- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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The idea took serious form about 36 hours before their career-altering decisions.
Wouldn’t it be fun to play together?
And with that, when at first on July 1 it appeared as though Team USA buddies Ryan Suter and Zach Parise might find different NHL homes, phone calls and text messages over the last day and a half before D-Day brought them together to Minnesota.
For Parise, that meant an emotional goodbye to New Jersey, the team he confirmed ended up as runner-up for his services. Hardly a shock there.
For Suter, it meant saying goodbye to Nashville and turning down a mighty enticing offer from Detroit, the finalist along with Minnesota.
These were gut-wrenching decisions. Parise described how difficult it was to call up Lou Lamoriello and explain his exit, a decision that the veteran Devils GM took with his usual class. Suter had to say no to Detroit just a day after the Red Wings flew to see him in Madison, Wis., with a contingent comprising owner Mike Ilitch, future Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, GM Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock. Gulp, hard saying no to that group after all the winning they’ve been doing the past 20 years.
And certainly, Suter had to call GM David Poile in Nashville with the bad news as well as phone up his good buddy and longtime defense partner, Shea Weber -- the latter, according to Suter, fully understanding his decision.
But Minnesota it was.
There could have been more than $98 million each available in Philadelphia, Flyers sources saying they would have blown the competition out of the water with their offers to both players. And a lot of money was available as well in Pittsburgh or Chicago, the allure of playing with Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews hard to resist.
But the duo went to Minnesota, home for Parise, home for Suter’s wife.
So perfect, a source told ESPN.com, that when it appeared the money was tilted more toward Parise’s way in negotiations, the former Devils captain made a point of ensuring that both he and Suter would have to make the exact same money if they came as a package deal: hence two identical, $98 million contracts forged from the now-less-deep pockets of Wild owner Craig Leipold.
Many will criticize Leipold for spending like this, especially since he’s expected to have a role in CBA talks this summer with the league. Tough to cry poor now to the players, right?
But just like Sidney Crosby’s deal in Pittsburgh, these two Wild signings surpass pure wins and losses on the ice and it’s not just about ticket sales, either. This is about big-picture thinking, about multifaceted revenue streams, about image and optics. The Minnesota Wild finally matter. Big time.
And it tells you how much these two players wanted to play together given that their respective agents aren’t best of friends, Parise represented by Wade Arnott and Don Meehan of the hugely successful hockey firm Newport Sports, and Suter by former NHLer Neil Sheehy, Parise’s former agent. There certainly wasn’t going to be a game plan forged together by those rival agents.
This was about two Olympic teammates wanting this to happen and taking the initiative.
And for that, who can possibly begrudge them?
Certainly, Poile was not terribly understanding. He sounded a bit rattled on his media call Wednesday and you really do have to empathize with the Predators GM. He was willing to dish out $90 million over 13 years, and perhaps even more so lamented that Suter didn’t give him the ability to match at the 11th hour.
Truth is, given the decision by Parise and Suter to play together in Minnesota, it wasn’t going to matter how much the Predators offered.
So what now?
For Nashville, it means trying to replace Suter on the blue line but more importantly, convincing captain Shea Weber (an RFA) to sign long-term despite Suter’s exit. That’s not going to be easy. And if Weber balks at a long-term extension this summer, Poile has no choice as far as I’m concerned: trade his rights.
Here’s hoping Poile can convince Weber to stay. The Predators, a well-organized franchise that does things the right way, deserve a break.
Meanwhile, with the Big 2 finally signing, here comes the domino effect.
Purposely waiting on Parise to sign, the Columbus Blue Jackets will step up efforts to deal Rick Nash, and the Anaheim Ducks will also circle back to jilted Parise suitors and ask them how they feel about Bobby Ryan.
The New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Jose, Philadelphia and Carolina, according to sources, all have interest in Nash, who controls his fate via a no-movement clause.
Ryan is a cheaper cap hit, so my guess is the Ducks will call some of those same teams and see if there’s a fit, as well.
Did I mention Roberto Luongo hasn’t been traded yet?
Buckle up, there’s more fun coming.