It was supposed to be the dream team that was going to take the hockey-crazed city by storm.
The Wild were set: when Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year-deals worth $98 million on July 4, 2012, the club managed to finagle the two biggest UFAs at the time in an attempt to become Stanley Cup champions.
Instead, the Wild won a whole two playoff series' back in 2014 and 2015. That's it. Nine seasons with two of the team's best stars and nothing to show for. Whether it was injuries and inconsistent play for Parise or the simple decline due to age for Suter, two of the Wild's biggest investments never really paid off the way they hoped it would.
And after nearly a decade, the Wild decided to buy out the remaining four seasons of their deals, saying goodbye to the $7.54-million cap hits they both possessed. Per Michael Russo of The Athletic, the club will pay each player $6.7 million over the next eight years and will be faced cap hits of $2.371 million, $6.371 million and $7.371 million over the next four years before defaulting to $833,333 for the next four years.
The Wild will save some significant cash, which is especially important in making sure Kirill Kaprizov is signed long-term, but it marks a dark day in the franchise's history. GM Chuck Fletcher was the man in charge at the time, with Paul Fenton and Bill Guerin having stints since Fletcher was let go back in 2018.
No Wild GM has had more playoff appearances as Fletcher, but inaugural boss man Doug Risebrough was the only one to take the team to a division title. Fletcher was brought in to try and take the team out of a seemingly ending stretch of mediocrity, but he instead offered much of the same. So when Fletcher signed the two biggest names from the 2012 free agency crop on the same day, brighter days were ahead.
It wasn't all that bad. Suter had four seasons of 47 points or more and was almost always a reliable, big-minute blueliner. His game started to trail off later in his tenure in Minnesota, but three three-time NHL all-star was almost always one of the positives in Minnesota, no matter the circumstance.
The pair have been subject of trade rumors and buyout talks in the past. There was talk of the two players being asked to waive their no-movement clauses to become exposed for the expansion draft, but that doesn't matter anymore.
Parise, on the other hand, was a little different. The long-time alternate captain had a couple of great years to begin his tenure, but his production started to fall as injuries became an issue. In 2018-19, Parise had a huge bounce-back year with 61 points – his second best season as a member of the Wild – before eventually becoming a forgotten piece of the puzzle this past season.
The Wild could always count on him to perform in the playoffs, but that's not enough when the Wild couldn't last long in the post-season, anyways. Everyone knew the contracts were going to look terrible by the end of the deals. That's the risk of signing players to long-term contracts, aimed to keep them around until the end of their careers. So a potential buyout was always a possibility, but the Wild were likely hoping for some extra hardware along the way to make up for it.
Wild fans will definitely have fond memories about two players that took a chance on a franchise that is still seeking its first championship. Suter and Parise were going to be paid no matter where they went, but the fact that they believed in the mission Minnesota was putting together meant a lot to a fanbase hoping for more. But as time went on, the contracts made making moves to bring in other talent an issue, something that still plagues the team to this day. Maybe the extra cap space will be exactly what the team needs – they're set to gain $10.33 million in cap space ahead of a summer in which they must re-sign young core pieces in Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.
Everyone knew this was coming at some point, and this summer, with the flattened cap, seemed like the one everyone was expecting to happen. It's unlikely to be the end of both players: they're still serviceable in a way where the right situation might help them flourish.
But for Wild fans who were hoping for more, it won't do them much solace.