Devils' fans have seen this movie before. Scott Niedermayer. Brian Rafalski (and to a lesser extent), Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. The consensus seemed to be that their captain, Zach Parise, who led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals this past Spring, was weighing lucrative offers from many teams, but that it would come down to either returning to New Jersey or heading back home to Minnesota, as Devils GM Lou Lamoriello indicated to the Bergen Record's Andrew Gross. Parise's choice of returning to the Twin Cities on Wednesday, sent reverberations through the hockey world when he signed with his hometown Wild along with former Nashville defender Ryan Suter; both players inked 13-year, $98 million contracts, as first reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo thus crushing the hopes of Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia and countless other teams that had their eye on both players. (Parise is said to have received offers from "16-17 teams," according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.
Suter was highly coveted by Detroit in the hopes of starting the process of replacing Nicklas Lidstrom, but the Wings lost out on both Suter and Matt Carle, who isn't an impact player defensively. Suter brings his consistently solid numbers to Minnesota but the question will abound as to how he will produce without Shea Weber by his side. Suter will be Minnesota's stopper now while also running their power play. He isn't a goal-scoring defender like Weber, but he can eat a lot of minutes and has great vision. Suter had a career-best 46 points last season but has not cracked seven goals in the league since his second full season, where he notched eight. Parise will slot right in to the top left wing spot for the Wild with Mikko Koivu as his centerman, where he will give the Wild the same outstanding work ethic he gave in New Jersey. Parise's feet are always moving and he has the capability to change a game. He has a rare combination of skill and work rate, which will endear him much to the Wild faithful. Expecting Parise to be a point-per-game player or to duplicate his 2008-09 season of 94 points would be a folly, but 30-35 goals sound about right.
Despite the fan bases of both New Jersey and Nashville feeling as if they were spurned, much like Predators GM David Poile, the signing of the two in Minnesota is good for hockey in the United States. Poile felt spurned as his team was not able to "make a counter-offer" for Suter, as noted by The Tennessean's Josh Cooper. There arguably is not a more hockey-mad area in the country than the Twin Cities and Minnesota in general, so the return of one of its favorite sons and the arrival of one of the best US-born defenseman currently in the league is a good news on that front. Both players were stars at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and are good ambassadors for the game. The Wild and their fans have been understandably excited by the signings but you have to wonder where these signings put the Wild in terms of competitiveness in the Northwest Division. Vancouver remains the top of the division and Edmonton will certainly be exciting, but the Wild are certainly ahead of Colorado and Calgary. The Wild should challenge for one of the West's final playoff spots along with Phoenix, San Jose and Detroit. (Yes, Detroit).
The Wild will be an intriguing team to watch and you have to believe this signing gives them instant credibility as a competitive team. They're still a while away from being a Stanley Cup contender, but this should shift some of the competitive balance out West.