Striking quickly is the Wild's plan

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 1, 2012 - 8:24 AM

The Wild won't wait long today before getting in touch with Zach Parise.


Zach Parise’s grit and skill around the net are unquestioned — and sorely needed by the Wild.

Photo: Julio Cortez, AP

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The Wild can't offer Zach Parise the chance to play alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the way the Pittsburgh Penguins can. It can't offer Zach Parise a rich history of winning the way the Detroit Red Wings can.

What the Wild can offer the New Jersey Devils captain and Minnesota native is a chance to play in front of friends and family, to help mold a sizable corps of prospects set to burst onto the scene and to become a hero to a hockey-crazed market salivating for Parise to take his talents to ... the Twin Cities.

Oh, and the Wild can offer Parise a boatload of dough.

The Wild is ready and willing to do everything it possibly can to try to knock Parise's socks off when free agency opens Sunday morning at 11.

In fact, with Parise scheduled to be at his agent's office in Mississauga, Ontario, don't be surprised if owner Craig Leipold's plane soars toward Toronto on Sunday. The Wild brass is hoping to get in front of Parise in an attempt to convince the 27-year-old All-Star to choose Minnesota over probably 20 other suitors, including the Penguins, Red Wings and Devils -- the team that drafted him 17th overall in 2003.

You can bet Leipold, General Manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo will be part of the recruiting presentation for both Parise and Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, whom the Wild also will pursue aggressively.

Going head-to-head against the likes of Pittsburgh and Detroit will require quite the sales pitch. The trio will attempt to sell Parise and Suter that if they take the Wild's reins with captain Mikko Koivu, when you have a franchise filled with blue-chippers Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, the potential is there to be perennial winners.

The Wild also will have to separate itself from other intriguing markets by making bold contract offers.

Most every team in the league has plenty of salary-cap room. So overpaying is a guarantee and something the Wild is willing to do. Both could be offered hefty frontloaded contracts -- Parise topping $9 million or even $10 million annually, Suter topping $7 million or even $8 million annually -- and both offers could reach 10 years or longer.

The biggest issue will be logistics. If Fletcher & Gang is busy pitching to Parise in Toronto, assistant GM Brent Flahr will have to work the phones in St. Paul to make sure the team gets in on other free agents of interest.

You can bet Fletcher will find time to call Suter bright and early at 11 a.m.

For the past 15 years, Suter's agent, Neil Sheehy, has fielded July 1 calls at a resort in International Falls. He will be doing that again. Suter will be at his farm outside Middleton, Wis., and doesn't plan to meet with any teams Sunday.

Sheehy says Suter likely will be patient, field offers, weigh options and observe. If the Wild can somehow land Parise, the team would assuredly have a better chance at landing Suter.

If all else fails ...

But Suter's in no hurry, which might put the Wild in a predicament. While waiting for Suter, could it miss out on Plan B free agents such as Florida's Jason Garrison and Philadelphia's Matt Carle? Maybe not. If you're Garrison or Carle, wouldn't you wait for Suter to sign? That could only drive up the price because suddenly they go from everybody's Plan B to everybody's Plan A.

The Wild met with and was a finalist for University of Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz, but the two-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Year will sign Sunday with Edmonton.

If the Wild misses on Parise, a trade later in the summer is likely. With Guillaume Latendresse set to become a free agent, the Wild might also look for a second-line winger on a short-term deal. It could have interest in Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, an absolute warrior; Dustin Penner of the Stanley Cup champion Kings; or Bloomington's Peter Mueller of Colorado, a 24-year-old with a concussion history.

But signing mercurial Alex Semin, P.A. Parenteau or Jiri Hudler would make little sense.

Semin is a pure goal scorer but has a poor reputation personally. And Parenteau and Hudler might be good short-term fixes, but they're looking for long-term deals and the Wild expects its prospects to be ready to make impacts in the next few years.

Yeo wants to get tougher on the third and fourth lines, so the Wild might have interest in Brandon Prust of the Rangers and Torrey Mitchell of the Sharks, and the team is expected to make a run at Cloquet's Jamie Langenbrunner, 36, the former captain of the Devils and 2010 U.S. Olympic team. Not only is he close with Parise, he's the type of gritty veteran who could help push the Wild's youngsters.

But make no mistake: Sunday for the Wild is all about making contact with Parise and Suter ... and then praying its sales pitch ultimately convinces them that Minnesota is the place to be for a long, long time.

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