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(From McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Saint Paul Pioneer Press - Minnesota)
Byline: Charley Walters
When NHL free agency opened on July 1, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter did not plan to be a package deal.
Some teams certainly wanted both, and the pair had exchanged a few text messages. But at the start, Parise and Suter were working independently on finding teams to sign with. Parise would do his deal, and Suter would do his deal.
For the first two days of free agency, there wasn't much conversation between Parise and Suter. Then, at about 1 a.m. on Tuesday, July 3, Neil Sheehy, the Harvard grad and former NHL player from International Falls, Minn., who represents Suter, got a telephone call from his client.
Suter had just chatted with Parise about the possibility of the pair signing with Nashville, Suter's previous team. But Parise didn't want to go to the Predators.
Parise in turn asked Suter if he would be willing to play for Parise's former team, New Jersey. But Suter said that didn't interest him.
Then Suter and Parise discussed the possibility of signing long-term deals with Minnesota and trying to make the Wild a bona fide Stanley Cup contender.
Suter told Sheehy about their new mind-sets. Parise and Suter, both 27, no longer were thinking about going separate ways. They were thinking about going to Minnesota together.
Their agents went to work on deals that would end up as 13-year guaranteed contracts for $98 million each that included $10 million signing bonuses.
The contracts, including the signing bonuses, average $7.5 million
annually. Had the agents for Suter and Parise pressed for more individually, it's a good bet they could have driven up the price to an average of nearly $9 million apiece over 13 years.
Those deals would have approached $117 million. But with the NHL's $70.4 million salary cap, they would have made it nearly impossible for the Wild to acquire …