Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Parise, Suter agree to join Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild off-season news, Wild player moves Updated: July 4, 2012 - 1:04 PM

Wild owner Craig Leipold was beyond excited when I got him on the phone a few minutes ago. Never has anyone been so happy to invest $196 million in two people, as he did with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this morning.

Some excerpts:

“We’re going to get a Winter Classic. We’re an exciting team, a great market, good players. We’re everything.”

“They drove this bus and we’re just lucky they drove it to Minnesota. They want to be part of something special.”

“They were offered more money. We know it. By a number of a teams. But these guys spent so much time looking at us.”

“This was discussed months and months ago going back to last season. This is a result of very smart hockey ops department thinking longterm."

And the best one: “AHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I am a madman. Oy, oy, oy. This is hard to come to grips with. It was a great process.”

Leipold has this letter on the Wild web site.

Here's my online story with some more reaction from players:

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have agreed to terms with the Wild.

The team landed the two biggest prizes in this year's NHL free-agent class this morning.

Both received 13-year, $98 million deals, according to people familiar with the terms.

"Not a bad day," said Wild forward Matt Cullen. "Unreal, unbelievable. Man, what a great day. Honestly, what a huge day for the organization, for the state."

Parise and Suter will form a star-studded tandem that will be expected to alter the fortunes of a franchise that has missed the playoffs four consecutive seasons.

Wild winger Dany Heatley, who like Suter played at the University of Wisconsin, spent some time texting Suter earlier this week.

"This is huge. This is a real big turning point for all of us," Heatley said.

Parise, 27, the 17th pick in the 2003 draft by the Devils, spent seven years in New Jersey. He has averaged .82 points per game. Parise ranks fourth in Devils history with 194 goals, ninth with 410 points, tied for fifth with 51 power-play goals, fourth with 37 winning goals and fifth with 1,699 shots.

His best year came in 2008-09 when he scored 45 goals and 94 points.

The Minneapolis-born, Shattuck-St. Mary's product and Orono resident is the son of former North Stars player and assistant coach J.P. Parise.

Like Suter, he is highly decorated in USA Hockey. Both won a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics, with Parise forcing overtime in the gold-medal game with 24 seconds left.

Suter, 27, was drafted seventh overall in 2003 and spent his entire seven-year career with the Nashville Predators.

In Predators history, Suter, who spent much of his career being paired with Predators star defenseman Shea Weber, ranks fourth with 542 games, fourth with 200 assists, tied for eighth with 238 points and second with a plus-43.

He scored a career-high 46 points last season and averaged 26 minutes, 30 seconds a game - third-highest in the NHL and a minute higher than any one of his previous seasons.

Suter's father, Bob, played on the United States' 1980 gold-medal winning Olympic team and his uncle, Gary Suter, was a five-time All-Star, a Calder Trophy winner and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

His wife, Becky, hails from Bloomington, where her father, former Minnesota-Duluth standout defenseman Stan Palmer, is entrenched in the youth hockey community.

Tuesday night, Parise told Josh Rimer on nextsportstar.com that he and Suter had been talking throughout this process.

"Ryan's a great player," Parise told Rimer. "He's a top defenseman in this league. Those type of players don't come around often. They're tough to find. I'd love to play on a team with a defenseman like Ryan Suter. Immediately you've got your top defenseman, immediately you've got a power-play guy, you've got shutdown guy. Again those guys are hard to find, so to get an opportunity to play with him would be great."

The Wild recognized early on it would be going up against hefty competition for Parise.

Pittsburgh has Crosby and Malkin, Philadelphia has Giroux, Detroit has Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Chicago has Toews and Hossa.

For Suter, it was mostly going up against Detroit, which was wooing Suter by using Hall of Famer Chris Chelios in its recruitment. Chelios and Suter's uncle, Gary, are good friends from their days playing for the Chicago Blackhawks.

But in a league where there's no guarantees you can go to a team and win a Stanley Cup every year, the Wild worked to sell both Parise and Suter that they can be the two players, who along with captain, Mikko Koivu could help shape a franchise for the next dozen or so years.

Wild officials were apparently very convincing.
 

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