NHL Lockout: How Can the Owners Explain Minnesota Signing Parise, Suter?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2012

The signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter flies in the face of the NHL's claims of financial angst.
The signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter flies in the face of the NHL's claims of financial angst.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It was one of the most remarkable days of the summer.

Free agency had started July 1, and the main issue revolved around New Jersey Devils high-scoring forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators stud defenseman Ryan Suter.

These were the two big prizes of free agency, and teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins were said to be seriously interested in one or both of them.

So were the Minnesota Wild, but surely the team from the State of Hockey would not be serious players in this high-priced auction.

However, the Wild were not about to take this opportunity lightly. They made serious bids for both players and were successful in their effort.

Parise and Suter each signed 13-year, $98 million contracts to play with the Wild on the Fourth of July (source: CBSMinnesota). General manager Chuck Fletcher set the hook and reeled in the prize catches, but it was Minnesota owner Craig Leipold who supplied the bait.

The fireworks were exploding as the announcement was made.

It seemed like the Wild had joined the big boys in the NHL's Western Conference and that a playoff berth looked likely. Perhaps even more could result from the signings, including a long run in the postseason.

The play of the Wild was going to be one of the most interesting stories of the NHL season.

However, that story, like all the other preseason storylines, has been shunted to the background by the lockout that is still going strong in the middle of its fourth month.

That lockout is now threatening the season, much as the 2004-05 lockout canceled that season.

But how could the NHL, which is crying poor during this lockout and say that too many teams are losing money, sign two players to such exorbitant contracts?

How can they justify the lockout when two players command just under $200 million from the Minnesota Wild?

The Wild are not the Toronto Maple Leafs or New York Rangers. According to Forbes Magazine, the Wild are an average NHL team in terms of value. They rank 17th of the 30 teams and the financial magazine says they are worth $218 million.

The signing flies in the face of the argument that there are just a few well-heeled teams in the NHL and that only the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Canadiens or Red Wings could have made such a signing.

It seems the NHL is spewing at least one false premise as it tries to bleed as much from the players as possible during the lockout.

NHL Players' Association boss Donald Fehr and his staff can see the liberties the league is taking with the truth. That's one reason these "negotiations" have been so long and painful.

Until the league starts to be a bit more honest in the negotiations, the lockout is likely to last at least a while longer.