There are few things that get the Minnesota hockey fan's pulse racing like the idea of landing a good Minnesota boy in the draft or via free agency. This summer, if the New Jersey Devils cannot work out an extension, the mother of all Minnesota boys -- Zach Parise -- will hit the market, and the Minnesota Wild have the money to bring him home. The question is, does he want to be here?
There will be no shortage of suitors for the services of Parise, a perennial 35+ goal scorer. All 30 NHL teams have a rumor or six surrounding Parise and his arrival in their city. The New York Rangers are said to be in the running, The Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maples Leafs, and Philadelphia Flyers have also been mentioned in rumors.
With teams like those vying for your services, it would be difficult to pass by them all for the Wild. Original Six team with a solid chance at the Stanley Cup, or the almost always mediocre Minnesota Wild? The choice gets even more muddied by the current state of the Wild.
It's no secret that the Wild are not a very good hockey team this season. They are closer to a lottery pick than they are to a playoff spot. Players love to play for their hometown, but players love to win even more. Unless the Wild can convince Parise that the youth movement coming in is going to produce a winner, Parise will slip through their hands.
In an interview with the Pioneer Press, JP Parise, Zach's dad, had this to say:
"He's a Minnesota boy; he loves Minnesota," J.P. said. "He's going to live here after he retires from hockey. There's no question that he'll stay here.
"Money is not what's really important to (Zach). That's not the bottom line. He wants to have fun and win."
The Wild have a myriad of problems holding them back. They can't score goals, and at the same time, they aren't very good at preventing them, either. Players are frustrated, the coach is visibly irritated, and the fans are audibly unhappy. Unless next season turns into something not seen in Minnesota in four years, it doesn't sound like much fun or winning will be had.
Parise could make winning possible. But with multiple issues at hand, what should the Wild work to fix? Should they sign the flashy forward with the hometown roots, or an elite blue liner like the Nashville Predators' Ryan Suter? With a hoard of young forward prospects turning pro next season, would it make more sense to bring in a Sensi to teach the young prospects, or a stud blue liner to protect them from their mistakes?
GM Chuck Fletcher only added fuel to the fire when he said the team was in position to go after "a big fish or two" in free agency. Thing is, he's right. With an estimated $16 million+ to work with (the CBA expires after this season), Fletcher could, theoretically, land both of the top free agents in the NHL sweepstakes. However, the staff at Hockey Wilderness had their doubts:
For those keeping score at home, that's an "Oh, good grief" final percentage from Ms. Conduct. [We] tend to agree. Wild fans are working themselves into a lather, and it's only March. It's a one in a million chance the Wild can land both of the most coveted free agents on the market.
No one at Hockey Wilderness put very high odds on either player coming to Minnesota, and no one was willing to say there was better than a one in three chance Parise suits up in Iron Range Red.
Still, Parise seems to be the main target. Suter might provide the stability the Wild blue line needs, but Parise is the ticket selling signing. Parise adds the scoring touch the Wild haven't had since the departure of Marian Gaborik. Parise would put the fans in the seats, and then provide the excitement to get them right back out of them. And... he's a good Minnesota boy. The Wild's Joe Mauer.
There's only one problem. The money is there. The winning and fun are not.