The Minnesota Wild won the offseason last summer.
Or at least they appeared to come out with the unofficial championship. When the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year, $98 million contracts last summer, the Wild announced to the world that they were no longer just an also-ran. They were supposedly a Western Conference player, capable of a long postseason run.
Parise, the former New Jersey Devils star, is off to a decent start. He has scored seven goals and five assists in his first 17 games. Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher has every right to expect more, but Parise has not been awful.
Suter, the former Nashville stud defenseman, is apparently feeling the pressure of his new deal. Suter has not found the back of the net yet. While he has nine assists, Suter has a minus-10 rating.
He certainly has time to turn it around, but he has been a disappointment. In addition to his unimpressive stats, the Wild are tied for 10th in the Western Conference, and that puts them on the outside looking in.
They have plenty of time to turn things around, but the start has a not been what Minnesota fans expected.
The Dallas Stars signed Ray Whitney to a two-year, $9 million free-agent contract in the offseason. Whitney was one of the Phoenix Coyotes' key components during their run to the Western Conference finals last year. Whitney has a broken foot and has only contributed two goals and four assists this season in eight games.
Whitney may not return to the lineup until mid-March, according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.
Filip Kuba was not a huge name during the free-agent signing period, but he has not been a great investment for the Florida Panthers after leaving the Ottawa Senators. Kuba signed a two-year, $8 million deal and he has three assists this season with a minus-10 rating.
The Panthers were Southeast Division champions a year ago, but they are all but out of contention in 2013.
The Wild did not stop after they signed Suter and Parise last summer. They also gave Torrey Mitchell a three-year, $5.7 million deal. While Mitchell is earning far less than either of the two huge names, he is still earning nearly $2 million per season. He has given the Wild one goal and one assist.
Defenseman Matt Carle got off to a decent start with the Tampa Bay Lightning after signing a six-year, $33 million deal and leaving the employment of the Philadelphia Flyers. However, Carle's play has slipped recently. He has three goals and six assists, but he has a minus-five rating.
Big-money contracts offer security and feel great on signing day. However, they create pressure and their own set of problems for many players.
Players like Suter, Whitney and Kuba will need extra time to show they are worth the investment, because the initial returns have not been good.
All contract figures provided by TSN.ca.