Chuck Fletcher made clear today that the first week of training camp is evaluation and the second and third weeks of training camp has to be about getting to your team.
The Wild cut, at least by my unofficial count as I wait for a press release, 17 players this morning down at Xcel Energy Center and released Jordan Hendry from his tryout. Fletcher said he told Hendry to evaluate his options elsewhere to see if he can earn a one-way contract, but if not, the Wild would be interested in signing him to a two-way contract. But as of now, he'd have to start in Houston, so Fletcher said it's basically up to Hendry.
The opening night roster can be a maximum 23 players.
The Wild has gotten down to 24 healthy players and four injured players (Mike Lundin, Matt Kassian, Cody Almond and Drew Bagnall).
The healthy roster challengers who survived and now have a bona fide shot at making the team?
On the blue line: Marco Scandella, Justin Falk and Nate Prosser (at least one more cut will definitely come if Lundin is ready to start the season)
At forward: Casey Wellman, and in a bit of a surprise, Brett Bulmer.
I say "a bit of a surprise" because it's become abundantly clear how much the Wild brass thinks of the 19-year-old's game. He can skate, he's got grit, he's got ridiculous guts (bit of a rat who has no problem challenging other team's stars; see Edmonton opener).
He's got a long way to go, but it's clear the Wild wants to see more of him.
Now, again, to be clear: This doesn't 100 percent mean Bulmer made the team. But he's earned the right to stay around another week at least. I'd think the Wild keeps 13 forwards if it keeps eight defensemen. If it keeps seven defensemen, it can keep 14 forwards. But with so few forwards left in camp, the door has definitely swung open for Bulmer to make the opening night roster.
Again, he's a junior-eligible player. He cannot go to Houston, so either he'll stick with the Wild or ultimately return to WHL Kelowna. Remember also, he can still be returned to Kelowna before he plays 10 NHL games without the Wild burning the first year of his contract. He can still be returned to Kelowna before he plays his 40th game without his seven-year free-agent clock starting to tick.
I honestly don't think the Wild would freak about that 10-game window anyway for a lot of reasons I'll expand on if we ever get to that point with Bulmer. That's still a long way off.
Fletcher also made clear today during my phone conversation that he feels sometimes too much is made of the opening night roster and that a team is constantly evolving. Today was about making decisions to get to a more workable number so the Wild can assemble as a real team and get to work for the next two weeks.
So, sent packing today for Houston were: Kris Foucault, David McIntyre, Carson McMillan, Warren Peters, Chad Rau, Jeff Taffe, Jon DiSalvatore, Jed Ortmeyer, Jarod Palmer, Tyler Cuma, Chay Genoway, Jeff Penner, Dennis Endras, Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper.
Peters, Taffe, DiSalvatore, Ortmeyer, Penner and Endras require waivers to get down there. They're on 48-hour waivers and can be claimed or cleared by 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Kris Fredheim was released from his tryout.
When Kassian and Bagnall are healthy, they'll need waivers to get to Houston.
Wild depth chart right now:
Forwards: 14 healthy, 2 injured
Devin Setoguchi-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Guillaume Latendresse-Matt Cullen-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Darroll Powe-Kyle Brodziak-Cal Clutterbuck
Colton Gillies-Eric Nystrom-Brad Staubitz
Brett Bulmer-Casey Wellman
Injured: Matt Kassian, Cody Almond
Greg Zanon-Marek Zidlicky
Nick Schultz-Marco Scandella
Clayton Stoner-Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser
Injured: Mike Lundin, Drew Bagnall
Also, in other news, Brad Staubitz's hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan will be Monday, and it's by phone. At least in the Colie Campbell days, in-person hearings typically meant five or more games and phone hearings meant four or fewer games.
We'll find out Monday if that's still the case and a phone hearing is relatively good news for Staubitz.
Much more in Monday's paper.