Parise, Suter go with Wild

Forward Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter will play together with the Minnesota Wild after...

Forward Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter will play together with the Minnesota Wild after signing contracts on July 4, 2012. (Reuters/Files)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:49 PM ET

The timing is interesting.

As talks on a new collective bargaining agreement get under way between NHL owners and players, the Minnesota Wild showed there's not much wrong with the current system when it comes to competing for top players.

With the money about the same from all the suitors, the small-market Wild landed the top two players in this year's NHL free-agent class, signing forward Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter to similar 13-year, $98 million contracts Wednesday morning. Both deals carry cap hits of approximately $7.5 million a season.

It's an outstanding coup for Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher to land the two 27-year-olds, which will tighten up an already-competitive league.

Regardless of how you might feel about the practicality of these long-term deals, or how ridiculous you think the money is, that's the way it is in the NHL right now, at least until a new CBA is negotiated.

If the goal of the current CBA was to foster parity on the ice and the ability to compete for top players, then the Wild's Independence Day fireworks are evidence the system is working.

Before the current cap system, it's likely Parise and Suter would have gone to one of the league's big-budget teams -- the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers or the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wings GM Ken Holland said his club's offer to Suter was competitive. New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said the same about his bid to keep Parise, his former captain.

Before this CBA, Parise and Suter likely wouldn't have been able to leave a lot of money on the table, for family or other personal concerns, when it came to choosing a destination. With the money pretty much the same, other considerations held sway.

Now, with the restraints of the cap system pretty much leveling the the financial playing field, the Wild could make a pitch to Parise to return to his native state and encourage Suter, who's from Wisconsin, to join him. The bold moves give the Wild instant improvement with two impact players at their respective positions.

Further evidence: Jordan Staal could afford to turn down a $10-year, $60-million deal from the Pittsburgh Penguins, which started the process for a deal to the Carolina Hurricanes. He got the same money from Carolina, along with the chance to play with his brother.

With an entry-level salary cap dictating what college free agent Justin Schultz could make, his decision came down to wanting to play in Canada ... and opportunity. He chose the Edmonton Oilers.

Hands up those of you who thought Minnesota, Carolina and Edmonton would be making the most significant moves so far this summer?

That's not to say there aren't a lot of issues that still need to be addressed during the current CBA negotiations, not the least of which is the rumoured desire of owners to slash the players' take of hockey revenue from 57% to the neighbourhood of 50%.

Having Parise and Suter out of the mix is good news for the other free agents, like defenceman Matt Carle. The clubs in the running for Suter can now move on to Carle, or somebody else. Or maybe pick up the telephone and call the Phoenix Coyotes about the availability of defenceman Keith Yandle.

It might also be good news for a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been in conversations about trading star winger Rick Nash. With Suter and Parise going to the Wild, there is still cap space and a need in the markets where Parise might have been a target.

Wednesday's news might put a different tone on talks between the Blue Jackets and teams like the New York Rangers or the San Jose Sharks.

Now that the hockey world has exhaled, it should be an interesting couple of weeks as the other pieces can now fall into place.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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