. Lindsay Whalen
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Personally, I've never been on the Minnesota Lynx bandwagon. I'm just not a fan of women's basketball. Still, you have to admit that the move to bring in Lindsay Whalen from the Connecticut Sun is one of the best player moves in franchise history.
Whalen was a star who rejuvenated women's basketball at the University of Minnesota with an appearance in the Final Four in 2004. After playing five seasons with the Sun, the Lynx acquired Whalen in a January 2010 trade that gave the team a leader who led them to the WNBA championship in 2011.
Again, I'm not the biggest fan of the WNBA, but the championship was the first major professional championship since the Twins won the World Series in 1991, and Whalen was one of the catalysts for it.
For that, the hometown hero needs to be mentioned in the top 10.
9. Steve Hutchinson
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Steve Hutchinson may be a little bit lower on this list than he should be, because the position of offensive lineman isn't exactly glorious. Still, Hutchinson was one of the first free agents the Vikings signed en route to building a team that would head to the NFC championship game in 2009.
Hutchinson had already built a reputation as a road grater for the running game from his days in Seattle, and he didn't disappoint when he came to the Vikings.
Hutchinson helped pave the way for Chester Taylor to pick up his first 1,000-yard season and helped turn Adrian Peterson from college superstar to the best running back in the National Football League.
Hutchinson's presence on the Vikings made the Vikings a dangerous running team during his seven-season tenure with Minnesota, and he was one of the best free-agent pickups in history.
8. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
The newest duo of Minnesota free-agent victories comes in early on the list because they have yet to play a game for the Wild. However, it's what they bring to the table that puts them in the top 10.
This has never happened before in the history of Minnesota sports. The Wild were able to sign two of the best players in the NHL who were on the open market. Both of them are in the primes of their careers and wanted to come to Minnesota.
People have made plenty of comparisons for the Wild's haul, but there really isn't one. The Miami Heat comparison is just too lazy, and Parise and Suter didn't collaborate years ago on coming to Minnesota.
Time will tell if this duo can climb the list, but if they can bring the Stanley Cup to Minnesota, they could rival for top-three status.
7. Jared Allen
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The Minnesota Vikings needed a pass-rusher prior to the 2008 season and tried to lure Antwan Odom and Justin Smith via free agency. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they whiffed on both and were forced to look at the trade market to fill that void.
Actually, that might have been a giant blessing in disguise, as the team landed Jared Allen.
Allen is another player on this list who hasn't won a championship, but he's a great player who the Vikings landed via trade.
Since dealing for Allen from the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen has registered 62 sacks for the Vikings and had a chance to break Michael Strahan's single-season sack record with 22 sacks in 2012.
Allen has become one of the leaders of the team since his arrival, and with the team in rebuilding mode, it will be interesting to see what he can do going forward.
6. Joe Nathan
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The greatest trade in Minnesota sports history was the trade that sent A.J. Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants.
In that deal, the Twins received two solid starters in Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano. However, the biggest haul for the Twins was receiving one of the best closers of all time in Joe Nathan.
Nathan has been one of the most dominant closers in the history of Major League Baseball, as he saved 260 games for the Twins and became the franchise's all-time leader in saves.
Say what you want about Nathan's failures in the postseason, but getting him in that Giants trade gave the Twins their closer for a majority of their success in the 2000s.
5. Cris Carter
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Early in his career, Cris Carter showed promise with the Philadelphia Eagles. In three seasons, the fourth-round supplemental draft pick from Ohio State caught 18 touchdowns and seemed to have a promising future with the team if it weren't for problems with drug abuse.
The Eagles cut ties with Carter prior to the 1990 season due to those problems. Head coach Buddy Ryan had a famous quote about Carter, saying, "All Cris Carter does is catch touchdowns."
Carter would catch plenty more when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Carter thrived under the tutelage of Anthony Carter and wound up becoming a Hall of Fame-caliber receiver with the purple and gold.
Carter would never win a championship with the Vikings, but he did cement his legacy as one of the greatest players in the history of Minnesota professional sports.
4. Shannon Stewart
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The Minnesota Twins were the defending AL Central champions in 2003, but they had gotten off to a scuffling start at 44-49 and found themselves seven-and-a-half games out of first place at the All-Star break.
With the Twins having to shake things up, the team traded Bobby Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shannon Stewart.
The result was the Twins being able to move Jacque Jones in the order and having a more prototypical leadoff man at the top of the lineup.
This helped the Twins go 46-23 in the second half of the season and win their second of three straight AL Central championships.
The Twins would get bounced in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, but Stewart was the player who got them into the playoffs in the first place.
3. Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell
The history of the Minnesota Timberwolves hasn't exactly had its share of memorable moments, but most came in the 2003-'04 season when the Wolves made it to the Western Conference finals.
Prior to that season, the Wolves had never advanced past the first round of the NBA playoffs. General manager Kevin McHale tried to give Kevin Garnett a legitimate supporting cast around him by adding Latrell Sprewell from the New York Knicks and Sam Cassell from the Milwaukee Bucks.
That was the spark Garnett and the Timberwolves needed, as they won their only division championship and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. After dispatching Denver and Sacramento, the Wolves fell short of the NBA championship after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
Still, Garnett won his only Most Valuable Player award that season, and Sprewell and Cassell played a big role in the team's success.
2. Jack Morris
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Jack Morris is close to being the top player acquisition ever, because he led the Twins to the 1991 World Series championship.
Morris was acquired as a free agent from the Detroit Tigers after compiling a record of 198-150 with a 3.73 earned run average. The St. Paul native immediately became the ace for the team, as they made the turn from the worst team in baseball in 1990 to world champions in 1991.
Of course, Morris' biggest moment was his 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the '91 World Series. Morris dueled with John Smoltz throughout the game, as each man threw a gem that eventually ended on Gene Larkin's sac fly in the bottom of the 10th.
Morris would leave Minnesota to go to Toronto the following season, but his impact was clearly one of the biggest in Minnesota sports history.
1. Brett Favre
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In August 2009, the unthinkable happened: Brett Favre became a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
This is easily the top player acquisition in the history of Minnesota sports, because of the historical impact and fan euphoria that the move caused.
When Favre made his way to Vikings headquarters in Winter Park in 2009 and 2010, he was greeted with a news chopper and fans who were lining the streets to get a view of the legendary quarterback and one-time nemesis when he was with the Green Bay Packers.
The payoff from Favre lasted one season, as he lead the Vikings to the NFC championship game with his best season of his career (33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions).
Even though Favre's performance dropped off considerably in year two amid a texting scandal with reporter Jenn Sterger, Favre added a different dynamic to the Vikings/Packers rivalry and arguably led the team to their best chance to win a Super Bowl.