Zach Parise and Ryan Suter joined the Wild at the same time in a landmark twist for an organization seeking a breakthrough.
That's also how they exited.
After signing matching contracts nine years ago as the splashiest free-agent pickups in franchise history, Parise and Suter were unceremoniously let go Tuesday when the Wild decided to buy out the remaining four years of their deals.
Both players are expected to become free agents, eligible to sign with any NHL team except the Wild.
"These are two guys who gave their heart and soul to this organization," General Manager Bill Guerin said Tuesday afternoon at the team's headquarters in St. Paul. "But we have to make tough decisions and keep trying to turn the page, keep trying to get better and reach our ultimate goal and long-term goal of winning a Stanley Cup."
Parise and Suter helped turn the Wild into a playoff team, but one that fell short of a championship. They had four seasons to go on their 13-year, $98 million contracts and will receive approximately $6.7 million of the $10 million in salary they were still owed.
While the team freed up about $10 million in salary cap space for next season, that wiggle room drops to roughly $2 million for 2022-23 and is even more miniscule from 2023-25.
"Those years will be tough," Guerin said, referring to 2023-25. "But we're going to have to do a very good job of drafting players and a very good job of developing players and injecting some younger, cheaper players into our lineup."
Salary-cap relief, however, wasn't the only motivator for the Wild. These subtractions will affect how it handles next Wednesday's expansion draft.
Since Parise and Suter both had no-movement clauses in their deals, they were required to be protected from Seattle. Now, the Wild has two spots available to shield players who were likely to be on the outs — like defenseman Matt Dumba and forward Nico Sturm. The Wild has until Saturday to submit its protection list.
"We have to continue to change," Guerin said. "This team has to evolve."
No easy split
Guerin described a six-to-eight month process to reach this decision. He said owner Craig Leipold, who was thrilled to acquire Parise and Suter in 2012, supported the moves.
"There wasn't one big reason," Guerin said. "It was pretty much everything together as a whole. A tough decision to make, but one that I feel that we need to make."
Hints of a potential divorce with Parise popped up last season when the winger's role was diminished. He had his ice time scaled back, was demoted to the fourth line and became a healthy scratch, including for the start of the playoffs.
"We saw what happened with Zach this year," Guerin said, "and we weren't going to be able to give him the opportunity that maybe we thought we were."
As for Suter, he was still a top-pairing defenseman for the Wild who played among the most minutes on the team.
"Ryan was a contributing player, as well," Guerin said. "But moving forward with four years left on his deal, we just decided it was something that was better done now."
Guerin called buying out the veteran players together "the proper step" and said he didn't consider trading the 36-year-old alternate captains, who could have vetoed any proposal with their no-movement clauses.
"I felt this was the cleanest way," Guerin said.
Both players were informed of the Wild's decision Tuesday morning.
"It's a tough conversation," Guerin said. "I'll just leave it at that. They're both good. They're both professional. It's just a tough day."
Parise didn't responded to a request for comment from the Star Tribune.
"It's too bad things ended this way," Suter said in a text message.
Former franchise faces
This ends a memorable era in Wild history, a rebirth fronted by Parise and Suter that solidified the team's competitiveness.
The two were the most-coveted free agents in 2012, and they both chose the Wild — signing on July 4, a fitting arrival since their addition was as explosive as the fireworks on Independence Day.
"You can pretty much put them up as the faces of the franchise when they first got here," Marcus Foligno said.
Immediately, the Wild improved, making the playoffs after missing out the previous four seasons. Overall, the Wild advanced to the postseason eight times in the next nine seasons and Parise and Suter were catalysts.
Through 558 games, Parise racked up the third-most goals (199) and points (400) in Wild history during his homecoming after debuting with New Jersey. The son of former North Star J.P. Parise who grew up in Bloomington is also the franchise leader in playoff goals (16) and points (37).
Another Midwest product, Suter is tops in assists (314) and points (369) among Wild defensemen after his 656 regular-season games following a stint with Nashville.
"Zach and Ryan brought a lot to our team, the Wild organization and city overall," captain Jared Spurgeon said in a text message. "I learned a lot from their professionalism and work ethic and wish them both all the best moving forward."
Their window with the Wild closed without a Stanley Cup, and now it's up to the new core Guerin has assembled around the likes of Spurgeon, Foligno and Joel Eriksson Ek to lead the pursuit.
Re-signing Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala are still on the team's to-do list, and the Wild must fill out its defense. The team has approximately $26 million in cap space for the rest of the offseason after the boost from the buyouts and will target short-term contracts in free agency. Trades are another option.
"We know what we're in for," Guerin said. "We know it's going to be difficult, but we're going to try and keep progressing."
Bringing in Parise and Suter was the last monumental crossroads in the Wild's journey to claim a championship. Moving on from them is the next.