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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Free agency opens: Minnesota Wild is on the clock

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 1, 2012 - 11:50 AM

UPDATE: The Wild called both Parise and Suter right at 11 and submitted contract offers. Next step: Get in front of the players. I am told from Parise's camp, no team is in Toronto yet.

Happy Free-Agent Frenzy Day everybody.

For real-time updates today, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib

The free-agent market has opened across the National Hockey League, and as you know, the Wild will be hot after Zach Parise and Ryan Suter as you can read in this story here.

Parise almost scared the bejesus out of the Wild and many other teams this morning. He was supposed to tell the Devils at 10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m. CT if he was going to free agency or not after GM Lou Lamoriello made a last-ditch effort last night to avoid that. Fifteen minutes, 30, 45 minutes go by, and no news, which made you think the Devils and Parise were working on a deal. But suddenly at 11 a.m. ET, 10 a.m. CT, TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted that Parise was going to market.

I don't know what took so long, but why on Earth would somebody of Parise's stardom get so close to free agency and not test the market? So, not a shock at all.

Parise can always circle back to the Devils. Suter informed Nashville awhile ago that he, too, will test the market. He, too, can circle back to the Predators after he fields offers.

Several teams will reportedly head to Mississauga, Ontario, to make pitches, including Detroit and Ottawa. Pittsburgh will do it by phone. Several other teams will be pursuing him, including L.A. and Carolina.

The Wild? I am hearing it will contact Parise by phone and make arrangements to fly to Toronto to make its presentation. On the convoy I'd suspect would be owner Craig Leipold, GM Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo. If the trio immediately get on a plane for Toronto, assistant GM Brent Flahr and the rest of the staff will work the phone for other free agents in St. Paul.

Fletcher will also call Suter at the crack of 11. Reportedly, Detroit plans to head to Suter's farm today. I was originally told know teams would meet with Suter today, so I'll see if I can confirm and if the Wild will have to react to this. I'm told Suter has no knowledge of the Red Wings going to his farm.

Just to warn you again, there's a definite chance this could drag on.

Suter's agent, Neil Sheehy, has indicated Suter may take as much as several days to decide where he is signing, and it would not be surprising if Parise fields offers and pitches but doesn't make a decision by day's end. In fact, he may be willing to hear from several teams, so there's a chance that goes into tomorrow.

I will update this blog as the day goes along, but just a reminder, sometimes a flood of info comes late in the day because agents and GM's are busy working during the day. So sometimes it's hard to find out exactly what's going on until late. So stand by.

In my mind, the Wild has $22.2475 million in cap space left, but that's for 17 players (In order of salary-cap hit: Heatley, Koivu, Backstrom, Bouchard, Gilbert, Cullen, Setoguchi, Brodziak, Granlund, Harding, Clutterbuck, Powe, Stoner, Scandella, Prosser, Kassian, Spurgeon) and not including the eventual re-signing of Justin Falk and prospects that make the team. So it's actually probably more like $18 or $19 million.

Because the Wild's going all-in with Parise and Suter, I've got to think it'll wait to seriously get in on Plan B's (if it needs to) other than making an initial phone call. I've also got to think it'll wait to decide if it needs to sign somebody to replace Guillaume Latendresse's role (if he had one because he was always hurt, but you know what I mean). Those names could include Dustin Penner, Peter Mueller or Shane Doan, who according to TSN's Darren Dreger, won't make a decision until July 9 (when Phoenix's ownership situation is clearer).

I do think the Wild will try to sign a veteran for the third line today though, and I think the guy it is targeting is Jamie Langenbrunner. But as for others, I think it'll be saving its cap space until it knows what is up with Parise and Suter.

Everybody's been asking me my gut feeling?

I think Pittsburgh changes the playing field. If you're Parise, how couldn't you want to play with Crosby and Malkin? 

But there's no doubt in my mind the Wild will be offering a more enticing package for Parise. Leipold is willing to step to the plate, and the Penguins reportedly won't go over $8 million a year and can't offer a frontloaded package. According to Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos, Parise's agents will be looking for a $12 million signing bonus (Parise's even if there's a lockout) and $2 million salary for next season for the max $14 million. He would then want another $12 million signing bonus next July 1.

I do believe Leipold would be willing to do that to get Parise done. That is quite the commitment if Kypreos' report is true. Essentially, if that's the type of deal the Wild agreed to, Leipold and his ownership group would be paying Zach Parise $26 million over 365 days or so.

Don't freak out that Parise would have a $14 million cap hit. The contract would be spread out in a way that the cap hit would decrease to, my guess, between $8 million to $10 million. If Parise really does want to come here, he should do his best to make the cap hit as accomodating as possible so he doesn't handcuff the team in future years.

My gut? If the Wild lands Parise, it lands Suter. If it strikes out on Parise, it strikes out on Suter (Detroit REALLY wants and needs Suter after Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement). If the Red Wings' full-court press works and they land Suter, that could be good enough to get Parise.

And then the Wild moves on to a summer of Plan B's, whether it's on the free-agent market or trade route.

I will be back later and will be updating the blog throughout the day. Again, follow me on Twitter at russostrib.

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