MINNEAPOLIS — Craig Leipold never thought one of the biggest bonanzas in NHL history was even possible when the Wild owner stepped into the negotiating room with general manager Chuck Fletcher and the agents for defenseman Ryan Suter.
The Wild had opened the summer hoping to land one of the two biggest prizes on the market — either Suter or forward Zach Parise — to bolster a franchise that has missed the postseason for four straight seasons.
At one point during the meeting, the agents asked Leipold and Fletcher "Are you guys committed enough that you're in for both of these guys?"
"Chuck kind of looks at me and said, 'Can we talk for a second?' " Leipold said, chuckling, from his hotel room in New York on Thursday.
The two men stepped aside to digest the possibilities and the costs of making signing both a reality. They plunged ahead, stunning the league when they signed Parise and Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million deals Wednesday, immediately energizing a franchise that was starting to see apathy set in among its fans.
"This is a game changer," Leipold said, still euphoric some 24 hours later. "We're overnight changing who we are. We're changing our identity. We'll never get that opportunity again."
The impact has been immediate. The Wild sold more than 700 season tickets Wednesday while many of their fans were out of town at lake cabins celebrating the Fourth of July.
"We are going to be able to skip ahead four or five steps of development and recruiting costs to get to a place that could take us three years to get to," said Leipold, who in April said the NHL needed to fix "how much we're spending" on player contracts because "we're not making money."
around the league: The Flyers signed a pair of free agents, forward Ruslan Fedotenko and defenseman Bruno Gervais. Gervais, who spent last season with the Lightning, got a two-year deal averaging $825,000, according to media reports. Fedotenko, who was on the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup team, got a one-year deal for $1.75 million. … The league's negotiating committee, headed by commissioner Gary Bettman, and the players association, led by executive director Donald Fehr and eight players, met for a second day to work on a new collective bargaining agreement. Fehr said the session, which lasted approximately 21/2 hours, was "businesslike" and "constructive." The current agreement expires Sept. 15.