Wednesday, July 4, 2012

NHL Free Agency 2012: Zach Parise, Ryan Suter Join Minnesota Wild - Bleacher Report

According to reports by Pierre LeBrun, the Minnesota Wild have landed both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year, $98 million contracts.

Parise was the top free-agent forward in available in the 2012 NHL free-agency period, and Suter was the top defenceman. Few expected both to join the same team.

Minnesota also added forwards Jake McDowell Wednesday as well as Zanon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell Sunday. These moves change the dynamic of a team that lacked the talent to stay in the hunt last season.

The Wild now have Parise, Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, Pierre Marc-Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak to populate their top two lines. They maintain solid checking lines with the likes of Mitchell, McDowell, Konopka, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen and a reservoir of additional players with NHL experience.

More importantly, the Wild should have a solid blue line for the first time since trading Brent Burns to San Jose in 2011. Suter anchors a capable unit that is under 30 and improving, including Tom Gilbert and Clayton Stoner already among their top-three.

With the exceptional goaltending they have, free agency has made them instant contenders in the Western Conference.

They were able to do what most teams could fit within their budget. But other teams like Minnesota's three-time 2011 trading partner San Jose Sharks are in need of changes and should be helped by the biggest free agents setting the market.

Soon, the Columbus Blue Jackets will either find someone desperate enough to pay their high price for Rick Nash or that cost will come down. At the same time, other teams are gobbling up low-cost alternatives.

Of the 25 free-agent forwards who played at least 54 games and averaged over 14 minutes of ice time, only 12 remain now that the Phoenix Coyotes signing of Steve Sullivan is confirmed. Sully has speed and tenacity, and would have given the Sharks secondary scoring for just $1.85 millionĂ¢€"the same amount an unskilled Adam Burish made.

If Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is holding out for a drop in Columbus' price, he is putting all his eggs in one basket. If the Sharks are dedicated to winning now, they must pursue the next best free agent on the market, Shane Doan.

If they want to get better in the short-term without getting older, Andrei Kostitsyn is the most talented player remaining under 30. Otherwise, their only young choices left are to bring back either Kyle Wellwood (29) or Daniel Winnik (27Ă¢€"31 days younger than Kostitsyn).

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