Dane Mizutani: Wild GM Bill Guerin doesn’t regret Zach Parise-Ryan Suter buyouts, and he shouldn’t
With captain Jared Spurgeon in charge, and alternate captains Marcus Foligno and Matt Dumba leading alongside him, the Wild felt different this season
ST. PAUL — For the next few seasons, the Minnesota Wild are going to be in salary-cap hell. They made sure of that last offseason by paying Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to go away.
More specifically, general manager Bill Guerin made sure of that by having the guts to make such a big move.
Though he understood the financial implications of the buyouts — $12.74 million in dead-cap money in 2022-23, $14.74 million in dead cap in 2023-24 and $14.74 million in dead cap in 2024-25 — Guerin believed it was the only way the Wild were ever going to make the leap to having a chance of being a Stanley Cup contender.
The status quo wasn’t working. Something needed to change.
With a fresh start, the Wild finished the regular season with a franchise record 53 wins and 113 points before losing to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
Question: Were the buyouts worth it? Answer: Absolutely.
While it might be hard to see progress after another early exit in the playoffs, the Wild are in much a better place heading into this offseason.
It finally feels as if this group is building toward something bigger, not scratching and clawing simply to stay on the periphery of the playoff picture.
With captain Jared Spurgeon in charge, and alternate captains Marcus Foligno and Matt Dumba leading alongside him, the Wild felt different on and off the ice this season.
It actually felt like a team rather than a bunch of individuals who happen to work together.
“This is the first season (since I’ve been here) that management, coaches and players alike were able to do things exactly the way we wanted to do them,” Guerin said. “We took such a big step in the right direction in my mind, and that gives me a lot of hope for what’s to come.”
It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines of that response. Though he never referred to them by name, Guerin was talking about Parise and Suter no longer being around.
They left and the culture got better. It’s as simple as that.
As much as Parise and Suter deserve credit for helping the franchise return to relevance — the Wild only missed the playoffs once during their near-decade-long tenure in the Twin Cities — they were also at the epicenter of a locker room that was rarely on the same page.
It’s no coincidence that Spurgeon, Foligno and Dumba go out of their way to talk about the inclusiveness inside the locker room nowadays.
It’s no coincidence that coach Dean Evason constantly mentions how much his players “love” each other.
It’s no coincidence that Guerin hasn’t for a nanosecond regretted the buyouts despite the financial implications.
“I’d do it again,” Guerin said. “We knew exactly what position we were putting ourselves in. We’re just going to deal with it. It’s not something where we go into the office like, ‘Oh god, we’ve got to deal with this.’ No. This is it. We knew what we were doing.”
Now, there’s no doubt the buyouts will make things more difficult on the Wild in the short term. They most likely won’t be able to afford star winger Kevin Fiala this offseason because of the dead cap, and beyond that, Guerin will have to do some finagling to fill out his roster.
But Guerin is confident the Wild will be just as competitive next season because of the culture they have in place.
“We’ve made some moves over the last couple of seasons to kind of mold things,” Guerin said. “We wanted to create something that was special without any obstacles in the way.”
Those obstacles are gone. Now the Wild need to continue moving in the right direction. They can no longer blame Parise and Suter for their shortcomings.
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