Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Harding survives chopping block, still on trading block; Boogaard vs. Scott; Other Wild tidbits

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild off-season news Updated: April 13, 2010 - 1:22 PM

There is reason No. 1 why I'm not a headline writer.

How terrible is that headline?

By the way, I'll be on 1500 ESPN Radio (newly-named, aka KSTP) with Patrick Reusse at 1:40 p.m.

Harding underwent successful hip surgery to repair his torn labrum in Vail yesterday. He'll spend the next two-three weeks there rehabbing in the Marian Gaborik suite.

Harding is a year from unrestricted free agency and Niklas Backstrom has a no-trade clause and $6 million price tag that would act as a no-trade clause even if he didn't have an actual no-trade clause.

So Harding remains so on the trading block, GM Chuck Fletcher's gotten to the point where he openly talks about it when asked.

I asked Fletcher if Harding's surgery could hinder his ability to trade the goalie: “I can’t imagine it would, but we’ll find out. I don’t think it will though. It’s a pretty standard type of surgery, and there aren’t many injuries in hockey now that would scare teams off.

“Obviously any team would want to make sure he’s healthy at the time of trade, but it’ll be a normal summer for him.”

Fletcher noted how Backstrom had the same surgery last year and was back in plenty of time to start the season. He said other than the next month, it'll be a "normal summer" for Harding.

The problem Fletcher may run into is there are only a few teams that may definitely need a goalie -- Philadelphia, Chicago perhaps -- and a lot of goalies that might be on the trading block or available via free agency.

Fletcher said Thursday or Friday he should have further surgery updates. He said a couple players are getting MRI's and "may need some things cleaned up."

-- I've been getting a lot of emails asking "Derek Boogaard back or John Scott?" I don't know, other than Scott is a defenseman and the Wild is pretty filled on the back end. If there are no trades, the returning defensemen are Burns, Barker, Schultz, Stoner, Zanon and Zidlicky. There will only be seven or eight D on the team, and guys like Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser especially, will have a shot for a roster shot.

So I just don't see where Scott squeezes in there, and please, no more emails about Scott's "versatility" of playing forward.

He's a defenseman. He's understandably not a good winger.

"We have to look at our mix back there. He’s unrestricted. He has rights too and can explore his options. We haven't ruled out anything. We have to see what we do on the trade front, but it's way too early to assume anybody wouldn’t be back."
 
This is regarding Scott. That doesn't necessarily mean Boogaard will be back, but I just don't think Scott will. Again, this is just my educated guess. Also, just because the Wild basically traded Boogaard at the deadline doesn't mean they don't want him back. Coach Todd Richards values the element he brings and a third, fourth and Konopka for Boogaard was one heck of a value and why Fletcher was going to make that trade with Tampa.
 
Fletcher said the longer it goes without re-signing the free agents, naturally some UFA's will want to "peek over the fence and see what's on the other side." There will be conversations with some of his free agents, he said.
 
Fletcher did say that while the Wild doesn't plan to go out and sign any UFA defensemen on July 1 at this point, you can sometimes get terrific values for defensemen a few days after free agency begins. The Wild may want to sign one NHL defensemen just so "players have to earn their way onto the team in September as opposed to anointed in July."
 
Fletcher is referring to the Scandellas, Prossers, Cumas, etc.
 
-- Fletcher and Richards held end-of-the-year one-on-ones with players, but Fletcher said the internal front-office meetings to discuss the roster will be delayed for a little bit. He wants scouts to scout, and he also wants some of the internal anger and emotion of missing the playoffs to dissipate before holding meetings to discuss the future of individual players.
  
-- Assistant to the GM Jim Mill is representing the Wild at tonight's draft lottery in New York. Wild has a 2.7 percent chance of moving from ninth to fifth, so I wouldn't plan your night around watching the draft lottery and partying afterward.
 
-- Wild assistant equipment manager Brent Proulx will serve as the United States' equipment manager at the World Championships in Germany on May 7-23. I don't expect a lot of players. There are a lot of guys dinged up (especially Backstrom, Koivu, Zidlicky, Havlat), so I can't imagine the Wild would want its Olympians who played a lot of hockey this season to participate.
 

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