What a day for the Minnesota Wild.
On the fourth day of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter chase, and America's birthday, the Wild completely transformed their franchise. Both Parise and Suter, who are childhood friends, decided to accept matching 13 year/$98M contracts to play in the "state of hockey." Instantly the Wild emerge as a viable playoff team in the West.
At 20-7-3 the Wild had the best record in hockey last December. From there on out, however, the Wild stumbled to the tune of a 15-29-8 record the rest of the way, finishing the season 12th in the Western Conference. While the season was extremely disappointing, it also showed that there is promise in what GM Chuck Fletcher was building. With loads of prospects on their way up in the next few years, including forwards Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle and defenseman Jonas Brodin, who are all ranked in the top-30 prospects by www.hockeysfuture.com
, the future is now very bright in Minny.
The acquisition of Parise will bolster a stagnant offense that finished dead-last in the NHL in scoring. Dany Heatley, Kyle Broziak and Devin Setoguchi, who led the Wild with 24, 22 and 19 goals respectively, will assume a secondary scoring role that better suits them. Mikko Koivu will finally have a legitimate top-line, goal-scoring winger to make plays for. Defensively, Suter will anchor a young unit that exceeded expectations last season. Both Suter and Parise will play in all situations and should help to improve what was a terrible powerplay unit and an average penalty kill.
For Parise, the move to Minnesota signals a return to his home state, while Suter is from nearby Wisconsin. It's easy to feel good for Parise, Suter and the Wild. Meanwhile, from a Rangers perspective this is great news. The Devils lose their captain and the heart and soul of their team, not to mention a perennial 30-goal scorer. Also, the rumored pushes for both Parise and Suter by both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia obviously fell flat.
The Rangers are still among the front-runners to acquire either Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan, which could easily make them the most improved team in the Atlantic division. The rangers seem fully focused on a trade, instead of the free-agent market, to fill their need for a goal-scorer. Meanwhile, newly signed Taylor Pyatt will fit well into Tortorella's system as he should play a similar role to that of Brandon Prust last year. So far this off-season has played out well for the Rangers, with the exception of losing Brandon Prust of course, but the defining moment will come with the trades of Nash and Ryan. Stay tuned.
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