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Zach Parise, signed an autograph for a fan while participating in the Defending the Blue Line NHL Players Charity event at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis last month. Parise did not play in the game.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Wild making a strong push to sign Parise-Suter tandem

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • July 3, 2012 - 10:27 PM

The Wild is doing all it can to pull off the upset of the century.

Competing for two of the most coveted free agents in NHL history against some of the league's powerhouse teams, three members of the Wild brass flew to Madison, Wis., on Tuesday to sit down with Ryan Suter.

The crux of the pitch: The defenseman should come to Minnesota as part of a tag-team with friend and fellow hotly contested-for free agent Zach Parise.

The Wild has made gargantuan long-term contract offers to both players. Exact figures haven't emerged, but teams interested in Parise are believed to be offering contracts worth $100 million and more, and Suter more than $80 million.

Now it's only a matter of the two deciding if they want to play together in Minnesota and be part of package to help shape the future of a franchise or choose other destinations.

Yes, there is a likelihood the Wild will either land both or neither.

Accompanied by his fiancée, Alisha Woods, Parise returned to the Twin Cities on Tuesday from his agents' offices in Toronto and had yet to make a decision as to which team will win the sweepstakes and inherit his services for the next 10 to 13 years.

Parise wanted to first sit down and discuss everything with his family, which includes his fiancée, father and former North Stars player J.P. Parise, and his mother, Donna.

"There's a lot of things to factor into it, and I think that's why we're taking our time with the decision," Parise, the New Jersey Devils captain, said from the baggage claim at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. "It's not something we can just make at 1 o'clock on July 1. It takes time to make sure you consider everything and you're doing the right thing."

Parise also wanted to talk to Suter, sources say, and that was supposed to happen Tuesday night. In fact, Tuesday night, Parise told Josh Rimer on nextsportstar.com that he talks to Suter often.

"I would love to play on a team with a defenseman like Ryan Suter," Parise told Rimer.

Tuesday morning, Wild owner Craig Leipold, General Manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo boarded a private plane in St. Paul and flew to International Falls, Minn., where they picked up Suter's agent, Neil Sheehy. Also along for the trip was Suter's financial adviser, Tom Sagissor.

The five men flew to Madison, where Suter went to college at Wisconsin and which is 20 miles from his home.

First, the Red Wings were in town to meet with Suter. Then, after Detroit's brass left, in came the Wild's contingent.

After the meeting, Leipold, Fletcher, Yeo, Sheehy and Sagissor returned to St. Paul before Sheehy continued on to International Falls.

At the airport, the Wild brass cordially declined to comment and appeared optimistic, but Fletcher didn't want to speculate as to what the decisions of Parise and Suter would be.

Both players have no timetable, but indications are a conclusion could come as early as Wednesday.

"This is a young man being asked to commit for 13 years and everyone expects an answer from him in five hours," Sheehy said of Suter, who has played his entire seven-year NHL career with the Nashville Predators. "What's wrong with taking a few days?"

Earlier in the day, Parise echoed that notion, saying he never imagined how "stressful" this decision would be.

"There's so much more than the money. That plays a very small factor in it," he said. "My agents did a great job. You take the time to consider everything. You consider where you want to be for the next however long and however many years of your life. It's a harder decision than I thought it was going to be."

Parise said he will discuss everything with his family.

"I'm excited for it to be over pretty soon," Parise said.

The Wild, Red Wings and Predators appear to be the finalists for Suter, while the Wild, Blackhawks, Penguins and Devils appear to be finalists for Parise.

In the end, Parise said, "It's a decision my fiancée and I will make together. We just want to go somewhere that we know we're going to be happy."

Conspiracy-theorist Wild fans, in suspense and praying he chooses the Wild, have felt there is no way Parise would return to Minnesota to announce he is snubbing the hometown team and signing elsewhere.

Told that theory, Parise laughed, saying: "This is where I live. Either way, we're coming back here."

Dowell signed

The Wild signed 27-year-old forward Jake Dowell -- a former Wisconsin player who is close friends with Suter -- to a two-year deal Tuesday night. The first year is a two-way deal, meaning a lesser salary in the minors, and the second year is a one-way deal. Dowell has 33 points in 154 games with Chicago and Dallas.

WATCH VIDEO OF ZACH PARISE talking about his thought process in making his decision at startribune.com/wild.

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