ST. PAUL — In a blockbuster move that truly signals a changing of the guard in Minnesota sports, the Wild are buying out the contracts of veteran stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
The team announced the shocking news Tuesday morning, nine years after Parise and Suter signed matching 13-year, $98 million contracts to join the team on July 4, 2012.
The expectations at the time were that Parise and Suter would help bring a Stanley Cup to the Twin Cities. That never happened, and now the marriage is over. Both players are 36 years old and will become free agents on July 28.
Talking to reporters in person Tuesday, Wild general manager Bill Guerin stressed how much thought went into this decision. He said he understands the impact Parise and Suter have had on the franchise, not to mention the state as a whole, and that isn’t something he takes lightly.
In the end, though, Guerin felt jettisoning Parise and Suter put the Wild on a better trajectory toward success.
“We have to keep moving forward,” Guerin said. “These are two guys who gave their heart and soul to this organization. But we have to make tough decisions to keep trying to turn the page and keep trying to get better to reach our ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup.”
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Asked how long he has been considering this move, Guerin said it has been on his mind for the past six to eight months. In other words, while this probably comes as a shock to most sports fans throughout Minnesota — and maybe even to Parise and Suter — within the front office it has been a topic of discussion at length since last offseason.
“I didn’t just wake up this morning and decide to do it,” Guerin said. “We can’t just do a knee-jerk reaction with something like this. You have to spend time on it. In the end, I do feel that this is the right decision for us, and it will work out for them.”
Though the writing appeared to be on the wall for Parise after he felt out of the rotation last season, the decision to buy out Suter, too, left some people confused since he still played big minutes in the 2020-21 season. Asked about why he decided to buy out both players at the same time, Guerin responded, “It seemed like just the cleanest way to go.”
Logistically, the Wild will save some money in the short term, then will have to jump through some financial hoops in the long term. They will be charged $2.371 million against the cap for both players in the 2021-22 season, $6.371 million against the cap in 2022-23, $7.371 million against the cap in 2023-24 and 2024-25, and then $833,333 against the cap in 2025-26, 2026-27, 2027-28 and 2028-29.
The buyouts give the Wild a little more than $10 million in extra cap space for this summer as they attempt to sign young stars Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala to long-term deals. That said, Guerin made it clear that this move doesn’t mean Kaprizov and Fiala will fetch more money than before.
Maybe the most important thing to come out of the decision is the Wild now have a couple of extra spots on their protection list for the upcoming NHL expansion draft. That should allow them to protect players like star defenseman Matt Dumba and up-and-coming forward Nico Sturm, both of whom would have been exposed in the expansion draft otherwise.
“Not the main reason for this,” Guerin said. “But it was a contributing part of the decision. There were a lot of things that went into it.”
Looking back at the Parise-Suter era as a whole, the Wild went 354-237-74 and advanced to the playoffs eight times since they joined the team. While the presence of Parise and Suter helped the franchise re-establish relevance across the league, the Wild never got close to a Stanley Cup in that span, bowing out in the first round six times.
Both players stuffed the stat sheet throughout their time with the Wild, with Parise scoring 400 points (199 goals and 201 assists) in 558 regular-season games, and Suter scoring 369 points (55 goals, 314 assists) in 656 regular-season games.
“I want to thank Zach and Ryan for everything they did for our organization over the past nine seasons, both on and off the ice,” Wild owner Craig Leipold said in a statement. “They were tremendous ambassadors for our team and helped us win a lot of games. I wish them nothing but the best going forward.”
It’s no secret that Leipold is heavily involved in big decisions such as this, and thus, Guerin knew he had to present a detailed plan of how this would impact the franchise moving forward. That’s what many of the conversations over the past six to eight months were about, and ultimately, Leipold gave Guerin the green light.
“He’s in support of this and he’s been aware of what’s going on every step of the way,” Guerin said. “This wouldn’t happen without his blessing and without him standing right next to me.”
As for Guerin, he understands a decision of this magnitude puts him under a microscope moving forward. And he’s fine with that.
“When I first got this job, I needed that first year to kind of assess what’s going on and to kind of move slowly and methodically,” Guerin said. “You have to try to get better. We are trying to win and we have to try to improve all the time, and sometimes it takes very difficult decisions to do that. It’s not OK to be where we are right now. We saw great signs this year. But we are not there yet. We have to continue to try to get better and try to build a Stanley Cup-winning team.”