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Updated: June 30th, 2012 6:35pm
Zulgad: Wild could have some work to do if Zach Parise signs elsewhere

Zulgad: Wild could have some work to do if Zach Parise signs elsewhere

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Wild began play during the 2000-01 season, meaning that this marks the 12th offseason in which the team has had an opportunity to make moves in which to improve itself.

Safe to say that never before have fans' expectations been as high as they currently are in regards to the expectations for summertime improvement.

There are two reasons for this: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Some think the winger from New Jersey and defenseman from Nashville will end up as a package deal, but the reality is many Wild fans have their hearts set on seeing Parise, a Minneapolis native, playing his home games in St. Paul next season.

After weeks of anticipation about how the Wild will be big-time players in the pursuit of one or both free agents we'll soon find out if talk of adding Parise was realistic or a pipe dream. Parise might not make his decision immediately, but teams can start making their case to him and his agents at 11 a.m. Sunday when NHL free agency kicks off.

If the Wild lands Parise, there is little doubt the phone lines will light up, tickets will be sold and there will be little talk of the fact that on Sept. 15 the NHL could shut down if a new collective bargaining agreement is not in place.

What will be more interesting is if Parise ends up going elsewhere.

The Wild has done little to attempt to manage the expectation that Parise will decide to play at home.

Owner Craig Leipold and general manager Chuck Fletcher haven't been allowed to talk about Parise while he remains a member of the Devils, but this hasn't stopped other plugged-in hockey folks from helping to build the excitement.

Former North Stars president and general manager Lou Nanne told Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on their show on 1500 ESPN this month that the Wild will "throw the kitchen sink" at Parise.

Nanne volunteered this information after saying he had talked with Leipold. Nanne is a savvy guy and knows exactly what he's doing. He didn't reveal this information by accident or make a mistake in doing so.

Clearly, Leipold wanted it out that the Wild would go hard after Parise and Nanne was able to deliver that message without getting the Wild in trouble by doing so.

But what one has to consider is what happens if the kitchen sink doesn't prove to be enough for Parise?

What happens if Parise decides that the opportunity to play on a line with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh is just too good to pass up? Or if the Detroit Red Wings convince Parise he's the key piece to a Stanley Cup run. Or if the soon-to-be 28-year-old Parise decides joining a team that hasn't made the playoffs in four seasons just isn't in his best interest?

Yes, Parise has bought a house in Orono, but he's also lived in Minnesota and knows that a summer on Lake Minnetonka can be fantastic but a January drive to St. Paul can be a pain.

If Parise lands elsewhere, the Wild public relations machine could end up having to do some real damage control. The organization is expecting an influx of young talent with players such as Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Zack Phillips, etc., etc., and the Wild would certainly point to this as a positive.

But there is no arguing the fact this franchise could benefit immediately by having Parise on its top line. The guy had 31 goals and 38 assists in 82 games this past season. The Wild's leading goal-scorer in 2011-12 was Dany Heatley with 24.

The Wild's best play, if it doesn't get Parise, will be to make it clear they offered more than anybody else for Parise and he simply elected to play elsewhere. If the Wild doesn't come at Parise with one of the biggest offers, then there could be a real issue.

Even if the Wild is able to deliver its message successfully - that it tried as hard as possible and just didn't get Parise - many fans are going to be disappointed. But disappointment about not getting a player is far different than anger at the team for failing to deliver.

Angry fans don't buy tickets. Angry fans don't buy merchandise. Angry fans call radio shows to rip the team.

Disappointed fans? They might not be happy but they get over it and move on.

They might end up booing Parise the first time he comes to the X, but the Wild would much prefer that to hearing boos directed at their team from those same fans on opening night. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Dany Heatley
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