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Big paydays loom for many All-Stars, something the Wild’s Ryan Suter, Zach Parise know about

January 28, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. Its an annual summit that brings together the best and brightest stars in the NHL to flex their skills, but the All-Star Game that descended on Tampa this weekend also looked like it could have been orientation for the 2019 class of unrestricted free agents.

Ten players eligible to hit the market almost a year and a half from now were featured at the midseason festivities, which culminate Sunday in the three-on-three, division-style tournament at Amalie Arena that has a $1 million prize up for grabs.

And with a handful of those billed as franchise cornerstones, its no surprise buzz has already begun to generate for the likes of Ottawas Erik Karlsson and Los Angeles Drew Doughty.

That hasnt been an issue for me, Doughty said. Obviously, I get asked about it once in a while by the media. But I just answer the question as truthfully as I can. Im a pretty honest person. Still a little ways away before me and L.A. can start talking again. But obviously dont plan on going anywhere.

Regardless of where each ends up, both are in store for a major payday that could very well exceed the $9 million cap hit Predators blue-liner P.K. Subban carries, which is currently the highest among NHL defensemen.

Obviously, you think of a number, how long you want and all those type of things, Doughty said. Its impossible for it to not go through your mind. But to be honest, I havent been dwelling on it or anything. Ive just been going out there, playing hockey and having fun. When the time comes, Ill really have to think about it.

And if either does decide to trigger a bidding war, the process that unfolds is poised to be a memorable one considering how it has been for previous high-profile free agents like the Wilds Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.

Its amazing, Suter said. Its a fun experience but a lot going on. July 1 comes, and its chaos.

Suter and Parise were the headliners of the 2012 free-agent class, and they forever embossed July 4 of that year in Wild history by signing identical 13-year, $98 million contracts to come to Minnesota.

In the lead-up to that decision, Suter wanted to keep his options open and explore all possibilities.

It wasnt stressful, he recalled. I went about my days just like any other summer day. Its not like the movies where its all hyped up. Its pretty laid-back calls with different teams.

An impending status change rolled over in Parises mind during the 2011-12 season and although he had some talks with then-Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello, both sides agreed to reconvene after the season.

When it came time to make a final call, though, both consulted with family members and agents, and competitiveness and lifestyle were the factors Suter and Parise considered.

You want to be in the mix, Parise said. You want to have a chance.

Suter didnt grow up in the area like Bloomington native Parise did, but Suters wife, Becky, is from Minnesota and the drive to games from Wisconsin would be much easier than the trek his dad, Bob, would make to Nashville before he died in 2014 factors that, ultimately, guided the experience to an easy conclusion.

It wasnt that hard of a decision to come here, Suter said.

Short takes

andensp;The spotlight on goaltender interference only seems to be getting brighter. In the NHLs final day of action before the All-Star break, the issue sparked controversy after a goal by the Oilers was overturned in overtime against the Flames this after the Maple Leafs Auston Matthews had a goal taken away Monday (the Wild also had one of its goals wiped away Thursday by a Penguins challenge). Confusion seems to be the consensus, and although the rules are spelled out, the interpretation appears inconsistent an unfortunate reality.

andensp;Less than a year after surgery to repair torn ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee, Sharks center Joe Thornton recently underwent another procedure to address a right-knee injury, and its unclear when hell resume playing. This is quite a setback for the Sharks, who are narrowly ahead of the Flames, Kings and Ducks in the Pacific Division. Its also a tough blow for Thornton, who was in the midst of a bounce-back season.

andensp;The Professional Hockey Writers Association released its midseason awards Friday, and there were few surprises. Nikita Kucherov (Hart Trophy), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Vezina Trophy) and Gerard Gallant (Jack Adams Trophy) are clear first-half front-runners, and while it seems impossible anyone is prying the Coach of the Year honors away from Gallant, perhaps Nathan MacKinnon could challenge for the MVP title if the Avalanche advance. And if Vasilevskiy cant overcome his recent struggles, that would only appear to open the door for another candidate among the goalies.

Wilds week ahead

Tuesday: 6 p.m. at Columbus

Friday: 7 p.m. vs. Vegas

Saturday: 7 p.m. at Dallas

Tues. and Sat. on FSN, Fri on NBCSN

Player to watch: William Karlsson, Golden Knights

The center is enjoying a breakout season, tying for the second-most goals in the NHL with 27 this after he buried just six last season and nine in 2015-16, his previous career high.

VOICES

It doesnt feel nice. You always want to go into a break feeling good about yourself. But at the same time, you need to look at the bigger picture. Its one loss that weve got tO rebound from. Take the chance to recover and restore your juices and be ready for a huge tilt in Columbus.

Center Eric Staal after the Wilds 6-3 loss to the Penguins Thursday before the All-Star break.

Sarah McLellan covers the Wild and NHL hockey for the Star Tribune.