Wild make splash with Parise, Suter signings

Wed Jul 4, 2012 3:19pm EDT

New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk (L) celebrates with teammate Zach Parise after scoring an empty net goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period during Game 4 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey final in Los Angeles, June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo

New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk (L) celebrates with teammate Zach Parise after scoring an empty net goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period during Game 4 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey final in Los Angeles, June 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Alex Gallardo

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(Reuters) - The Minnesota Wild transformed their struggling franchise by signing marquee free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year contracts, the National Hockey League (NHL) team said on Wednesday.

Parise, who captained the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup final last month, and Suter, a defenseman who had a career-high 46 points with the Nashville Predators last season, were both members of the 2010 silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic team.

"We are extremely excited to add the collective skill, experience and character of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to an already promising roster," Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement.

"We view this as a rare opportunity for us to transform our franchise by adding two marquee players, who are both in the prime of their careers, at the same time."

The two 27-year-olds were widely considered the top prizes of the NHL's free agent market and will be counted on to boost a Wild team that has not made the playoffs since 2008 and finished 12th in the 15-team Western Conference last season.

Financial terms of the contracts were not disclosed by the Wild but multiple media reports said Parise and Suter agreed to $98 million deals.

Parise, a Minnesota-native and son of former NHL player J.P. Parise, who skated with the Minnesota North Stars for parts of nine seasons, returns home after seven seasons with the Devils.

In 502 career games, Parise accumulated 410 points (194 goals, 216 assists). He scored 30-plus goals five times, including a career-high 45-goal campaign in 2008-09.

During the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup finals, Parise registered eight goals and seven assists. In 61 career playoff games, the forward has scored 21 goals and notched 22 assists.

"When it came down to it, it came to between New Jersey and Minnesota." Parise said on a conference call with Suter. "Every kid growing up in Minnesota would love to play with the Wild. That's the way it is."

Suter, who will become the fourth former University of Wisconsin product on the Wild next season, had spent the first seven years of his NHL career with the Predators.

An All-Star selection last season, Suter had seven goals and 39 assists for Nashville as a two-way defenseman who thrives on the power play. His 23 points on the man advantage was third in the league among defensemen.

In 542 career games in Nashville, Suter racked up 238 points (38-200) and owns a plus-43 rating.

"I got a phone call from (Wild forward) Dany Heatley. He said he really wanted me to come and he expressed how great an organization it is," said Suter. "Minnesota has a lot of good, young players that I think will make this team successful."

The blockbuster signings of Parise and Suter, both first-round picks in the 2003 NHL Draft, follow earlier free agent additions of centers Jake Dowell, Zenon Konopka, and Torrey Mitchell as new faces for the Wild.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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