It does not exactly rise to the level of the Miami Heat, who sent shock waves through the NBA when they signed free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh and re-signed Dwyane Wade in the summer of 2010.
But the Minnesota Wild have done a decent little imitation after adding by far this summer's top two NHL free agents -- forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. A moribund franchise in a hockey-mad state finally generated some league-wide buzz when both players signed identical 13-year, $98 million contracts Wednesday. Parise led New Jersey to the Stanley Cup finals this past spring. Suter teamed with Shea Weber in Nashville to form the league's top defensive pairing.
In 11 seasons since joining the NHL as an expansion team, Minnesota has qualified for the playoffs three times. The Wild haven't made it at all the past four seasons. Last year was worst of all after they led the entire NHL as late as Dec. 17. Injuries, especially to top center Mikko Koivu, crippled that team. But they also just weren't good enough to compete. Now they should be -- especially with an elite group of prospects on the way led by Swedish forward Mikael Granlund, who was rated the NHL's No. 2 prospect by the Hockey News in March.
That pipeline of talent is part of why Parise, who is from Minnesota, and Suter decided to go there in the first place. Both are still just 27. They still will be in their primes when Granlund and the other kids hit. If all goes as planned, the Wild will be regular contenders in the Stanley Cup playoffs as soon as next season.
- Brian McNally