Wild and Wolves trying to woo their way to relevance

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 2, 2012 - 9:46 PM

 With the courting of free agents underway, both franchises soon will know if their efforts produced a needed boost.


Wild owner Craig Leipold

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

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The Twin Cities sporting public lived through two Favre offseason sagas so Zach Parise's will-he-or-won't-he flirtation should qualify as mere child's play.

Need more time? Sure, take as long as you want, Zach. We're used to this stuff around here.

Favre put Vikings fans and team employees through an emotional wringer and sent the sports world into a tizzy with each perfectly timed phone call or text to his favorite national reporter. The Favre Meter moved to red alert whenever he started throwing footballs to the high school kids down in Mississippi.

Though much smaller in scope, the Parise Watch kept Wild fans -- and media members -- glued to Twitter and other social media Monday as if attached to a lifeline. Would he pick the Wild, the Penguins, the Devils, some other team? Tick, tick, tick.

Finally, Parise emerged from his agent's Toronto offices and told reporters he needed more time to think and discuss things with his fiancée. Parise's pause allowed fans to exhale and resume speculating and agonizing over how this high-stakes drama ultimately will play out.

Having fun yet? Yeah, me too.

And not just with the Wild. Across town, the Timberwolves are actively trying to reshape their roster via free agency and trades.

Both teams are coming off 12th-place finishes in their respective conferences, but their aggressive offseason approaches have forced us to pay attention at a time when it would be easier to tune them out.

The Timberwolves reportedly offered their highest draft pick in team history (Derrick Williams) after only one season in a trade proposal for Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol because team brass apparently believe the playoff window is now.

Wild owner Craig Leipold, a diehard fan who watches every shift from the edge of his seat, apparently is willing to write Powerball-sized checks to Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter because his team desperately needs life breathed back into it.

This summer is critically important for both organizations, and their actions so far -- whether you agree with them or not -- suggest they are serious about picking themselves up and moving forward.

The Wolves re-energized their fan base this past season thanks mainly to Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Rick Adelman. They created a buzz not felt since Kevin Garnett left town, but that's only a starting point. They need to add more pieces in order to take the next step and become relevant again as a playoff team.

Though I disagree with the idea of trading Williams, the Wolves seem determined to expedite their rebuild by overhauling the roster with a more veteran influence. They jettisoned misfits Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph and are set to offer Portland swingman Nicolas Batum a contract worth as much as $50 million, according to the Strib's Jerry Zgoda. A nucleus of Love, Rubio, center Nikola Pekovic, Williams and/or Batum wouldn't be too shabby.

The Wild's roster already promised to look significantly different next season with the arrival of talented youngsters Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Johan Larsson. That alone is not enough though. The Wild no longer can count on blind allegiance from its fans. Xcel Energy Center is still a nice building, but the product also matters and patience has worn thin.

The Wild teased fans with a month of high-level hockey last season, but the subsequent collapse left a sour taste. The team scored only 166 goals for the season, which represented the fewest goals in the NHL since the 2004-05 lockout. That feeble production put even more pressure on team officials to find some scoring.

Parise certainly would help in that area while also creating energy and excitement around the team. That's why Leipold offered him a mega-deal. We'll find out soon whether it's enough, or if the Wolves are successful in landing Batum and/or Gasol.

A strong sales pitch and a lot of money doesn't guarantee a successful outcome in these situations. As the Vikings learned with Favre, sometimes you've got to send a plane to pick a guy up.

Chip Scoggins ascoggins@startribune.com

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