By PATRICK SLACK
The contracts are huge.
The expectations are going to be even greater.
In one of the biggest free agency coups pulled off by a small-market team in professional sports history, the Minnesota Wild nabbed not one but both of this year’s available stars, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, to identical 13-year, $98 million deals Wednesday.
The idea of bringing in Parise sounded great a few months ago as free agency closed in.
But once it actually came, the usual suspects Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey and others opened up their checkbooks.
The idea that a player like Parise, even one who grew up in the state, would pass over those options in favor of a team with one playoff run of note in its 12-year existence, began to seem more and more far-fetched.
The longer the process stretched out, the more it appeared that Parise was strongly considering just heading back to New Jersey.
As it turns out, he was waiting on Suter.
Without Suter agreeing to play in Minnesota, the outcome very well might have been different. Suter almost assuredly wouldn’t have agreed to a rebuilding project without Parise.
But with both eager to play alongside one another and willing to ride out a year or two of waiting for some of the franchise’s top prospects to become ready, the Wild were able to pull off the stunner.
All of a sudden, the outlook of the entire franchise changes.
Remember the Minnesota Twins of the early 2000s?
That’s what the Wild were before yesterday: a franchise with a high volume of good, not great young players.
That led to an extended stretch of playoff runs, but without the necessary one or two “game-changers” that could have led to a championship.
A frontline hitter or two probably would have done the trick.
Now, the Wild have the depth needed for an extended run as well as two more impact players to go along with Mikko Koivu to go after a championship or two during the seasons when the breaks go their way.