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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Posts about Wild off-season news

Wild update on Pominville, Heatley, important dates, injuries

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 15, 2013 - 3:47 PM


With Opening Night 50 days from yesterday (August 14) and the NHL in the middle of its annual August coma (save for when the NHL and NHLPA meet once every eight Augusts or so in an attempt to avoid lockouts), I thought it would be a good time to write up a Wild update.
It won’t be long before the Star Tribune will be filled with hockey articles again.
--Players report for training camp Sept. 11. The Wild will hold physicals and fitness testing that day. Wild players will be on the ice for the first time Sept. 12, and the plan is for that to occur at Ridder Arena or Mariucci Arena because Blake Shelton will be playing Xcel Energy Center that night.
--The Wild prospects will be taking part in the Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, Sept. 5-9. Players set to compete include Brett Bulmer, Raphael Bussieres, Kurtis Gabriel, Tyler Graovac, Erik Haula, Zack Phillips, Matt Dumba and Johan Gustafsson.
--Preseason tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. Regular-season single-game tickets go on sale Sept. 14 at the Xcel Energy Center box office at 9 a.m. and noon at Ticketmaster. Full-season, half-season and 10-game rivalry packs are on sale now. The Wild’s documentary show, Becoming Wild, is expected to kick off in September.
--On Monday, the Wild is expected to release information regarding its state fair appearances and also what date the unveiling will be at the state fair of its new white road sweaters. It’s not yet firmed up, but as usual, I’ll be doing something at the Star Tribune booth one of the days and I hope to have a Wild guest for a Q and A.
--There’s been little free-agent news around the NHL for weeks, and that was expected with the salary cap dropping almost $6 million per team due to the lockout. If one assumes a team wants to keep roughly $1-2 million of cap room for injury callups and potential in-season moves, there are several teams around the NHL with almost no cap space (teams like Philadelphia, Vancouver, Boston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Jose, Detroit, Edmonton and Chicago. There’s actually more. Then, you have to take into consideration the teams with internal budgets that just don’t have cap room to add players. That means a lot of out-of-work players are in a bigtime state of flux, guys like Tom Gilbert, Doug Murray, Ron Hainsey, Mikhail Grabovski, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Whitney, Brenden Morrow and scores of others.
Some of these players will have to sign pro tryouts and hope a job opens up in training camp. Others will have to look toward Europe.
The Wild’s cap ceiling is a little over $64 million – about $280,000 less than the NHL ceiling because Jonas Brodin’s bonuses last season put the Wild over the cap. The Wild has about $3 million in space, but the Wild needs to leave injury callup space and room in case guys like Brodin and Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, etc., hit some entry-level bonuses.
I talked to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher for awhile this morning, and as of now, he’s not actively looking to sign players to tryouts. Also, most players won’t agree to tryouts until the days leading up to camp anyway.
But as of now, Fletcher says the current team is the team. However, Fletcher will meet next week with coach Mike Yeo and his staff, assistant GM Brent Flahr, assistant to the GM Jim Mill and front-office personnel Andrew Brunette, Brad Bombardir and Shep Harder to talk about the team. Fletcher said if there’s a player available that the staff, particularly Yeo and the coaches, has significant interest in, he would look into it.
But Fletcher says often times bringing a veteran in on a tryout “muddies the water” and he doesn’t want to block the abilities of youngsters like Coyle, Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and even Erik Haula or Justin Fontaine from making the team.
Training camp should be fun. Remember, after the lockout ended in January, there was a training camp of barely a week. Most teams couldn’t do fitness testing, they had to do a crash course on systems and everything frankly, players basically couldn’t try out. The team was the team.
This year will be 20 days and you can bet Yeo’s got 50 potential line combinations jotted down. There are several options in camp, everything from which youngsters make the team (from Niederreiter to Haula and Fontaine to Dumba), to who starts at No. 2 center, to what the top line will look like, to what wing guys like Dany Heatley and Jason Pominville play, to what the fourth line will look like, to defense pairs.
The story lines will be plentiful in camp.
Some other nuggets:
--Fletcher says he has had one preliminary conversation with the agent of Pominville regarding a contract extension. Pominville can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2014, if unsigned. Fletcher says there’s no rush and he would even be willing to talk once the season starts if Pominville isn’t extended beforehand. Fletcher says his preference is to re-sign Pominville, but the number and fit needs to make sense. Pominville sustained a concussion against Los Angeles in April and missed the first two games of the playoffs. When he returned, he still wasn’t himself. Pominville says he has felt 100 percent for awhile. In addition, I texted with Dany Heatley (shoulder) the other day. He is feeling good and will be ready by camp. Niklas Backstrom (sports hernia) has been on the ice since June and Clayton Stoner (upper body) is also cleared to return.
--Players have started to trickle into town. The Octagon camp begins Monday. Niederreiter is heading to Portland to skate with his former junior team.
--The Wild hired former NHLer Steve Poapst as Iowa Wild coach Kurt Kleinendorst’s assistant. He will be the lone assistant because Kleinendorst opted to hire a fulltime video coach, Tim Flynn. He’ll have plenty of support as Bombardir and Brunette will be down there often, as well as goalie coach Bob Mason.
--Josh Harding’s charity, Harding’s Hope, which will benefit those afflicted with multiple sclerosis, will host its kickoff event August 25 at The Pourhouse in Minneapolis from 1-5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.vitalculture.com/events/detail/2183.
Here is the Wild depth chart:
Left wing                         Center                          Right wing
Zach Parise                         Mikko Koivu                 Jason Pominville
*Jason Zucker                 *Charlie Coyle                Dany Heatley  
Matt Cooke                      Kyle Brodziak             *Nino Niederreiter
Mike Rupp                       Zenon Konopka          Torrey Mitchell  
Extra: Jake Dowell
 Some vying for spots: *Mikael Granlund, *Erik Haula, Justin Fontaine, Stephane Veilleux.
* Entry-level deals; don't require waivers to be sent to the minors.  
Left Defense                     Right Defense
Ryan Suter                       Jonas Brodin  
Marco Scandella               Keith Ballard  
Clayton Stoner                Jared Spurgeon  
Extra: Nate Prosser        
Vying for spots: Jonathon Blum, Matt Dumba (Must make the Wild or return to WHL Red Deer, not Iowa eligible because he’ll be 19)  
Niklas Backstrom  
Josh Harding

Wild re-signs Cuma

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: July 30, 2013 - 3:21 PM

The Wild announced defenseman Tyler Cuma has signed a one-year, two-way contract. Cuma was the team's first-round pick (23rd overall) in 2008, but has been plagued by injuries in his career.

Cuma, 23, played in 42 games with Houston of the AHL last season. He has one NHL game (April 5, 2012) under his belt. Cuma was a restricted free agent.


Kurt Kleinendorst named first Iowa Wild coach; Parise, Suter invited to U.S. camp, no Pominville

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: July 22, 2013 - 3:16 PM


Kurt Kleinendorst has spent virtually his entire coaching career in the pros, so he knew “very quickly” after arriving at the University of Alabama-Huntsville last year that he wanted to get back to the pro game.
“Talk about landing on my feet,” said the Grand Rapids, Minn., native who was introduced as the first coach of the Iowa Wild, Minnesota’s new American Hockey League affiliate, Monday.
Jim Mill, Iowa’s GM who played for Kleinendorst in 1992 for the then East Coast Hockey League Raleigh Icecaps, said, “He taught me how to be a great pro” and Kleinendorst will teach the Wild’s kids how to be “great professionals.”
Kleinendorst, 52, who won a Stanley Cup as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and a Calder Cup as head coach of the Binghamton Senators in 2011, said he will “mirror” the system deployed by Mike Yeo in Minnesota so “my group is going to have to be ready for the call.”
He said his first priority is to develop the Wild’s future, but “I believe in winning. … This group come season’s end will be humming.”
Kleinendorst, who will begin work to fill out his staff, called Des Moines a “hidden gem. … We are going to do Des Moines proud.”
For more on Kleinendorst's bio, see the previous blog. Here is the official press release.
Also, Canada announced its Olympic summer orientation camp roster (can be seen here) Monday and the United States' for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi can be seen here.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter each are on the U.S. roster. Jason Pominville did not get the invite, surprisingly. He is Canadian born but has dual citizenship and has competed for the U.S. in the world championships. I question this omission. Just a guy with a history of 30 goals, one who plays in every situation and one who can skate well on the big rink.
By the way, I corresponded with Pominville today and he said he is completely symptom-free from his late-season concussion. There have been no extension talks yet. The former Buffalo Sabres captain is entering the final year of his contract. As you can see, some of the forwards that got invited over Pominville are arguably, well, absurd. But, the USA brass made it clear they would be looking to put players on the team that can play certain roles, so perhaps they look at Pominville as a top-6 role, not bottom-6, and they feel they have four top-6 wingers that are better.
Still, curious they don't even bring him to camp.
I had Parise on the radio this morning on KFAN, incidentally. It was a real good interview, and to hear that as well as my interviews with Mill, Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt Hendricks, go to KFAN's web site here.
Minnesotans invited: Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Erik Johnson, Nick Leddy, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, David Backes, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler. With Parise, that makes 14.
Last month, Finland invited Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom and Mikael Granlund to its orientation camp and Sweden invited Jonas Brodin. The Wild’s Nino Niederreiter is also a lock to make Switzerland’s team.
The NHL will go on an Olympic hiatus for 17 days in February.

Kurt Kleinendorst to be named head coach of the Iowa Wild on Monday

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: July 20, 2013 - 4:49 PM
The stars have aligned and Kurt Kleinendorst will finally join the Wild organization.
Once a finalist for the Houston Aeros job, the Wild has hired the Grand Rapids native to coach the Iowa Wild, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate that has relocated to Des Moines and will begin play in the fall, multiple sources have said.
He will be introduced by Iowa General Manager Jim Mill at a news conference in Des Moines at 1 p.m. Monday. Mill has long been a fan of Kleinendorst, who coached Mill during the former goaltender’s first year as a pro in 1992 for the East Coast Hockey League’s Raleigh Icecaps.
This is why I reported Kleinendorst would be the frontrunner the second John Torchetti stepped down last month to take a high-paying, three-year contract as Sergei Fedorov’s head coach for Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Kleinendorst was a finalist for the Houston job in 2010, but General Manager Chuck Fletcher hired now-Wild coach Mike Yeo for the Aeros’ post instead. Coincidentally, Kleinendorst was hired by Ottawa to coach the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton and guided the team to a Calder Cup by beating Yeo’s Aeros.
Kleinendorst, 52, spent nine years as an assistant coach and scout for the New Jersey Devils. He won a Stanley Cup as Larry Robinson’s assistant in 2000. He is known to be fair but demanding, intense and a teacher. He will coach Yeo's system in Iowa so there can be an easy transition to Minnesota for callups.
The former Providence College standout forward was an All-American and Hobey Baker finalist playing for Lou Lamoriello in 1983. He was drafted by the New York Rangers in 1980 but never played in the NHL.
He has also coached Lowell of the AHL, guided the United States to the gold medal in the Under-18 world championship in 2010 and most recently coached the University of Alabama-Huntsville for a year.
By the way, I will be filling in for Paul Allen on Monday morning from 9-noon on KFAN. Tentative guests include Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt Hendricks.

Minnesota Wild 2013-14 schedule

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: July 19, 2013 - 12:44 PM

Here's an article with some schedule highlights. Here's your Wild schedule for next season

TUE. 17 COLUMBUS 7:00 P.M.
Thur. 19 at Winnipeg 7:00 p.m.
SAT. 21 WINNIPEG 7:00 P.M.
Mon.. 23 at Columbus 6:00 p.m.
WED. 25 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M.
Fri. 27 at St. Louis 7:00 p.m.
SAT. 5 ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M.
Tue. 8 at Nashville 7:00 p.m.
SAT. 12 DALLAS 7:00 P.M.
Mon. 14 at Buffalo 6:30 p.m.
Tue. 15 at Toronto 6:00 p.m.
Thur. 17 at Tampa Bay 6:30 p.m.
Sat. 19 at Florida 6:00 p.m.
Sat. 26 at Chicago 7:00 p.m.
MON. 28 CHICAGO 7:00 P.M.

TUE. 5 CALGARY 7:00 P.M.
Thur. 7 at Washington 6:00 p.m.
Sat. 9 at Carolina 6:00 p.m.
WED. 13 TORONTO 6:30 P.M.
FRI. 15 FLORIDA 7:00 P.M.
SUN. 17 WINNIPEG 7:00 P.M.
Tue. 19 at Montreal 6:30 p.m.
Wed. 20 at Ottawa 6:30 p.m.
Sat. 23 at Winnipeg 2:00 p.m.
Mon. 25 at St. Louis 7:00 p.m.
WED. 27 PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI. 29 COLORADO 5:00 P.M.
Sat. 30 at Colorado 8:00 p.m.

Fri. 6 at Columbus 6:00 p.m.
SUN. 8 SAN JOSE 5:00 P.M.
Wed. 11 at Anaheim 9:00 p.m.
Thur. 12 at San Jose 9:30 p.m.
Sat. 14 at Colorado 8:00 p.m.
Thur. 19 at Pittsburgh 6:00 p.m.
Sun. 22 at N.Y. Rangers 6:30 p.m.
Mon. 23 at Philadelphia 6:30 p.m.
Fri. 27 at Winnipeg 7:00 p.m.
SUN. 29 N.Y. ISLANDERS 7:00 P.M.
TUE. 31 ST. LOUIS 5:00 P.M.

Tue. 7 at Los Angeles 9:30 p.m.
Thur. 9 at Phoenix 8:00 p.m.
SAT. 11 COLORADO 7:00 P.M.
Sun. 12 at Nashville 6:00 p.m.
TUE. 14 OTTAWA 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 18 DALLAS 8:00 P.M.
Tue. 21 at Dallas 7:00 p.m.
THUR. 23 CHICAGO 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 25 at San Jose 9:30 p.m.
Tue. 28 at Anaheim 9:00 p.m.
Thur. 30 at Colorado 8:00 p.m.

Sat. 1 at Calgary 9:00 p.m.
TUE. 4 TAMPA BAY 7:00 P.M.
Fri. 7-Wed. 26 Olympic Break (Sochi, Russia)
Thur. 27 at Edmonton 8:30 p.m.
Fri. 28 at Vancouver 9:00 p.m.

MON. 3 CALGARY 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 8 at Dallas 7:30 p.m.
SUN. 9 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M.
TUE. 11 EDMONTON 7:00 P.M.
THUR. 13 N.Y. RANGERS 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 15 COLUMBUS 7:00 P.M.
Mon. 17 at Boston 6:30 p.m.
Tue. 18 at N.Y. Islanders 6:00 p.m.
Thur. 20 at New Jersey 6:00 p.m.
SAT. 22 DETROIT 1:00 P.M.
Sun. 23 at Detroit 6:30 p.m.
Thur. 27 at St. Louis 7:00 p.m.
Sat. 29 at Phoenix 8:00 p.m.
Mon. 31 at Los Angeles 9:00 p.m.

Thur. 3 at Chicago 7:00 p.m.
Mon. 7 at Winnipeg 7:00 p.m.
TUE. 8 BOSTON 7:00 P.M.
THUR. 10 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M.




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