Minnesota Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner was kicking back Wednesday prepping for his hockey camp when news that his team signed forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter spread like wildfire across the hockey world.
“I read it first on the internet,” Stoner said. “Me, my friends and teammates are all excited for the season. We’re talking about how much fun it’s going to be. It gives people a lot to talk about.
“It speaks a lot that management went out and got the best two guys on the market.”
Stoner, 27, who spent three years on the blue line for the Tri-City Americans (2002-05), looks forward to playing with Suter.
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“The better the players are around you, the better you are going to be,” Stoner said. “I respect him a lot as a player. He takes care of his end. I can learn a lot from him.”
The Wild finished 35-36-11 last season and missed the playoffs. Stoner believes the team can turn its fortunes around with Parise and Suter.
“It’s crazy to think two players can help that much,” Stoner said. “But they are quality players, and they add depth. Everyone will have us pegged as a successful team in the league. We will be a contender, for sure.”
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Stoner signed a two-year contract extension in May for $2.1 million. He was tops for Minnesota defensemen with a plus-3 rating.
Suter will be a big help on the back end. He had seven goals, 39 assists and a plus-15 rating last season with the Nashville Predators.
In a 24-hour span after signing Parise and Suter, the Wild sold more than 1,000 season tickets. Parise and Suter jerseys were selling faster than they could be made — at $190 apiece.
“I’ve always thought the Minnesota fan base was very loyal,” said Stoner, who is holding his second Vancouver Island hockey camp in his hometown of Port McNeill, British Columbia. “We are trying to put the best product on the ice. They must be super excited to see what the future holds.”
Stoner said he has 65 players at his camp, which will end Saturday.
“We have a mix of ages and caliber,” he said. “We have some local sponsorship, and the kids can win prizes. It’s been good.”