In the grand scheme of things, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise didn’t choose the Minnesota Wild because of the team’s brand name and probably not really because of cash, either. Instead, it came down to geography. It also left teams like the Detroit Red Wings holding a bag of money, leading the Detroit News’ John Niyo to claim that the Wings aren’t the NHL’s “chosen ones” any longer.
Still, the bottom line is this: The Wings are no longer the chosen ones in the NHL. They’re just one of 30 teams. Still a good team, mind you. Better than most. And still an Original Six team, for what that’s worth. (Sadly, not as much as it used to.)
But for those who still carried delusions of a decade ago, when owner Mike Ilitch had the money and the motive and the marketplace to assemble a roster stacked with future Hall of Famers, well, where have you been the last few years?
Red Wings GM Ken Holland probably said it best when he called the current NHL a “level playing field.”
Then again, some view it as a possible “changing of the guard.” James Mirtle has a great chart that shows how the league’s hierarchy of big-spenders has been altered, yet this blurb probably tell the story in the simplest way.
In 2004, Wings and Rangers spent $50-million more than Minnesota. Right now, the Wild’s payroll is $13-million higher than Detroit and NYR.
Now, the Red Wings and New York Rangers could easily add a bunch of cash and make it even (or at least closer), but the point is that there aren’t just a few big cats throwing their weight around any longer. With more teams willing to spend on blockbuster deals, players can consider other factors, such as proximity to loved ones and chances to contend. We’ll see about the Wild’s viability as a contender starting next season, but there’s no doubt that Parise and Suter valued location as much as anything else.
Which leaves the Red Wings and other teams picking up the pieces.