The Twins have insurance covering career-ending injuries on all their top players, including catcher Joe Mauer.
Thomas Vanek, the former Gopher who has become a big star for the Buffalo Sabres team that went to the Eastern Conference finals, said he will be a restricted free agent this season and a free agent the following year, putting him in a good position to get a big contract. ... Ex-Gophers defenseman Mike Vannelli, who would be a good addition for any NHL team, said he is talking to Atlanta and some other teams but hasn't made a decision.
Al Nolen Jr., the Minneapolis Henry guard signed by former Gophers basketball coach Dan Monson's staff, is in school and has been working out with the other players. Tubby Smith's staff does not expect to bring in any new recruits for the 2007-2008 season. ... Gophers booster Dick Ames had Smith and former Gophers coach Clem Haskins speaking at the Somerby golf course in Byron, Minn., on Thursday for a fund raiser for the YMCA.
Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi and football coach Tim Brewster will attend the funeral of Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner. Maturi was the athletic director at Miami of Ohio when the late Randy Walker coached the team to a 10-1 record in 1998, losing only to Marshall, before Walker left Miami to coach at Northwestern. Maturi promoted Hoeppner to head coach in 1999 after Walker left. In 2003, current Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the RedHawks to a 13-1 record and the Mid-American Conference championship. Maturi was close to Hoeppner and Walker and had nothing but respect for two coaches who died too young.
After his Azovmash team won the Ukraine Super League playoffs, former North High and Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin was named the best guard in the Super League and the Super League MVP. ... Jon Schemmel, son of former Gophers associate athletic director Jeff, who is now athletic director San Diego State, was released by the Mets after spring training but signed by the San Diego Padres. He was assigned to Fort Wayne, Ind., their lower Class A team, where the second baseman led the team in on-base percentage and was just called up to their high Class A team in Lake Elsinore, Calif. His brother, Justin, is working as an intern in the compliance office of the Gophers athletic department.
If former Eden Prairie defensive tackle Walker Ashley, who has left Southern California twice, decides to enroll at Minnesota, he would have to sit out a year as a transfer student. USC coaches were thinking of making him into an offensive lineman before he left.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. firstname.lastname@example.org