By PATRICK SLACK
For Minnesota Wild fans, the only time period that has rivalled the excitement and nerves generated in the past 48 hours was probably the team’s run to the 2003 Western Conference finals.
The franchise has succeeded financially due to a loyal, passionate fan base, but has struggled to elevate itself in a market that, although not competitively relevant in recent years, has plenty of options for ticket-buyers to choose from.
All of that could change depending on what shakes out in free agency at some point within the next few days.
Zach Parise, a hometown hero and one of the biggest names to hit free agency in the history of the sport, will soon decide where he will play for the next decade, thus creating a reverberating ripple effect on nearly every team in the sport.
For the Wild, their chances of reigning in a marquee star from outside their organization will never be greater.
If Parise signs with the team, perhaps fellow star free agent Ryan Suter joins him. Maybe not.
Regardless, Parise would be joining Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund, very solid players yet not top-flight scorers, as well as a deep group of prospects that would form a formidable nucleus capable of competing for the Stanley Cup.
Additionally, another supporting piece or two would likely find the Wild a much more attractive destination, or a key piece may choose to stay with the organization instead of looking for a team with a better chance of winning.
If Parise opts to sign elsewhere, the Wild will still have a good group of prospects to build from, but the odds there’s a Parise in the group are small.
Plus, nothing less than a run matching or exceeding the 2003 team will bring in the level of excitement an above-average Parise-led team would.