Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher: "We’re no longer a seller"

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild trade news Updated: April 3, 2013 - 6:36 PM
UPDATED
 
The Wild tried hard on Tuesday to trade for San Jose’s Ryane Clowe, but he wanted to go East.
 
In fact, this morning, from people I talked to, it was clear the Wild felt it offered a better package to the Sharks than they wound up receiving from the Rangers. But Clowe had the hammer with a no-trade clause and chose New York.
 
From seeing what the Wild was willing to give up to get Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville, you can bet what I was hearing is accurate.
 
As you know by now, the Wild traded Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, a 2013 first-round pick and a 2014 second-round pick to the Sabres for Pominville, who has scored 20-or-more goals the past six seasons and twice 30, and a 2014 fourth-round pick. Pominville, when he arrives hopefully tomorrow, will be slotted on the right side of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu for an all-Captain line.
 
Pominville is just an all-situation guy. PK, point on the power play, does all the little things, versatile, booming shot, etc.
 
I just talked on the phone to his linemate, Thomas Vanek, who said, "We all heard Darcy's (GM Regier) comments that he could be gone, but when it happens, I was shocked. It's part of the business, but we're losing, myself also, I'm losing a great teammate in the locker room, somebody I was with for eight years, and a good friend. He's such a great player and linemate. The Wild, they're lucky. Just a smart, good hockey player who can adapt to any situation and make his linemates better. He's going to really help them. We're going to miss him a lot. Jason is as good a guy as there is."
 
But big, big price from the Wild. Chuck Fletcher explains why below.
 
First of all, “We’re really excited. Our players have played hard and played well this year. I believe we’re improving as an organization. We’re starting to take some positive steps. It was important if we could find the right fit at the right piece, I think it was important for us to try to continue to upgrade our talent and improve our team.
 
“You never know what can happen, but today was an important today. We’re no longer a seller. We want to keep pushing forward and want to compete for talent. It’s just a good day for our franchise.”
 
On Pominville: “He’s scored 30 goals in the league, he’s had 70 points, he’s a team captain. He’s a hard-working, 200-foot player, and I think like some of our other top players, like Parise and Koivu and Backstrom and Suter and you can go right down the list, not only is he talented, he’s got a hard-working mentality and a high level of character.
 
“He plays the point on the power play, he kills penalties. He’s just a guy that brings a lot of dimensions and versatility and a player that could fit into a lot of different roles.”
 
You paid a huge price: “There’s no question, we paid a price. Jason’s a talented player, he’s not a rental, he has term left on his deal (one year), he’s the captain of his team and he’s a guy that we wanted. Anytime you want a good player who’s not a rental, you’re going to pay a price.
 
“(Assistant GM) Brent Flahr and his staff have done a great job for us. They’ve drafted very well. We’ve been able to apply a lot of young assets over the last few years, and the fact that we have really good depth in terms of talented young players, it allowed us the opportunity to pursue a player like Pominville. We have plenty of assets in the cupboard and plenty of talented, young players at evev position. The last few years, our focus have been to gather prospects and picks, but our team is growing and showing some positive signs, at times you’ve got to dip into that pool of talent that you’ve accumulated and pay some assets to get in this case an All-Star NHL player.”
 
Basically, the price was obviously high, but the way the Wild sees it, the foundation of the franchise for years is in place with top-liners Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu and No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter. Then, there future cornerstone forwards Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund and blue-chip defensemen Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba.
 
From there, the Wild is developing defenseman Marco Scandella, forwards Brett Bulmer, Zack Phillips, Tyler Graovac, Raphael Bussieres, is loaded with other college-level players from Mario Lucia and Erik Haula to Adam Gilmour and John Draeger.
 
It still has two hotshot goalie prospects with Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson, who plans to come to North America next year.
 
So since there’s only so many positions on a hockey team and so many contracts permitted to be handed out, the Wild felt it could afford to give up the hefty price and potentially lose a couple top draft picks.
 
“Hey, we recognize that we paid a price,” Fletcher said. “Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett are good, young hockey players. And anytime you trade a first-round pick, you’re obviously paying a significant price. But as a franchise we’ve spent a lot of time accumulating assets and trading for draft picks, and I think it’s a positive sign that as a franchise we’re now trading prospects and picks to acquire players. Typically that means you’re moving in the right direction. There’s always a balance. You can’t make these moves all the time. But if you never make them, how do you get better?”
 
Does this mean win now or bust though? “Again, he’s not a rental. He has term on his contract. And again, we still have a lot of really good young players. Brent and his staff have shown the ability to draft well and I have no doubt they will continue to. Our goal is to win as many games as we can. We feel we’re a competitive team, we have work to do, but we’re trending in the right direction. We want to keep pushing that. We’re not shy about our desire to get better. We’re going to be a competitive team for a long time.”
 
I asked Fletcher what this means going forward for guys like Backstrom and Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who are in the last year of their deals, and Dany Heatley, who is an amnesty buyout candidate this summer. The Wild is only $9 million from next year’s $64.3 million cap without buying out Heatley or maybe re-upping Backstrom or Cullen and before re-signing restricted free agents like Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon.
 
“At the end of the year we’ll sort it all out. There’s a lot of hockey left to play. We have flexibility to do the things we need to do, but that’s a conversation for another day.”
 
By the way, the Wild still has two thirds this summer (one extra for Sheppard) and two sevenths and then all their picks from Rounds 2-7.
 
Right now, the hope is Pominville can meet the team in L.A. and debut tomorrow, but that is not set in stone yet. I have left messages for Pominville, known as one of the most accomodating athletes in the NHL by the way, but haven't talked to him yet. I'm sure he's swamped with his life being uprooted.
 
The Wild also acquired goalie Jeff Deslauriers from Anaheim for future considerations (nothing). He’ll take Darcy Kuemper’s spot in Houston until hopefully Josh Harding is ready to return.
 
Lastly, and I’ll leave you with this, Fletcher is always looking and thinking ahead. Pominville was Thomas Vanek’s linemate. They are very close. Vanek has been quoted in the past saying he wasn’t too keen being a part of a rebuild in Buffalo. He’s a free agent in the summer of 2014.
 
Is acquiring Pominville the precursor to pursuing Vanek, the former Gopher, in two summers? Just something to keep in your head from somebody who, if you’ve read me for awhile, guessed for three years that the Wild had its eyes set on the summer of 2012 to go after Parise.
 
It just makes sense. Regardless, the Wild keeps making bold moves, from the Brent Burns-Devin Setoguchi one, to the Dany Heatley for Marty Havlat one to signing Parise and Suter to this.
 
Its eventual goal, besides winning, of course, is to show all players in the NHL that Minnesota wants to win and should be considered a destination the way markets like Pittsburgh, the Rangers, Philly, Detroit always have been.
 
A lot more in tomorrow’s paper and the coming days. Oh, and there’s a game tonight, so more later. I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the second intermission tonight.

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 Top 7th Inning
Washington 3
Boston 0 Top 2nd Inning
Minnesota 2
Toronto 0 Top 2nd Inning
Baltimore 0
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 0 1st Prd 3:51
Boston 1
St. Louis 1 1st Prd 4:11
Philadelphia 0
Minnesota 0 1st Prd 5:31
Washington 1
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 13 1st Half 9:47
Bucknell 16
Western Ky 31 1st Half 3:49
Charlotte 26
Navy 12 1st Half 10:36
Colgate 12
Temple 5 1st Half 15:32
East Carolina 11
UAB 28 1st Half 4:29
Fla Atlantic 17
Boston Univ 14 1st Half 11:14
Lafayette 8
American Univ 12 1st Half 8:50
Lehigh 15
Wisconsin 38 1st Half 3:26
Minnesota 24
Fairfield 7 1st Half 7:06
Saint Peters 13
Arkansas 43 1st Half 5:37
South Carolina 25
Morehead State 31 1st Half 2:21
UT Martin 25
USC Upstate 17 1st Half 6:26
Fla Gulf Coast 20
Lipscomb 15 1st Half 8:21
North Florida 25
Southern Ill 16 1st Half 7:57
Missouri State 10
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 0 1st Half 17:49
FIU 1
Texas-Arlington 0 1st Half 20:00
Ga Southern 0
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
UCLA 80
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
NC A&T 67 FINAL
NC Central 46
Savannah State 49 2nd Half 17:00
Florida A&M 29
Virginia Tech 27 2nd Half 15:54
Pittsburgh 22
Central Arkansas 39 2nd Half 3:42
Nicholls 47
Houston Baptist 43 2nd Half 7:18
TX A&M-CC 56
Gardner-Webb 49 2nd Half 9:07
Radford 41
Georgia 38 2nd Half 15:31
Missouri 31
Old Dominion 48 2nd Half 10:40
Marshall 39
Ark-Little Rock 46 2nd Half 14:47
Louisiana 28
South Alabama 51 2nd Half 8:26
Arkansas State 56
Georgia State 48 2nd Half 8:50
ULM 47
Sam Houston St 29 2nd Half
Lamar 39
SE Louisiana 36 2nd Half
New Orleans 39
Northwestern St 25 2nd Half 17:52
Stephen F Austin 21
Alabama A&M 31 2nd Half
Jackson State 27
Alabama State 25 2nd Half
Grambling 27
Southern U 34 2nd Half
Prairie View 19
Alcorn State 26 2nd Half 19:29
Texas Southern 40
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 27 2nd Half 14:45
Mercer 37
Abilene Christian 20 1st Half 7:37
Incarnate Word 14
La Salle 17 1st Half 9:37
Rhode Island 12
Illinois 15 1st Half 11:43
Nebraska 20
TX-San Antonio 12 1st Half 6:49
Rice 21
Valparaiso 25 1st Half 3:55
Oakland 21
Missouri State 13 1st Half 11:00
Indiana State 14
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT