Wild hit pay dirt; sign free agents Parise, Suter

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“We felt if we could add either a top defenseman or a top forward it would really help our team,” Fletcher said. “I don’t think you ever go in assuming you’re going to land both of them. We shot for the moon, and we tried our best.”

For a team that has struggled to put the puck in the net, this was one monster score.

“These signings will resonate well with our fans, with our players and with everybody associated with the team,” said Fletcher, who added that they still have cap flexibility. “Our goal in signing them was certainly not to make a splash, it was to make our team better. We feel we are a better team, but our work is just starting.”

Parise was the best forward on the market. He scored 31 goals and 69 points last season in his first year as the Devils‘ captain. He also chipped in with 15 points in helping the team’s surprise run to the Stanley Cup finals, which ended in a six-game series loss to Los Angeles.

Drafted 17th overall by New Jersey in 2003, the 27-year old has 194 goals and 216 assists in 503 career games. He scored 30-plus goals five times.

Suter, also 27, was the top defenseman available this summer. He spent all seven of his seasons in the NHL with the Predators after being selected with the seventh pick in the 2005 draft. The All-Star defenseman had career highs in points last year, with 7 goals and 39 assists.

Parise tried to explain why he needed more than a few days to announce his intentions, saying he was evaluating each team and city that was trying to sign him.

While the Wild celebrated, the players’ former teams were left with big holes to fill.

“There’s no question we’re disappointed,” Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “It’s a very unfortunate thing when you have a player of his stature that comes right through the ranks and, at this given time a decision is made to go elsewhere. But right now there’s nothing we can do about that and our plans are going forward.”

Lamoriello said he met with Parise and his representatives in Toronto on Saturday, and made what he called a competitive offer. In later discussions with Parise, Lamoriello said, the player made clear he wanted an opportunity to play in his home state.

Zach told me that if it wasn’t going home to Minnesota, it would be coming to New Jersey,” Lamoriello said. “I respect that.”

The Devils cupboard isn’t entirely bare as the team still features Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and NHL rookie of the year finalist Adam Henrique. New Jersey also re-signed veteran goalie Martin Brodeur to a two-year contract earlier this week.

The Predators had a similar reaction to Suter’s departure.

“It would be an understatement to say that the Nashville Predators are disappointed at this time,” team GM David Poile said. “Actually, not disappointed, but very surprised.”

Poile had held out hope that Suter would consider re-signing with the Predators even after becoming a free agent.

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