The Minnesota Wild joined the big boys in the NHL.
On July 4, going head-to-head against powerhouse teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild landed the two biggest free agents in the NHL when it signed New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter.
"They drove this bus, and we're just lucky they drove it to Minnesota," elated owner Craig Leipold said.
The two players signed identical 13-year, $98 million contracts and decided to go as a tag-team after consulting during the free agent process. The arrivals in Minnesota whipped Wild fans into a frenzy and completely transformed an organization that has missed the playoffs four years in a row.
"Ryan and I had talked throughout the year," Parise said. "You always say to each other, 'Wouldn't it be great to have a chance to play with each other and to play on the same team?'
"I know how great of a player Ryan is ... and to have an opportunity to play with a guy of that caliber, it's a great opportunity."
The Wild is fortunate both players had Minnesota ties.
Suter's wife, Becky, hails from Bloomington, while Parise was born in Minneapolis, lives in Orono and is the son of former North Stars player and assistant coach J.P. Parise.
"Just the opportunity to play at home, it really meant a lot to me, it meant a lot to my family," Parise said. "Every kid who's grown up in Minnesota would love to play for the Wild. That's the way it is."
Suter, who spent much of his career being paired with star defenseman Shea Weber, ranks fourth in Predators history with 542 games, fourth with 200 assists, tied for eighth with 238 points and second with a plus-43 rating.
Parise, a former University of North Dakota star, has averaged 0.82 points per game. Parise ranked fourth in Devils history with 194 goals, ninth with 410 points, tied for fifth with 51 power-play goals, fourth with 37 winning goals and fifth with 1,699 shots.
"Our goal in signing them wasn't to make a splash. It's to make our team better," general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "The real work is just starting. If we assume we can just show up in camp and go on the ice and be better, we're kidding ourselves. We have a lot of work to do."