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Kim Johnsson still suffering from concussion, no immediate intention of playing; #mnwild news

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • July 6, 2010 - 2:28 PM

(updated on bottom with minor-league signings and a couple asst candidates and cap hit)

I've been hearing rumblings the past few weeks that former Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson, whose four-year, $19.4 million deal he signed with Minnesota in 2006 expired after this season, is contemplating retirement.

I spoke with his agent, Rick Curran, this morning and Curran tells me Johnsson is still suffering effects from the concussion that ended his season with the Blackhawks in March. Johnsson was traded to Chicago along with 2009 first-round pick Nick Leddy for Cam Barker in February.

Said Curran: "He's still suffering symptoms of a concussion, and for the moment, he doesn't have any immediate plans to play.

"I've seen it alluded that he's going to retire, and I don't think that's necessarily the case for the moment. For the moment he's going to let the symptoms subside. He may very well retire eventually, but based on my conversation with him a week ago, it's been suggested that he just let his symptoms subside and then decide for himself. It's not going to be for quite awhile that there's a determination if he'll play.

"It's fair to say that he's got no intentions of looking to come back and play in the immediate future. So while at the moment he's not retiring, he's certainly not going to play in the immediate future and he may very well eventually be effectively retired."

Johnsson, 34, has scored 67 goals and 284 points in 739 career games in 10 seasons with the Rangers, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Chicago. The last pick in the 1994 draft (286th overall, Rangers), Johnsson plans to at least spend the rest of the summer in Minnesota.

Johnsson came to the Wild with a history of concussions in Philadelphia. The only reported one he sustained in Minnesota came from the Brad May sucker-punch during the 2007 playoffs.

The Wild traded Johnsson and signed Marek Zidlicky to a three-year extension in March, in part because the team said Johnsson gave them no indication he wanted to continue playing after this season.

I've left a few voicemails for Johnsson, but if I had to guess, we won't be seeing Johnsson on an NHL rink again. He's a devoted family man, he's made his money, so I think he'd be extremely content to turn into a full-time husband, dad.

I included a feature I wrote on Johnsson last September in training camp (unedited) on the bottom.

Onto the Wild:

--I've got a lot of emails for a Pierre-Marc Bouchard update. He continues to exercise. He's taking it slow and easy, but this is obviously a good sign. Again, GM Chuck Fletcher doesn't want to put any pressure on him. They'd love to have him ready by training camp, but if it takes longer, that's fine. They've told him they just want him healthy and feeling comfortable.

--Also, an update to those uniform numbers I gave you the other day, Matt Cullen will wear 7 and Clayton Stoner will change his number.

--Josh Harding obviously didn't file for arbitration yesterday, so I'd think he'll sign a one-year deal soon. He's unrestricted next summer.

--Right now, the Wild is getting ready for its development camp July 12-19. A roster and schedule is expected tomorrow. First-round pick Mikael Granlund will not be there.

--Also, the Wild's conducting its assistant coaching search (may update this later with some candidates I'm trying to iron down) and are about to hire a Swedish scout and maybe another North American scout.

As for candidates, I've heard through various sources that coach Todd Richards has talked with former Chicago, Anaheim and most recently Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg. He's currently the Everett coach of the WHL and was the longtime captain of YOUR Minnesota North Stars. He also was a defenseman, so to replace Mike Ramsey, this could be the biggest appeal. I think the NHL head coaching experience is huge, too.

I also hear he's talked with Randy Cunneyworth, the longtime NHLer and former Atlanta assistant.

Another candidate is Kurt Kleinendorst, the Grand Rapids, Minn., native who coached the Under-18 U.S. program in Ann Arbor. He was a finalist for the Houston job, which went to Mike Yeo (Pittsburgh assistant).

Other candidates whom I believe are interested include former Wild center and Lightning assistant Wes Walz and former Blue Jackets assistant Gary Agnew. I've heard Richards may have even had a conversation with Phil Housley. There's tons of applicants.

--I still think the Wild will eventually sign another defenseman, and the way the roster shapes up now, it still wouldn't shock me if there's an eventual significant trade before the season. Lots of time before training camp, and a lot of teams, like Jersey, Philly and Boston, would like to create salary-cap room and some teams, like the Islanders, actually need contracts to get to the salary-cap floor.

--The blogs will be less frequent from here on out as I take some time off and get out of town a bit. Kent Youngblood, who will make his triumphant return as No. 2 this season, will be on here as well, especially from development camp.

--The Wild brought back Aeros winger Jon DiSalvatore for two years and defenseman Jamie Fraser for one.

--With 20 players, the Wild is $54,202,693 against $59.4 million cap (not including Josh Harding's eventual roughly $1.3 million and two more players that can be added to the roster through external additions or internal competition in camp. In other words, as of now, there's room for a Nate Prosser or a Casey Wellman to fight for a roster spot).

--Here is that Johnsson feature: 

By Michael Russo
 
CHICAGO – As a 30-something on a team full of 20-somethings, Kim Johnsson takes his share of abuse.
There’s no denying the amount of work the Wild defenseman puts in. But when Johnsson, 33, leaves the ice or the gym, teammates don’t need a stopwatch to time how long it takes him to be in his car.
Brent Burns: “He’s already on 35E.”
Nick Schultz: “Yeah, the wife’s calling. He’s got an appointment at the zoo right now with his kids.”
Brent Burns: “No, spring cleaning’s almost over, so he’s still got to clean out the garage before it gets chilly. Plus, it’s fall. The leaves are coming, so he’s got to sweep the porch.”
Nick Schultz: “No, he mowed the lawn and raked the leaves before he got here, right after he got the coffee ready and served the wife breakfast in bed and took the kids to school.”
As Schultz says, laughing, “Yohnny comes across as Super Dad.”
Johnsson’s life entails two different worlds, and he prefers them not colliding.
Johnsson and his wife, Jeanette, have two daughters, Filippa, 6, and Felicia, 3, and “when I’m not here, I’m with my kids,” Johnsson says.
“When you get older, you realize why you play and you realize the career is very, very short. I go home to my kids, and there’s no time to think about bad games and good games because you’re just dad.”
Johnsson, the last pick in the 1994 Draft (286th overall by the New York Rangers), so quietly goes about his business, it’s astonishing this is already his fourth season in Minnesota. In 2006, following four seasons with Philadelphia after being acquired in the Eric Lindros deal, Johnsson signed a four-year, $19.4 million contract with the Wild.
That price tag has created his share of critics. With a salary-cap hit of $4.85 million (he’s the Wild’s second-highest paid player behind Niklas Backstrom this season at $5.3 million), Johnsson was expected to generate oodles of points from the back end.
But after averaging 40.7 points from 2001-04 with the Flyers, Johnsson’s numbers decreased in Jacques Lemaire’s defensive system. He’s averaged 24.3 points a season in three years in Minnesota.
New coach Todd Richards’ system is a skating system that requires the defensemen to join the attack, which should suit Johnsson better.
“This is basically how we played in Philly,” Johnsson said.
While Johnsson hasn’t scored as much as expected, he still has immense value. Anybody who watched the Wild before Johnsson got here knows how hard it was for the Wild to get out of its defensive zone. The team’s become a solid transition team, and that has a lot to do with Johnsson, one of the NHL’s smoothest skaters.
Johnsson has led the Wild in ice time (23 minutes, 54 seconds a game) the past three seasons.
“The thing that’s amazing is we barely see the guy before camp, and he comes on the ice and he’s like the best skater for us,” Schultz said. “He’s just a natural and so patient with the puck.”
A native of Malmo, Sweden, Johnsson’s ability to skate the puck out of trouble stems from twice-a-day practices as a kid.
“I actually had a coach in Sweden, Peo Larsson, who told me, ‘When you get the puck, just take three quick strides and you’ll be fine,’” Johnsson said. “I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll try that,’ and it worked. It was that simple. It just takes one guy to tell you something like that, and it clicks.”
Johnsson is one of nine Wild players, including Marek Zidlicky, Eric Belanger, Owen Nolan and Derek Boogaard, who can become unrestricted free agents next summer.
The Wild, under its previous management, had a history of allowing free agents to walk for no compensation.
GM Chuck Fletcher says his philosophy will be to lock up players early if they fit into the future, but because this is his first season, he first wants to evaluate the team.
“They’ll be a period of time in the early portion of everyone getting to know each other,” Fletcher said. “Then, when there’s a higher level of trust, it’ll be a lot easier to talk about contracts. But Kim’s a terrific player. He plays as many minutes as any defenseman in the league and is a guy who can be used in every situation.”
Johnsson agreed with Fletcher that it makes little sense to discuss an extension yet until both sides got to know each other.
“But this is a tremendous place to play,” Johnsson said.
For Johnsson to stay, however, he’ll undoubtedly have to take a pay cut. Asked if he’d consider that, Johnsson said, “If it comes up, I’ll think about it then. Like I said, I really like it here. My family loves it here.
“My kids,” he added, chuckling, “they think they were born here.”
 

 

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