The Minnesota Wild are taking a step toward the future while saying good bye to two key figures of the organization’s recent past. The question is has the end of the Zach Parise-Ryan Suter era pushed the franchise into a ‘win-now’ mode?
Wild general manager Bill Guerin said there were a number of reasons behind management’s ultimate decision to buyout the two players who were splashy free-agent signings over the Fourth of July weekend in 2012. Finances were definitely one factor.
“I just didn’t wake up this morning and decide to do it,” Guerin said in a media availability session after the move was announced. “It’s been a process over six- to eight months and there’s been a lot of discussions and conversations over it on both of them. We know how much they’ve meant to this team and city.
“These are not great choices to make but you have to make it and you stand by it,” Guerin said.
Both Parise and Suter have four years left on the 13-year, $98 million contracts they signed and the move will give the team an extra $10.33 million for this year’s salary cap.
Guerin was quick to add that it doesn’t mean more money available for the salary egotiations with players like Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov, or anyone else.
But it might give the Wild more wiggle room to add perhaps a key piece for a Stanley Cup push over this coming year or maybe the next. After that, things will get a little harder for the Wild in terms of making the salary cap work.
Michael Russo of The Athletic highlighted how the buyout of not only Parise, but Suter, will affect the Wild in the future.
"All of this means, in Year 2, the Wild will be charged $12.74 million for Parise and Suter to not play for them, then $14.74 million in Years 3 and 4.That could create a serious cap crunch that may inhibit the Wild’s ability to swing for the fences on any player that carries a hefty cap hit during those seasons.“We got a big savings this year and it slowly, well not slowly, quickly goes down,” Guerin said. “Look, we’ve planned out for all that stuff. We know what we’re in for, we know it’s going to be difficult, but we’re going to try and keep progressing.”"
The buyouts will give opportunities to some of the Wild’s younger player and prospects. Guerin used the example of the Wild trading Jason Zucker. He was a popular player and the move might have not initially been well-received by some fans. But the move gave Fiala an opportunity to develop into the player he is now.
The Wild will be banking on more stories like that in the future. Minnesota team had four selections over the first three rounds of the NHL Draft last year and have five in that span this year. The development of those individuals will be key, along with some free agents that are signed to short-term deals for what could be a cap-stressed Wild team in the future.
“Those years will be tough,” Guerin said, “but we are goiong to have to do a very good job of drafting players, developing players and inserting some younger players into the lineup. This is a great opportunity for some of those guys.”
Tuesday’s move will be a difficult one but its the right one for all parties involved. It’s clear that Parise, and maybe more suprisingly Suter, were not fits in the future. Guerin said the buyouts are a clean break for both players instead of a potential trade and gives them a chance to move on to another team of their choice.
He added it also gives the Wild a chance to move forward in the pursuit of a Stanley Cup title.
“We have to continue to change, evolve,” Guerin said. “I know there was great affections with the players that we’ve parted ways with the last couple of years and for good reasons. There’s been some good years here.
“But times change, players get older and new players come in,” Guerin said. “We’ve got to constantly get better. It’s not OK to be where we are right now. We saw great signs last year — we saw great signs.. But we’re not there yet.”