OTTAWA - It has been a Wild week for Zenon Konopka.
Not sure what was going to happen heading to free agency last Sunday, the ex-Senators tough guy had three offers on the table less than 30 minutes and then accepted a two-year, $1.85-million deal with the Minnesota Wild.
Now, as the centre prepares to get on with the next phase of his career, he learned Wednesday the Wild won the free-agent sweepstakes, signing New Jersey’s Zach Parise and Nashville’s Ryan Suter as unrestricted free agents.
The Wild promised Konopka it was going to go big when he agreed to a deal. In the end, Minnesota delivered, after Parise and Suter both signed identical 13-year, $98-million deals to join the Wild.
“It was a big day for Minnesota,” Konopka said during a break from his hockey camp being held this week at Jim Durrell Arena. “We had some options, but one thing that was big for us was (the Wild) said they were going to go after Suter and Parise.
“They told me they were going to spend money and they wanted to win. We were looking at a few other teams, but winning was a big reason we chose Minnesota.”
Konopka said he felt good about going to the Wild, but feels even better now about his chances.
“We go from a team that was expected to make the playoffs to a team that could be expected to make a long run into June,” he said.
“If you think about that, it’s going to be pretty cool. They’re both true professionals. They do everything the right way. They’re both good leaders. It’s not just signing for on the ice, it’s a signing for off the ice as well.”
Konopka, signed as a UFA by the Senators last summer, hoped to remain in Ottawa. The 67’s graduate was prepared to accept a one-year deal, but never got an offer from the Senators before July 1.
He understands the organization wants to get younger. He had only a limited role down the stretch, but stepped into the lineup in Game 2 of the Senators’ playoff series against the Rangers and played a pivotal role.
Konopka thought that might get him a new deal.
“It was a weird week,” said Konopka. “It was a situation where my girlfriend and I really enjoyed Ottawa. It was nice to come back here and be part of the community. I felt like I was worth a two-year deal.
“She asked me what I’d do if they offered me a one-year deal? We discussed this for a quite few days. Finally, we came to the decision, we will take a one-year deal because of the city and everything else involved.
“We didn’t get any offer. I assumed after the role (he played) in the playoffs, I’d get an offer. It’s a business. There’s a lot of bodies and they have to do what’s best for the Senators. This is motivation for the rest of my career.”
The Wild had always been a somewhat faceless team even after trading for Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from San Jose last year.
“We’ve added identity,” said Konopka. “They made a big splash by adding pieces to the puzzle. I know Mikko Koivu a little bit. He’s a really good person.
“From what I know, Parise and Suter are really good people. That goes a long way. I think they’ve got some really good surrounding pieces in place as well. I’m excited. I wish the season was starting next week.”