Opening Night between the Wild and Los Angeles Kings is finally upon us, which means we're rolling out the season-opening live chat on www.startribune.com/wild at 2 p.m. Please join in.
Jason Pominville preferred to get a contract extension prior to season to avoid any potential distractions.
He got it.
He wanted five years. He got that, too.
Acquired April 3 from the Buffalo Sabres for two prospects and a first- and second-round pick, Pominville, 30, signed a five-year contract extension worth $28 million ($5.6M AAV) with the Wild this morning. He got a huge stick tap on the ice from his teammates prior to the skate beginning after coach Mike Yeo told the gang that somebody can afford to buy lunch.
"I'm excited to be part of this group for the next six years," Pominville said. "We can say that this is home now."
Zach Parise, who has indicated all preseason that he hoped Pominville would be here a "long time" said, "Now that it's finally done, he can relax and just play."
GM Chuck Fletcher said the sides have been working on this for eight weeks and it picked up steam the past few days, pretty much since Pominville publicly said in Duluth that he didn't want the distraction of negotiating while the hockey season was going on.
The contract takes Pominville through the 2018-19 season because he still has this year remaining on his pact. It includes a limited no-trade clause. His cap hit over the life of his last Buffalo contract had a $5.3 million cap hit, but he made $5.5 million in real cash the past four years (including this year).
The Wild extension averages out to $6 million per the first three years in real money and $5 million per the last two years.
"At the end of the day, based on the market we've seen in the last couple months it's a fair market contract for a good hockey player," Fletcher said. "But more importanatly than that, to me it's exciting that he wanted to commit to us. He only played 10 regular season games for us and a couple playoff games, so the fact that he's willing to commit for basically the next six seasons to our club to me sends a strong message that he believes in the direction we're going and by the same token we're thrilled to have him."
With the cap expected to continue to rise, Fletcher said the Wild has lots of cap flexibility the next few years to both pursue free agents and re-sign its own young guys.
"We looked long and hard at that and I think every team wil have some challenges, but I think we had much greater challenges this past summer than what we'll have in any of the next couple summer," Fletcher said.
This will just ramp up the Thomas Vanek speculation. Pominville is his former linemate and buddy and the Wild will have the cap room to sign the former Gophers star next summer. I've written and said for a long time I believe the Wild is interested and will pursue. Obviously, a lot could happen in a year to change that (Vanek could get hurt, not play well, the Wild kids like Charlie Coyle or Nino Niederreiter could break out).
So, we will see.
"We're fortunate to get it done and hopefully we can add some more pieces to the puzzle to make it even better," Pominville said.
Pominville ranks tied for 19th in the NHL in assists (with Mikko Koivu) and 26th in scoring since the start of the 2007-08 season. He also ranks tied for ninth in the NHL with 530 games played since the start of the 2006-07 campaign. The 2012 NHL All-Star has recorded 465 points (189-276=465), including 43 power-play goals, 21 game-winning tallies, a plus-41 rating and 147 penalty minutes (PIM) in 588 regular season contests during nine seasons with Buffalo and Minnesota.
In his career, Pominville has missed 16 games due to injury. He has scored 30 goals twice, topping 20 six times and 60 points five times.
"It’s great of the organization to get him signed, to acquire him, to get a player of that caliber here," Yeo said. "You see some of the players we’re starting to attract, some of the young players that are coming in, it’s very promising. And more importantly, when you have a player like that who makes the commitment to stay with the organization, that shows ... they believe you’re going in the right direction and they want to be part of it."
Matt Dumba is scratched tonight. I'd think Dumba makes his NHL debut Saturday vs. Anaheim. Clayton Stoner players tonight.
"I thought he looked a little jittery the last couple practices," Yeo said of Dumba. "The execution wasn’t quite there. I’m sure whatever his first game is that he gets in, those nerves will be there, but I think just opening night, going with a veteran presence, going with a big body against a sizeable team, a strong team that plays in the offensive zone, we just made that decision to go with that veteran presence tonight."
Justin Fontaine is very excited and calm surprisingly for his NHL debut tonight. He's got a lot of family and friends here.
You can find me on KFAN at 4:40 p.m., on the Fox Sports North pregame show at 6:30 p.m., on www.startribune.com with Mike Rand at some point today and on Twitter tonight at @russostrib. At some point, I plan to write for the paper and do Wild Minute, too.
By the way, you can also "like" www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso and that will give you easy access to the daily Star Tribune Wild articles and blogs.
If you missed today or can't buy yourself the newspaper, here are the links:
Here's your must-read today, pulling back the curtain on quiet Ryan Suter. Good stuff in here, including what injury he played weeks with last year. There's plenty of supplementary links to the side of the story as well, like Suter charts, advance box on the game tonight and line combos.
Here's the notebook on the Wild's young second power-play unit, Keith Ballard talking about the system and potential shootout lineups, etc.
Four keys to this season, in no order particularly.
Patrick Reusse's column on Mikael Granlund trying to reclaim phenom status.