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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Very happy Craig Leipold: Parise, Suter "drove the bus"

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 4, 2012 - 1:16 PM

Just got off the phone with an ecstatic Craig Leipold, the Wild owner who agreed to pay Zach Parise and Ryan Suter each $98 million over the next 13 years.

How does this feel?

Leipold: “AHHHHHHHHH!!! I am a madman. Oy, oy, oy. It’s hard to come to grips with. It was such a fun, great process. I can’t tell you, Chuck, Brent Flahr, both those guys, had a very aggressive plan, thought that it was possible, thought that we could do it. This wasn’t a kneejerk kind of thing. It was discussed as a possibility months and months ago and going back to last season, some of the moves we made last season were in preparation for this. We were hoping they’d become free agents. That’s how they think. They think long-term. This is a result of a very smart hockey ops department thinking long-term. A lot of people made this thing work. A lot of luck had to happen. Good things fell in our favor. And before we knew it, Monday night, My God, maybe we could get both. And it just started moving in that direction.”

Before the conspiracy folks out there starting crying tampering, Leipold’s context is that you always look ahead in the NHL, see who could possibly be on the trade market or free agency and start to prepare internally how could you possibly get them.

Were you guys swaying in emotion along with the fans?

Leipold: “Um, no. No, we weren’t. Probably because we had a lot more information, we knew what the possibilities were, we knew what the chances were. I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t very nerve-wracking, but no.

"Sunday and Monday, most of those days, we’re thinking it’s just going to be one of them. Ryan Suter seemed to be the most probable one that we would be getting and we really spent a lot of time working with Ryan’s folks. And it’s absolutely true that Ryan and Zach communicate. They are good friends. They want to be with a winner. The most amazing thing, and this is the part when I laid in bed last night I was thinking, these guys could go to any team. They were offered more money. We know it – by a number of teams. These guys decided this was the team. They spent so much time looking at our prospects, looking at our players and talking to some of the players. And they made the decision that they were coming here. And they’re the ones who then drove it with their agents and their people. And I think it’s OK for me to say that. They drove this bus, and we’re just lucky they drove it to Minnesota. They drove it because the fans are great and they want to be part of something special. They think they can do this in Minnesota. Neither one of those guys would be signing with us for 13 years, for the rest of their careers unless they believe they can win a Cup here. And we’re just excited they had enough confidence in us that they think that we can do it.”

Will this put the Wild on the map, maybe get a Winter Classic to Minnesota?

Leipold: “That’s all part of it. We’re going to get a Winter Classic. We’re an exciting team. We’ve got a lot of really interesting personalities on our team now. Obviously, we’re a great market. We’ve always known that. We’re a great team, we’ve got good players. We’re everything. It didn’t come into play. We did absolutely talk about it with them and all those little things. Neither one has played in a Winter Classic. I’m sure it wasn’t much of a factor, but it was another one of those little things to prove this is a good market.”

The Wild's gain of Parise is the Devils' loss. Here are some comments from Devils CEO Lou Lamoriello:

"There's no question we're disappointed. It's a very unfortunate thing when you have a player of his stature who comes through the ranks and a decision is made to go elsewhere. There's nothing we can do about that. We'll just go forward.

"Our offer was competitive and we did not at any time have a phone call that we needed to change it or it needed to go up."

"The response was the money we offered would not be the issue and we did not get a return call from his representation that the money had to go up. The decision, based on what Zach told me, was he was going home and playing with a player he played with growing up."

"Zach told me if he wasn't going home to Minnesota, he'd be coming back to New Jersey. He told me it was one of the toughest decisions he's had to make."

Also, Lamoriello said he did reach out to Ryan Suter to gauge his interest in playing in the Eastern Conference, obviously, specifically for the Devils. Lamoriello said he was told that Suter had no interest in playing in the East so Lamoriello never made an offer.
 


 

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