Taking Their Talents To North Beach

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Two highly sought-after free agents meet in secret to bypass the traditional signing process and engineer a deal that would send both to a single team, thereby changing the power structure of the league.

Two years ago it was LeBron James and Chris Bosh teaming with Dwayne Wade in an effort to create a multi-championship core of basketball elite. This year it’s Ryan Suter and Zach Parise teaming with Niklas Backstrom to create a team good enough to make the playoffs.

Admittedly, the comparison isn’t exact. Miami won a NBA championship before the high-priced additions arrived, and Minnesota hasn’t won a title in its 14-year history and was completely blanked under the city’s previous ice residents, the Minnesota North Stars. Also, Suter and Parise play in the National Hockey League, which gets little ESPN coverage, which is why they remain unknown commodities even if the league’s average game day attendance tailed the NBA by just 455 seats.

Keeping the NBA comparison afloat, had anyone beyond Barry Melrose been paying attention, the announcement would have been greeted with a wave of conspiracy theory involving frozen envelopes and grainy photos of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman secretly meeting with Elvis, aliens and Wild owner Craig Leipold at some undisclosed location.

Minneapolis isn’t South Beach, but Lake Como is just a few miles from the Xcel Energy Center and offers recreation options including fishing, a zoo, outdoor theater and was, for a time, the final resting place for former James Gang member Charlie Pitts. Beat that, art deco store-fronts!

All joking and silly geographic references aside, the signing of Suter and Parise is much bigger than what happened in Florida. There was no Decision or, at least not yet, an introductory rock concert featuring a planetarium-style laser show synchronized to U Got The Look and Little Red Corvette, but the impact of the move will cause a ripple effect greater than the previous example.

Miami always was a popular option for James, so when Bosh quickly signed on it wasn’t a huge surprise, especially after Boston pulled the same move a few years before.

The Parise/Suter move is different. Parise is a Minnesota native, and the Wild were going to make a big push to sign him. But Minnesota is a small market and the New Jersey forward had just gotten to the Stanley Cup Finals. With the re-signing of goalie Martin Brodeur, the Devils looked to be a contender, and Parise’s home, for a number of years. Suter, a defenseman for Nashville, had teamed with Shea Webber to form one of the best blue line duos in the league. He also was a prime target of big money clubs like Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago. Suter’s wife, however, is a Minnesotan, and keeping Mama happy is imperative no matter the career path.

The pair’s identical 13-year deals worth a total of $98 million won’t likely have much impact on future free agent deals – minus the ones this season, which have been tossed into utter chaos. The NHL’s limited salary cap options will prevent many other bromances from blooming on the ice. Players will no doubt continue to be influenced by what is happening in the NBA and elsewhere, but favorite pairings will have to wait until later in life when salary implications are less threatening.

So while The Big Two signing may have ruined your favorite team’s plans for an immediate upgrade, one can take comfort in knowing that the future of USA hockey is bright. With Suter, Parise, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and captain Dustin Brown, Canuck Ryan Kesler and Chicago center Patrick Kane donning the red, white and blue, at least we can take comfort in knowing miracles are no longer needed in international play.

Yeah, I knew it wouldn’t help.