Morning to you. I'll be on Joe Schmit's Sports Wrap on Channel 5 tonight, I think around 10:30 p.m.
NHL Draft is over. Only business yet to come: Qualifying offers must be tendered by 4 p.m. CT Monday; First buyout period ends Thursday and free agency begins Friday.
I'll write more about free agency as we get closer, but with the Wild in draft and development mode, the Wild trying to get out of the habit of overpaying for veteran free agents, the fact this free-agent class is below average, the fact that next year's free-agent class is potentially star-studded by free-agent class standards and the fact that most teams are trying to create cap flexibility due to the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations that will almost certainly result in a restructured (lower) cap ceiling, I wouldn't expect a splash from the Wild.
As has been reported many times the last month, the Wild is going to leave openings for players like Colton Gillies, Cody Almond, Casey Wellman, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and others to try to challenge for spots. If they come to camp and don't earn spots, the Wild would react then to find players.
The Wild will sign one backup goalie this summer, whether that be Jose Theodore, Josh Harding or another. I'd think they'd have to sign at least one defenseman and I think they'd like to add maybe one character forward, prefarably via trade. You can see the depth chart below to see the open spots (as they stand this very moment at least; this could change).
Here's the coverage from today's paper:
My Insider on the fact that Chuck Fletcher's plan is clear to see now. May require patience, but the Wild's been spinning its wheels the last 3 years. The team has been trying to take short cuts with trades and some free-agent pickups, but most have been disappointing. This path just hasn't worked.
I've been preaching for years that this team was way behind the majority of teams in this league in terms of young talent. Well, it's clear they are now completely investing into trying to stockpile young talent. Now the hope is that many of these kids pay off and the team can build internally like most the great teams in this league did (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, etc).
This above fact is not hard to see, by the way. Somebody wrote me today, saying "Name one!" I mean, are you serious? Just peruse the rosters of most the top or up-and-coming teams in the league. Most their stars/quality, impact players are homegrown talent. The Wild hasn't developed a top-6 forward since the 2002 draft (Bouchard). The Wild hasn't developed a top-4 defenseman since the 2003 draft (Burns).
You want to know why your favorite franchise is stuck in mud. Look no further than those harsh facts. If you've read me for awhile, you know my opinion has long been that building through youth the way those other teams do is the way to go. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I endorse this path now.
Once you build a strong number of assets, that's when those players either impact your lineup or that's when you can maybe swing for the big trade or the big free agent.
Wild notebook on drafting locals, Craig Leipold's delight when Mario Lucia was drafted, update on assistant coaching situation, update on Houston Aeros coach finalists, Charlie Coyle note, Big Buff update and Markus Granlund draft note
Here's the text from the link:
Here's a look at the Wild's depth chart for next season as it stands today. The TBDs indicate open spots that either need to be filled through the promotion of Wild prospects or external acquisitions (free agency or trades). Below each player are his 2011-12 salary and 2011-12 salary-cap hit. The salary-cap ceiling for next season is $64.3 million.
Line 1: Pierre-Marc Bouchard ($4.25 million salary, $4.08M salary cap hit); Mikko Koivu ($7.29M, $6.75M); Devin Setoguchi ($2.75M; $3M)
Line 2: Guillaume Latendresse ($2.6M, $2.5M); Kyle Brodziak ($1.3M, $1.15M); Martin Havlat ($5M, $5M)
Line 3: TBD; Matt Cullen ($3.5M, $3.5M); Cal Clutterbuck ($1.5M, $1.4M)
Line 4: Eric Nystrom ($1.4M, $1.4M); TBD; Brad Staubitz ($600K, $575K)
Note: Three or four spots are open depending on if the Wild keeps 13 or 14 forwards, seven or eight defensemen and two goalies make the team.
Vying for spots: Colton Gillies, Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, James Sheppard, Patrick O'Sullivan, Carson McMillan, Matt Kassian.
Unrestricted free agents: Andrew Brunette, John Madden, Antti Miettinen, Chuck Kobasew
Restricted free agents: Wellman, Sheppard, Gillies, O'Sullivan
Minor league unrestricted free agents: Robbie Earl, Jed Ortmeyer.
Line 1: Nick Schultz ($3.6 million salary, $3.5M salary cap hit); Marek Zidlicky ($4M, $4M)
Line 2: Greg Zanon ($2.1M, $1.933M); Jared Spurgeon ($535K, $527K)
Line 3: Clayton Stoner ($575K, $550K); Cam Barker* ($3.25M, $3.08M)
Note: One or two spots are open depending on if the Wild keeps 13 or 14 forwards.
* The Wild is considering buying out Barker by Thursday's deadline.
Vying for spots: Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Justin Falk.
Restricted free agents: Falk.
Unrestricted free agent: Drew Bagnall.
Starter: Niklas Backstrom ($6 million salary, $6M salary cap hit)
Note: One spot is open.
Vying for spots: Dennis Endras.
Unrestricted free agents: Jose Theodore, Josh Harding.
• Actual 2011-12 payroll (as of today): $50,250,000
• Salary cap hit: $49,876,110
Notes: Includes bought-out Mark Parrish's $927,778 payoff and cap hit. ... This total also includes the 17 of a possible 23 players.