When news broke last week that the Minnesota Wild had come to agreements with star free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise on 13-year deals at a whopping $98 million each, reaction in many ways was mixed.
Long term deals don’t always pan out. The example most refer to is Rick DiPietro, the New York Islanders netminder who was signed to a 15-year, $67.5 million deal in 2006. Riddled with injuries and inconsistent play, the Islanders wish they could take a mulligan on the balance of the term.
Then there’s Roberto Luongo, the second best goaltender on his own team, likely to be moved any day now, who is signed through 2022 at a total cost of $64 million to the Vancouver Canucks. Not only does the money and term make getting much in return for Luongo a challenge, but also his no trade clause essentially allows him to pick where he plays next. It’s not an ideal situation for the Canucks.
Montreal Canadiens fans still lose sleep over the deal General Manager Bob Gainey made in the summer of 2009, trading for the talented but overpaid and undersized centre, Scott Gomez. The Habs paid Gomez $7.5 million last year. Despite his stellar reputation as a teammate, a safe bet is Canadiens management was looking for more than two goals and 11 points in return.
More recently, the New Jersey Devils singed an elite talent in Ilya Kovalchuk to a 15-year, $100 million deal. The Devils made the Stanley Cup Finals this year, but the verdict on the Kovalchuk deal won’t be in for a while – how can it be, he’s got 14 years to go!
What does this mean for the Minnesota Wild? Why sign two players when the money is high, the term is long and the return is largely uncertain?
You sign them because you have to. You sign them because attracting star athletes to a state where a block heater is a winter necessity isn't always easy. You sign them because both have strong ties to the area and want to be in “the State of Hockey.” You sign them because you haven’t been in the playoffs since 2007-08, and the paying customer demands better.
Finally, you sign them because your fanbase gets energized and gobbles up nearly 2,000 season tickets and more than 200 Parise and Suter jerseys in the following days.
After you sign them, you pray every day that you get a little more in return than the Canadiens and Islanders have.