Morning from Chateau Rousseau.

I hope you enjoyed the Star Tribune's Stanley Cup Final coverage. Quite the commitment from the newspaper, and I appreciate the Strib allowing me to cover. We lucked out with tons of Minnesota angles, so hopefully you got to read the many stories on Matt Cullen, Phil Kessel, Pascal Dupuis, Joel Ward, Brent Burns, Paul Martin, Justin Braun and the former North Stars that still work for the Sharks.

Part of the uniqueness of covering the championship-clinching game is the fact that media is allowed on the ice to interview the winning team, so on the bottom of this blog, I attached some pictures I took of Cullen greeting his three sons, two brothers and father. Also, a picture of Kessel with his family.

Now, it's draft prep time.

-- The NHL schedule is expected to be announced next Monday or Tuesday. The league is aiming for Monday. Typically, home openers are announced the day before.

-- Next Wednesday, Vegas expansion is expected to officially be announced from the Board of Governors meeting in Vegas. How that expects the Wild? I wrote a column about it last season, so look in our archives, but I'll also likely have a story in Thursday's paper.

-- Today, the buyout window opened in the NHL. No decision has been made yet on Thomas Vanek, and as I noted in the story I wrote in today's paper here, the Wild may first want to get the official salary cap figure for next season (should come in the next few days), come up with a final plan for potential trades and free agency to see if it needs an extra $5 million of space that buying out Vanek would create and if it could exhaust trade options toward potentially dealing Vanek or even a Jason Pominville.

My personal gut: I think the Wild buys out Vanek. Right now, it has $64 million roughly committed on 15 players. There are 23 on a roster. If the cap is around 74M, that's only 10M to fill out the rest of the roster (including re-signing restricted free agents like Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba and maybe Darcy Kuemper if it's unable to trade the backup goalie). And, it's really less than $10 million because GM Chuck Fletcher will want to leave room for injury callups and the ability to make external changes in-season).

So, it would seem to me the Wild needs some cushion unless there are trades in the work that'll create that space.

-- I’ll be writing a lot the next few weeks about possible trades, but with four picks in the June 24-25 draft (first, fourth and two sevenths), the 15th pick could be in play. It could be dangled in a player trade or dangled on the draft floor to move down and accrue more picks.

That’d depend on how the top-14 play out. If certain guys are still on the board the Wild covets, the Wild would make the pick. If there are a number of players still left that it would be happy with, it could move back and add picks.

-- Then, I'll start writing about free agency, which when I look at the list, this is one of the biggest buyer beware crops of free agents I've seen in awhile (in my opinion).

-- Jim Souhan and I are taping a podcast today where I'll discuss that more. It'll be up on my Star Tribune Facebook page  and Twitter page and our podcast web site later.

Also, I'll be in studo at KFAN on Thursday at 10:55 a.m.

MINNESOTA WILD TO HOST WELLS FARGO SUMMER BASH
AND NHL ENTRY DRAFT VIEWING PARTY AT
XCEL ENERGY CENTER
ON FRIDAY, JUNE 24
     
    SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild will host its annual Wells Fargo Summer Bash and NHL Entry Draft Viewing Party for fans from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, June 24 at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. The event marks the culmination of the 2016 Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour and will feature photo and autograph opportunities with Wild players who participated: Ryan Carter, Kurtis Gabriel, Mario Lucia, Chris Porter, Nate Prosser and Mike Reilly. The event is free and open to the public.
 
    NHL Alumni will also be on hand to sign autographs, including Henry Boucha, Aaron Broten, Jack Carlson, Dave Christian, Brad Maxwell, Erik Westrum and Tom Younghans. Fans can also visit the Wild locker room and watch the Wild make the 15th selection in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, which will be broadcast live on the videoboard. Fan festivities include floor hockey and Top Shot interactive games, face painters and a kids coloring station. KFAN 100.3 FM will also be on site, broadcasting live radio coverage of the event. The Hockey Lodge and select concession stands will be open for fans.
 
    The 2016 Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour will feature three separate caravans of Wild players, alumni and staff visiting a total 18 communities throughout Minnesota from Tuesday, June 21 through Thursday, June 23. Visit wild.com for complete Road Tour details.

Here are those pics, courtesy of my iPhone

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Ken Hitchcock on the Mike Yeo dynamic in St. Louis, Rick Wilson and if this is really his last year

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