The Minnesota Wild made a big splash last summer when they signed defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. After missing the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, that move renewed their commitment to win the Stanley Cup and singled out those two newcomers as the people they felt would lead them there.
Minnesota’s 2013 campaign ended with a shift first-round exit at the hands of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks and given the increased expectations, it was seen as something of a disappointment. All the same, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have any regrets about the trust they’ve put in Suter and Parise.
“We were fortunate to sign both Zach and Ryan,” Fletcher told NHL.com. “Looking back now, in hindsight with a year removed, I can’t even say how lucky we are that we did sign them.
“You hear horror stories of all these big free-agent signings that don’t pan out, and we signed arguably the best defenseman in the League and one of the best goal scorers in the League. Both players lived up to expectations. They’re great people.”
To Fletcher’s point, while the team didn’t get far in the playoffs, Parise and Suter did largely perform as advertised. That’s especially true for Suter, who averaged a league-leading 27:16 minutes per game and was a Norris Trophy finalist.
At the same time, those long-term contract horror stories don’t always start with the first season of a deal. After all, Parise is 29 years old and Suter will celebrate his 29th birthday on Jan. 21. With them signed through 2024-25, it’s not hard to see them being liabilities in the final years of their contracts.
Still, right now the Wild have a team with a strong core and some young, up-and-coming talent. And if they can manage to win the Stanley Cup over the next few years, then their signing of Parise and Suter could be credited as the turning point that led them to new heights.
The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.
For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.
You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.
We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.
(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)
Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.
The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.
Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone.
(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)
Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process:
Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.
Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).
As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.
Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.
For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.
— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.
— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.
— Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.
Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.
“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”
So, time to connect the dots.
Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.
“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”
Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.
Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.
It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.