Russo's NHL Insider: Wild's focus on the future helped land big names

  • Updated: January 27, 2013 - 10:56 AM

Though Zach Parise got the location and money he wanted, the Wild sold him on signing because of its deep prospect pool.

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Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kent Huskins (3) and Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund (64), battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Jan. 25, 2013.

Photo: Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

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Obviously a Brink's truck of cash helped, but the money was going to be big for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer no matter where they signed.

And, when you start talking contract lengths as long as 13 years, quality of life and where you want to raise your family become overriding factors.

But Parise and Suter want to win.

So while the heaps of cash and lure of playing (in Parise's case) at home or (in Suter's case) near home helped the Wild in landing Parise and Suter over several other suitors, there's no doubt the Wild would have struck out if they weren't convinced they could win here for years.

The Wild's stable of blue-chip prospects was as big a recruiting tool as anything.

"Thirteen years is a long time, so you have to make sure you're going to a place well set up for the future," Parise said. "I mean I get it; sometimes prospects don't pan out. But I feel nowadays they do more than they don't. And when we were going through each team, my agents really educated me on the kids here and felt no team had more legit prospects."

The Wild ranked seventh in last year's Hockey News Future Watch. It was the first time in the 20-year history of the edition that five players from one team ranked in the top 40 prospects in the NHL (Mikael Granlund, 2; Jonas Brodin, 12; Charlie Coyle, 14; Matt Hackett, 35; and Johan Larsson, 38). A sixth player (Brett Bulmer, 69) made the top 75.

This year's edition will be on newsstands in early March. The Wild could inch even higher up the rankings thanks to Jason Zucker's stock rising (17 goals, 36 points in 39 games for Houston), the 2012 draft editions of Matt Dumba, Raphael Bussieres, John Draeger and Adam Gilmour and the fact that prospects Erik Haula, Mario Lucia, Tyler Graovac, Nick Seeler, Johan Gustafsson and others are developing nicely.

On July 3, Wild owner Craig Leipold, General Manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo sat down with Suter in Madison, Wis.

What's most fascinating about the Wild's signing of Parise is not one person from the front office had a single conversation with the free agent prior to Fletcher calling him on the morning of July 4 to tell him where to fax the signed contract.

The lone communication to Parise after July 1 was through three e-mails to his agents. The team sent him streams of information, including a recruiting video with a music montage that showed off Xcel Energy Center's atmosphere; big goals he had scored in the Twin Cities; clips of his dad, J.P., in a North Stars sweater; and Joe Mauer and Ron Gardenhire offering him free batting practice if he signed with the Wild.

No offense to the impressive work the Wild put into that video, but Parise barely remembers it. What he does remember is the presentation his agents provided about Wild prospects.

His agency represents Larsson and Bulmer, and it's not like studs such as Granlund, Brodin, Coyle and Zucker are secrets.

But it helped that Fletcher and Yeo gave the agency a refresher on its organization depth during an in-person attempt at signing defenseman Justin Schultz days before the Wild was allowed to contact Parise.

The Wild missed out on Schultz, who signed with Edmonton. But that meeting was valuable.

"Our group was able to add that to the detailed summaries we used to assess all interested clubs for Zach in free agency," agent Wade Arnott said.

With Granlund and now Brodin in the Wild lineup, Parise has gotten sneak peeks at the future. He is excited.

"We overanalyzed every different possible thing about every organization, and the prospects coming here helped move the bar," Parise said. "To sign somewhere for 13 years, this is a life decision. We want to win Cups here. Me, Ryan, Mikko [Koivu], the rest of the core here, we can't do it alone."

«««««« short takes »»»»»»

Trade talk

With Pittsburgh eager to move Chris Kunitz back to a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, the Penguins could be in the market for a right winger to skate with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis.

One player who could foot the bill? The Wild's Devin Setoguchi. It's unclear if the Penguins are interested, but trading Setoguchi would create a spot for prospects Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle or Johan Larsson.

The Wild also could use another defenseman and, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, smooth-skating 6-4 defenseman Simon Despres, a 2009 Penguins first-rounder, could be trade bait.

Coach vs. Willie

Kings old-school coach Darryl Sutter took a couple of potshots at Los Angeles veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell, a former Wild player, for not yet returning from offseason knee surgery.

"You know what, he's got doctor's clearance. He's got trainers' clearance. Coaches want him to clear himself. So do it," Sutter said.

Mitchell said, "When I come back I don't want to come back, play the next couple of games and then it swells up and be out."

Goalies coming and going

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo going to Florida still makes the most sense. He wants to go there (and controls that with a no-trade clause); he owns a home in Parkland; and his in-laws own a popular restaurant in Coral Springs.

Oh, and the Panthers might need a goalie.

But there will continue to be rumors of Luongo to Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia and Edmonton until he is ultimately dealt.

• Goalie Devan Dubnyk has been part of Edmonton's system for eight years. Asked at what point he finally would be considered a No. 1 by fans and the media, Dubnyk joked, "Probably when I'm 39 or 40 and about ready to hang 'em up."

Today: at St. Louis, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)

Tuesday: Columbus, 7 p.m. (FSN)

Wednesday: Chicago, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)

Friday: at Anaheim, 9 p.m. (FSN)

Player to watch:

Marian Hossa, Chicago Last time anybody saw the Blackhawks star, he was carted off the ice in the playoffs after a Raffi Torres blow to the head. He's back with five goals already this season.

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    Saturday January 26, 2013

    Today: at St. Louis, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)

  • Michael Russo's NHL short takes

    Saturday January 26, 2013

    With Pittsburgh eager to move Chris Kunitz back to a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, the Penguins could be in the market for a right winger to skate...

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