Patrick Reusse
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The Timberwolves reversed tradition Friday and sent a collection of players and draft choices to Utah to acquire a high-profile center in Rudy Gobert.

Left with no comparison in the Wolves' 33-season history, some members of the Minnesota sporting public noted the bounty sent to Utah and made reference to the trade bringing Herschel Walker to the Vikings on Oct. 12, 1989.

There also were a few mentions of the Wild's bold move of July 4, 2012, when owner Craig Leipold signed the top two NHL free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, to contracts that a decade later are having a tricky impact on the team's salary cap.

Discovering any hint of a similarity with the Walker trade that won Super Bowls, for Dallas, and the signings of Suter and Parise that rescued the Wild from stepping into an abyss of disinterest … that takes a vivid imagination.

Leipold was asked last week if his team's fan base still carries a "fond" recollection of those twin signings.

"I sure hope so," he said. "I can tell you that day is remembered fondly by me and everyone working in our franchise."

The reason being, the honeymoon doesn't last forever for a sports team — is that correct, Mr. Leipold?

"Yeah, the honeymoon lasts as long as things are going well," Leipold said. "They weren't going well, the fans stuck with us, but we were starting to see a real downturn after the 2011-12 finish."

The Wild had missed the playoffs in the three previous seasons. General Manager Chuck Fletcher's reaction was to fire Todd Richards as coach and bring in Mike Yeo from the Houston Aeros, the Wild's AHL affiliate, for 2011-12.

Yeo's first 30 games were tremendous: a 20-7-3 record, and 43 points that were tops in the NHL on Dec. 10, 2011. This seemed improbable with the talent on hand, and was it ever.

Yeo's impostors lost 16 of the next 18. They were 15-29-8 to finish the season, with seven regulation wins in the final 52 games. They also were 30th (last) with 177 goals.

The announced attendance over the final two months was severely padded. The West Seventh Street establishments in St. Paul were half-filled before games and empty afterwards.

"We were still trying to get renewals, still trying to sell season tickets, but at the end of June, we were at 7,000," Leipold said. "That was half as many season tickets as we had only two years before that."

Parise and Suter were the top free agents in an offseason that contained few stars. There were headlines on the pursuit of Parise, son of J.P., a North Stars legend, then head of the Shattuck Academy hockey program in Faribault. Suter seemed destined to stay in Nashville.

And then, on July 4, always Minnesota's favorite holiday, even on a Wednesday as it was this time … laziness, friends, family, shooing flies from the potato salad, maybe a ballgame on the radio with that new guy, Cory Provus, joining Dan Gladden.

It wasn't a day for ice-shattering sports news, but then came the reports before noon: The Wild had reached deals with Suter and Parise for the same money ($98 million) and length (13 years).

Minnesota went nuts. Even Ron Gardenhire and Joe Mauer were celebrating with the Twins in Detroit. They had done videos at the behest of the Wild, telling Suter and Parise they would "look great in green."

Revised history has it that the 13-year contracts were a burden. Actually, the length was a benefit to the Wild to spread out the dollars.

Revised history also says the Parise/Suter signings were a failure because the promise of a Stanley Cup run was never met. There was no such promise. The signings were done to compete again and prevent echoes in the X.

Can you imagine, coming back from a lockout to start a 48-game schedule on Jan. 13, 2013, with that same boring collection from 2011-12, what Wild crowds would have looked like then and for a few seasons to follow?

"I don't want to imagine that," Leipold said. "Ryan and Zach fired up the fan base and they helped get us to the playoffs all but one time. That Fourth of July will always be a flagship day for the Wild."

No Stanley Cup, but as for removing the NHL club from the edge of an abyss? With Parise and Suter as featured attractions, the Wild had 230 consecutive sellouts from Dec. 5, 2013, to Oct. 12, 2019.

If reawakening a franchise costs you Kevin Fiala a decade later, so be it.