The Minnesota Wild generated their own Fourth of July fireworks by signing left winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter – the two best players in this summer’s free agent market – to identical 13-year, $98-million contracts.
What made these signings significant was the usually cost-conscious Wild not only outbid Parise’s and Suter’s former teams, but also perennial Stanley Cup contenders like the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.
The moves also pushed the Wild’s payroll to over $68 million invested in 22 players, making it the second highest in the league.
The clubs that lost the Parise/Suter sweepstakes will now scramble to find alternatives in an increasingly shallow free agent pool or the trade market to address their roster needs.
For the Predators, Suter’s departure could affect contract talks with captain Shea Weber, who was Suter’s defense partner for several seasons.
Weber’s a restricted free agent this summer, coming off an arbiter-awarded one-year, $7.5-million contract for 2011-12. Suter’s new 13-year deal (worth an average cap hit of just more than $7.5 million per season) suggests Weber could seek a lengthy, richer deal.
He might receive an offer sheet, though given the uncertainty over the next collective bargaining agreement, along with the rarity of offer sheets and the likelihood the Predators would match it, that outcome is doubtful.
Weber could seek a one-year extension taking him to unrestricted free agency in 2013. GM David Poile would obviously prefer to avoid that, but if Weber is insistent it could force Poile to trade him.
Meanwhile, the Predators GM must find a replacement for Suter, which makes Calgary Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester a potential target.
The Red Wings were in the market for Parise and Suter, with the latter envisioned as a potential substitute for the retired Nicklas Lidstrom.
Ansar Kahn of MLive.com reported the Wings didn’t have high interest in Matt Carle, suggesting they might attempt to trade for Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Khan also speculated the Wings might get into the bidding for Coyotes right winger Shane Doan, an opinion shared by Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press.
They’re reportedly cool on soon-to-be-former Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Semin, having concerns about his commitment and effort.
The Wings could face a serious challenge for Doan from the New York Rangers, a team the New York Post claimed would pursue the Coyotes captain if he decides to leave Phoenix.
Clubs interested in Doan will have to wait until July 9, his self-imposed deadline to determine if the sale of the Coyotes to the Jamison group goes through.
The Rangers are also believed among the suitors for Columbus Blue Jackets right winger Rick Nash. The Blueshirts are thought to be on Nash’s list of preferred destinations, along with the Red Wings, Penguins, Flyers and San Jose Sharks.
Things will get interesting if a bidding war for Nash breaks out among those clubs.
Another option would be Anaheim Ducks right winger Bobby Ryan, who’s seen as a younger, cheaper alternative to Nash.
The pursuit of Suter and Parise may be over and most of the best free agents gone, but the summer trade market is about to heat up.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.