Zach Parise and Ryan Suter just signed matching 13-year, $98 million contracts to join the Minnesota Wild, once again making a team relevant that has not made the playoffs since winning the division in 2007-08.
The two players have one goal in mind: winning a Stanley Cup in the State of Hockey.
The signings have been a called a coup. Suter appeared to be a great replacement for Nicklas Lidstrom in Detroit, and Parise could have joined forces with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.
Both players could have stayed with their respective teams as well. Suter had Shea Weber in Nashville (at least for another year), and GM David Poile locked down goaltender Pekka Rinne. In New Jersey, Parise took his team to the Stanley Cup Finals alongside superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and legendary net-minder Marty Brodeur.
But the two men came to win a championship in Minnesota (two dudes and a cup?), a hockey-mad state that has never won it before. It came close in 1981 when the North Stars (R.I.P.) lost to the New York Islanders dynasty (we're building a grave right next to ours for you guys), and then were defeated a decade later by Mario Lemieux's Pittsburgh Penguins (you too almost croaked).
The thought of Lord Stanley's mug in the great state of Minnesota is not far-fetched.
Mikko Koivu should rack up assists with Parise at his side. Highly touted prospect Mikael Granlund can play with the San Jose boys, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, on the second line. Suter and Minnesota native Tom Gilbert will anchor a young defensive corps consisting of Nate Prosser (26), Marco Scandella (22) and Jared Spurgeon (22).
The nearly $200 million Craig Leopold threw down in this deal is astronomically more than any Minnesota professional team has ever spent on a free agent.
It certainly tops the $19.4 million spent on Kim Johnsson. It's more than the $34 million Kevin McHale gave Joe Smith (remember him?). It tops the $21 million the Twins gave Willingham (seriously, that's their biggest free-agent signing in team history) and the $49 million Steve Hutchinson got to join the Vikes.
The Wild have set a new standard for Minnesota sports. We the taxpayers gave you nice stadiums to play in, so now you, the owner, must spend the money necessary to win—no more lopsided Johan Santana and Kevin Garnett trades, or letting Marian Gaborik and Sidney Rice walk away for free.
There are no more excuses: The Target Center, Excel Energy Center, Target Field and whatever the new Vikings stadium will be called should not implode during a hearty winter, and therefore you are not allowed to blow up our teams.
With that said, let's not forget that sound drafting and player development are still required to build a champion. Before Leopold bought the team in 2008 and brought in GM Chuck Fletcher, the Wild had drafted A.J. Thelen (zero NHL games played), Benoit Pouliot (threw temper tantrums and was dealt), James Sheppard (never healthy, dealt) and Colton Gillies (waived).
In order to win, Granlund and prospects Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips and Jonas Brodin will all be expected to produce in the near future.
Today, the tandem put our minds at ease by signing two premier free agents, but for them to erase the dark years from our memory, the Wild need to do one thing:
Win a Stanley Cup in the State of Hockey!
Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.
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