For the first time in nine years, this feels like a brand new chapter of the Minnesota Wild.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who altered the state of what was a blasé, stuck in mud franchise when they signed 13-year contracts in 2012, have been bought out. There’s a new leadership group that includes captain Jared Spurgeon and alternates Matt Dumba and Marcus Foligno. There’s a slew of up-and-coming prospects like Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy and Adam Beckman; and a game-changing, budding superstar in Kirill Kaprizov.
Craig Leipold, who bought the Wild mere weeks after selling the Nashville Predators in 2008, is excited for the future.
“I think we have so many newer players on the team and the young guys are stepping up and it just seems like it’s a new chapter,” Leipold said Wednesday night just prior to the Wild’s come-from-behind 4-3 overtime exhibition win over the St. Louis Blues. “We’re moving forward with new players, a new philosophy, a new locker room, a new captain and I think everybody’s embraced it.”
Wednesday night’s availability with Leipold, something he does annually every preseason from his spacious, center-ice suite at Xcel Energy Center, was the first time Leipold talked publicly since general manager Bill Guerin first came to him with the idea of buying out the final four years of Parise and Suter’s contract, and Leipold ultimately signed off on it after much debate and deliberation.
“This is Billy’s team,” Leipold said. “His charge is to get us in the playoffs and make us competitive and eventually win a Stanley Cup. Some of the moves that were made last (summer) were hard things and it was a process to get to the decision that Billy got to with Ryan and Zach. It wasn’t just like, ‘This is what we’re gonna do.’
“This was … months of discussing it all the time. I think the decision he made, I know why he made it, and he thinks it was the right move and after challenging him many times, many times, he was steadfast, ‘This is how I believe,’ and it was the decision. I said, ‘Alright, that’s it, let’s go do it.’”
The decision to buy out Parise and Suter gives the Wild cost certainty – or cap certainty – the next three years rather than Guerin continuing to do business as normal, then perhaps finding out Parise or Suter would retire prematurely and the Wild being submarined by hefty cap recapture penalties that could have caused the Wild to scramble and offload players.