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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

07/04/12 Wild Make Big (Huge) Splash

Seeing that the Minnesota Wild signed both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, it seemed at first like a practical joke. No offense to the Wild, but if any team had a chance at both, it should have been Crosby's Penguins. Of course, the Wild had to pay.

The Minnesota Wild now have the second-highest payroll in the NHL, with more than $67 million in expenditure and just under $3 million in cap space available. Only the Boston Bruins are spending more. Forwards Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and now Parise account for $21,788,462 in cap hits on their own. With Suter's cap hit tacked onto that, the Wild have four players taking up more than $29 million in cap space. The number climbs over $35 million after adding goaltender Niklas Backstrom's $6 million cap hit. The original NHL salary cap to sign whole teams was only $39 million.

CapGeek has lists of comparable contracts for NHL players. Parise's comparables are some of the biggest names in hockey. He's now making more than Steve Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Jason Spezza, Anze Kopitar, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, and others.

Parise has scored 0.39 goals per game over the course of his career, which began in 2005-06. Of players who appeared in at least 240 games since the lockout, Parise is 26th in goals per game. Stamkos, Kovalchuk and Gaborik are well ahead of Parise in that department at 0.55, 0.54 and 0.53 goals per game respectively. In other words: Parise's goals per game over his career translates to roughly a 32 goal-scorer over 82 games, while those three comparable players would score 43+ for similar money.

Parise's 0.82 points per game is 48th since the lockout by players who appeared in at least 240 games, and behind players like Olli Jokinen, Ales Hemsky, Martin Havlat, as well as almost all of the players who CapGeek lists as making comparable money.

The situation with Suter is a little different, because his value isn't calculated primarily by offensive output. Suter now has the highest cap hit of any defenseman in the NHL. Because he's capable of playing nearly half of a game in every situation, Suter may have a better chance of living up to his contract than Parise does. Former defense partner Shea Weber is one of Suter's closest comparables, and Weber's cap hit was $7.5 million last season.

The going rate for a number one defenseman is climbing into the $7+ million range, which is what the Wild are getting in Suter. The going rate for a 30 goal-scorer has not reached that level; nor should it. Thirty players scored 30 goals in 2011-12, and almost all of them did it for less than a $7.5 million cap hit. Parise brings more to the table than mere points, but his contract is an overpay right now. Half way through the life of the deal Parise will be 35 years old, and at that point his cap number could be a major problem for Minnesota. There's a lot to like about landing the two biggest fish in free agency, but it's not all good news.

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