After signing two guys to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts last summer pulled in the reins a bit during the 2013 free agent season. General manager Chuck Fletcher did pick up Nino Niederreiter through a trade with the New York Islanders and signed forward Matt Cooke and defenseman Keith Ballard to reasonably-priced deals.
The Wild will play the 2013-14 season as part of the Central Division after the NHL's realignment plan scrapped the club's previous division, the Northwest. Minnesota will battle the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues for the Central crown this season and the Wild will be expected to at least claim one of the division's three automatic playoff bids.
Expectations were raised in Minnesota after the Parise and Suter signings and that could cost head coach Mike Yeo his job if his club starts off slowly this season. After all, Yeo is in the final season of his deal with the Wild, making this a do-or-die season for Minnesota's bench boss.
FORWARDS - Parise was brought into the fold to give the offense a go-to guy and he certainly was Minnesota's top offensive threat last season. Still, at these prices the Wild is expecting even more from the Gopher State native in 2013-14.
Parise led the club with 18 goals during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign and he also posted 38 points while playing in all 48 games. The Wild are expecting at least 30 goals from Parise over the course of a full season and it's a good bet he'll be able to reach that mark for the sixth time in his career.
A strong season could help Parise wash away the bitter taste from his poor playoff showing last spring. He had just one goal and a minus-seven rating as the Wild were downed in five games by the Blackhawks in the opening round.
Parise expects to play left wing on the top line with centerman Mikko Koivu and right winger Jason Pominville, who was acquired from Buffalo at last season's trade deadline. Pominville had four goals and five assists in 10 games with the Wild last year, but only saw action in two playoff games due to a concussion.
Koivu, the team captain, finished second on Minnesota last season with 37 points on 11 goals and 26 assists. The steady two-way player also led all Wild forwards in ice time, garnering an average of 21 minutes and 5 seconds of action every night.
Last season's third-leading scorer, Devin Setoguchi, was dealt to Winnipeg for a second-round pick in July, but the Wild hope Niederreiter can make up for the loss. Setoguchi tied Matt Cullen in points with 27 in 2013, posting 13 goals and 14 assists. Niederreiter was the fifth overall pick by the Islanders at the 2010 draft, but has managed only two goals and one assist over 64 NHL games. Still, the Swiss winger just turned 21 years of age earlier this month and the Wild is hoping 2013-14 will be his breakout season.
The Wild parted with fan favorite Cal Clutterbuck to land Niederreiter, but the Cooke signing will help Minnesota make up for Clutterbuck's physicality. Clutterbuck had two goals, six assists and 27 penalty minutes for the Wild last year, while Cooke, who has earned a reputation as one of the league's dirtiest players, posted eight goals, 13 assists and 36 PIM for Pittsburgh.
Minnesota's offense could receive a big boost if winger Dany Heatley can bounce back from a rough 2013 campaign. The former All-Star's season ended in early April thanks to a shoulder injury, but he only had 11 goals and 10 assists in 36 games before the injury.