Red Wings’ Nightmare Offseason Continues With Few Solutions in Site

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-By Mario DiCicco

July 4th is a day for a ton of fireworks. And boy there were some major ones in the air on this day in the NHL.

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the two most wanted free agents this summer, stunned the NHL when they signed together with the Minnesota Wild for 13 years and $98 million for both players. Other teams like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Detroit made strong offers to both players, but spurned them, and their respective former teams, New Jersey and Nashville. They certainly have left a lot of bruised egos in their wake. Not to mention a boatload of questions for the teams that missed out on their services.

Perhaps no team is left with more questions and bruised egos, than the Detroit Red Wings.

For this proud and history-drenched organization and their fans, this Independence Day turned into a major disappointment once the news leaked out just past noon on Wednesday that they were shut out of the Parise/Suter sweepstakes. It makes the recent retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart to San Jose loom that much larger. To add insult to injury, one of the “Plan B” options in defenseman Matt Carle, bolted from Philadelphia Flyers to the Tampa Bay Lightning for 6 years and $33 million later in the day. The Wings did very little at the trade deadline this past February, much to the dismay of fans, sat on their money and gambled that free agency would bring them the players that they wanted. The gamble has blown up in their face and now they’re stuck holding $17 million and staring at a free agent market that’s basically nothing but table scraps. With apologies to Mikael Samuelsson, Jordan Tootoo, Jonas Gustavsson, and Damien Brunner, the developments of Wednesday sent a loud and painful message that’s very difficult to read, hear, much less type:

The Detroit Red Wings are no longer something special. They’re just simply one of 30 teams in the NHL.

It didn’t help the Wings’ cause that there were outside factors aside from hockey involved in these decisions. Zach Parise is from Minnesota, his father J.P. Parise once played with the Minnesota North Stars, his fiancé is from Minnesota. Ryan Suter grew up in Wisconsin, close to Minnesota and his wife is from Minnesota. The two players talked on a consistent basis throughout their free agency and discussed the possibilities of playing together, and taking their families into consideration during the decision making process. Zach Parise is coming off an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals with the Devils, and Ryan Suter consistently went to the playoffs with the Predators. These guys are now “going home” to the Minnesota Wild, a team that’s made the playoffs approximately twice in the last eight seasons. If winning was a priority for these two players, (like it allegedly was before and during the process) spurning teams like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, or their former teams, doesn’t exactly support that statement. As free agents, players can do whatever they choose to do. It’s a gamble no matter where a player signs and for how long and how much. But leaving potentially better situations on the table and hoping to create a good situation in Minnesota is a significant gamble and challenge that these two friends, now teammates, will spend the next decade trying to accomplish.