Good Saturday morning to you. Coming to you from the bumpy skies of 34,000 feet as I head to New York for a few days.
Since I've been on radio silence the past few weeks other than on Twitter (follow me at www.twitter.com/russostrib), I figured I should probably blog with a few Wild updates.
I chatted with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher for a half hour yesterday simply to check-in, and there really is nothing going on. If you follow the NHL, you know when it comes to transactions, most teams go on hiatus in August. The Wild is definitely one of those teams after doing all its business in June and July - particularly its July 4 Zach Parise/Ryan Suter fireworks.
The only restricted free agent not yet signed is Nick Palmieri (although Carson McMillan's paperwork isn't in yet), but according to the team, it's just a matter of time. That will give the Wild 49 of a possible 50 contracts. That means the Wild doesn't plan to sign anybody else this summer because it is saving the final contract for 2011 first-round pick Jonas Brodin.
Brodin signed a three-year deal last summer, but his contract only counts as one of the 50 if he plays in Minnesota or Houston. The Wild will decide in training camp whether Brodin officially turns pro here in North America or if he returns to Sweden next season.
The same goes with Matt Dumba, The 2012 first-round pick signed last month, but his contract only counts if he makes the team. Otherwise, because of his age, he will have to return to WHL Red Deer. If Brodin turns pro here in North America and somehow Dumba also knocks the door down in camp and makes the team, the Wild would then have to move a contract because it would be over 50.
Because the Wild has so many contracts and because it's less than $2 million from a $70.2 million salary-cap ceiling that will surely decrease when a new collective bargaining agreement is eventually finalized, I'd suspect the Wild trades a contract or two at some point for draft picks.
However, Fletcher has said over and over again, and again yesterday, that he has no plans of doing that until he sees how training camp plays out.
He sees no sense in trading a player or two now until he sees how camp shakes out. For instance, as you know, rarely has the Wild survived camp completely healthy, so why get rid of bodies for no reason now when the team is currently compliant when it comes to the cap and contract total?
Fletcher from Friday: "Just let things play out. Let's just see where we're at before we start making moves. We're deeper on defense, and up front, our depth is exceptional. We're as deep as any team in the league up front. And we have really good depth in goal. So I think the important thing is let's see where we're at and let's see where we are health-wise, let's see who plays well and who doesn't and let the players sort everything out for us - whether its from a health perspective or a performance perspective and make adjustments as we need to instead of guessing."
Contrary to the idiotic trade rumors invented by Twitter "insiders," Fletcher says he literally has nothing going right now in terms of trade talk with other teams.
So I should stand down if I'm assuming you're going to have to make a trade or two at some point? Fletcher: "If everyone plays to their level of expectations or even exceeds it or if everyone's healthy, then yeah, we're going to have a lot of players and that may make sense. But it just never happens that way. You always have a couple guys that play better than expected. There's always a couple guys that don't come into camp in shape or get hurt right away or don't play well for whatever reason. It happens every year. So, the good thing is this year I think we're protected against that possibility with the depth that we have. I've never been to a camp where everything went according to plan. That's why I keep saying, let it just sort itself out. I hope there's not a lot of injuries, but there always seems to be something. Somebody will overachieve but a couple guys may underachieve. Let's make our decisions based on what happens as opposed to what we think we'll see. Really, at this time of year, there's very little (trade) activity. Most teams want to get into camp before they make moves, so on a whole host of levels, instead of forcing something when we don't need to in the summer, let's let training camp happen and make decisions based on knowledge and go from there. We're certainly not hurrying to do anything. I'm just excited to have competition in camp. If there's disappointed players at the end of camp, then that's a nice problem to have because we haven't had that before."
The context there is Fletcher feels too many players have been given free spots in camp because of the lack of depth in Minnesota previously. That won't be the case this season with so many young prospects knocking on the door; the fact that the Wild signed forwards Zach Parise, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell and defenseman Ryan Suter; have forwards Jake Dowell and Stephane Veilleux knocking on the door; have blue-liners like Steve Kampfer, Brian Connelly and Brodin pushing the Marco Scandellas, Justin Falks, Nate Prossers and Clayton Stoners.
As you know, the CBA expires Sept. 15. An agreement seems a long ways off considering the NHLPA hasn't even extended an official counter proposal yet.
While the season starting on time is undoubtedly in peril, it's business as usual around the Wild, Fletcher says. Sales execs are selling tickets, Fletcher and his staff have been setting up travel, coach Mike Yeo and his staff will be back in town next week to finish organizing training camp.
As of now, the Traverse City prospects tournament is a go, but I hear there's a very good chance that could be scrapped later this month if it appears a CBA is not imminent. This is not a tournament you can just cancel the day before. Teams spend a fortune flying prospects in for the tournament.
The Wild is proceeding like it's a go, but at some point the Red Wings (host team) will have to make a decision.
Hopefully you've been catching the "Becoming Wild" web vignettes on wild.com. The Wild's invested a lot of money flying local television producer Pat O'Connor around the world putting this cool thing together. Eventually, the show will return to Fox Sports North next month.
O'Connor has been to British Columbia to spend time with Dany Heatley on his boat, Alberta to do yoga with Kyle Brodziak, Moorhead to spend a day with Matt Cullen (Cully's Kids), went to Madison to watch Tom Gilbert's crazy workouts with his Badger buddies, hung out with Veilleux, traveled to outside Niagara Falls to visit Cal Clutterbuck.
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