Bill Guerin Already Vindicated By Parise, Suter Buyouts

AP Photo: David Joles

When news broke last offseason that Minnesota Wild General Manager, Bill Guerin, was buying out both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, reaction around both league and in fan circles were mixed. Anyone paying attention knew something had to give between the Wild and Zach Parise but nobody thought Guerin could afford to buy Suter out too. The future cap penalties were just too big to swallow.

But Billy knew the Wild had to confront a problem that nobody else in the organization would even admit existed. That problem was Ryan Suter, who still believed Craig Leopold and the locker room belonged to him. If the voices of both Zach Parise or Ryan Suter weren’t removed from the locker room all together, the Wild were never going to evolve to their next stage of playoff enlightenment. So Guerin got Leopold to sign off on the move and then actually had the balls to pull the trigger on Suter’s buyout, which put the former USA defensemen into a rampage of shock.

Now, just 23 games into their first season in nearly a decade without the former organizational saviors, and Bill Guerin already appears to be vindicated by his bold buyout move. The Minnesota Wild are on a 5-game winning streak (their longest of the season), and sit high atop the Central Division with 33 points, which is also tied for 1st place in the Western Conference.

Guerin’s Midas Touch

All of the offseason moves made by Bill Guerin this past offseason have turned to gold. Ryan Hartman, who just signed a 3-year deal for less than $2 million against the salary cap per season, is on pace to score nearly 50 goals. Kaprizov is scoring points at a top-5 pace, after his unprecedented contract extension. And even signings that were frowned upon at the time, like that of Rem Pitlick’s, have paid off ten-fold.

The only Wild player who could be seen as underperforming is Kevin Fiala, who often looks like the best player on the ice but just can’t put goals home. Fiala’s inconsistency is something Guerin was ready for, though, because he refused to sign the sharpshooter to anything more than a one-year deal and even took him to arbitration to make it happen.

Now, Fiala is top trade piece should the Wild need to boost their lineup before the deadline. Given how many things have worked out in Bill Guerin’s favor since being hired by the Minnesota Wild two+ years ago, I’ll trust whatever decision he makes on Kevin Fiala’s future.

Sure, Guerin looks good but how are Zach Parise and Ryan Suter doing with their new teams? I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with Zach.

Zach Parise – New York Islanders

There was a time when #11 was the only Wild jersey worth selling in the state of Minnesota. Zach Parise played for a cup in New Jersey early in his career. That’s what fans expected him to play for here too, especially after the deal he signed. But even as his numbers started to drop and the injuries piled up, Zach continued to see himself as that all-star leader of team USA hockey.

So after a season where he felt constantly disrespected by Wild management, Parise was bought out and signed with the New York Islanders for his revenge tour. Unfortunately, Islander fans have quickly found out what Wild fans have known for awhile.

Zach Parise still tries really hard but the man just can’t score anymore. Through 18 games played, Parise has exactly ZERO goals and THREE assists on the season. He’s averaging just over 14 minutes of ice time per night.

As for Zach Parise, the effort is clearly there, but the hands are not. He has had scoring chances throughout the season but hasn’t been able to convert. In a normal year, when the Islanders are at full strength, this would be frustrating but not a major concern; Parise wasn’t brought in to be a top-flight scorer like he’s been in the past. But now, when the Isles’ top goal-scorer is out and the homegrown regulars have gone dry, it’s maddening to see Parise misfire so often. He’s not coming out of the lineup — who do they even have that would replace him at this point? — but you’d obviously like to see him break through.

The Athletic – Arthur Staple

Ryan Suter – Dallas Stars

We cannot mention Ryan Suter’s game in the same breath as Zach Parise’s. Suter is still a solid and productive NHL player whose new Central Division team, the Dallas Stars, rely on him greatly. Ryan still logs over 22 minutes of ice time each night, good for 3rd-highest on his playoff-caliber team. On the season, he has a solid 3 goals and 14 assists (+/- 0).

But Suter’s replacement in Minnesota, Alex Goligoski, has been even better. In just under 20 minutes per night, Alex has 2 goals and 14 assists of his own (+12). And the Dallas Stars currently sit seven points behind the Wild in the Central Division standings.

Emboldened Evason, New Leaders

The Stars are probably a better team with Ryan Suter but Minnesota is the envy of this division, in large part because they bought Suter and Parise out last offseason. Removing those two from the locker room has allowed Dean Evason to take full control of the lines and roster. Other players like Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Matz Zuccarrello and Marcus Foligno have, in turn, been able to take over as the new team leaders.

The alignment between those new leaders and the second-year head coach is a major part of what has pushed this team to new heights, as Michael Russo (The Athletic) wrote on Friday morning. Here is just one of many examples Russo used to show the newfound trust between Evason and his new locker room leaders.

Captain Jared Spurgeon is and was hurt. So Tuesday night, after that first period, Evason called over alternate captain Marcus Foligno. He whispered in Foligno’s ear that the coaches wouldn’t be coming into the room when they normally do, with five minutes left in most intermissions, to address the team.

Instead, it was up to Foligno to “catch it,” which is Evason’s coachspeak for “fix it.” Foligno and some other leaders spoke up, and the Wild erupted for another home-ice win.

Michael Russo – The Athletic

Cap penalties will get worse.

It’s true that the cap penalties for buying Zach Parise and Ryan Suter out will get much worse in coming years. They’ll eventually get much easier and then fall off the books completely. But 2021-22 will be the easiest season to stomach, cap-wise, until 2025.

The buyouts will cost Minnesota $12-15 million against the cap in each of the next three seasons. Those penalties are the main reason why Guerin can’t sign Kevin Fiala long-term even if he wants to. But even with the cap penalties hanging over this franchise’ head for the foreseeable future, it’s still already become clear that Bill Guerin made the right decision in buying out both Parise and Suter.

There’s no chance the Minnesota Wild are (mostly) drama-free and flying high atop the Western Conference if Guerin not had the balls to part with both former stars, turned locker room cancers.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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