Wild Insider: Roster changes provide opportunity for younger players

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2013 - 11:21 PM

With the departure of several veterans, now is the time for many of the Wild’s younger players.

hide

It will be a different-looking Wild team next season without players such as, from left, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Cullen was the second-line center, and it will be up to someone like Charlie Coyle or Mikael Granlund to take his place.

Photo: David Zalubowski, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Wild made the playoffs for the first time in five years last season.

Gone from that team are forwards Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck, Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard and defensemen Tom Gilbert and Justin Falk.

If the Wild’s going to avoid taking a step back next season, recently acquired 20-year-old winger Nino Niederreiter and second-year forwards Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund will need to contribute significantly.

“The kids are a huge part of our upside and potential, and with that we have to give them a chance to grow,” coach Mike Yeo said Saturday — one day after the Wild lost Cullen and Bouchard to free agency, traded Setoguchi and signed veterans Matt Cooke and Keith Ballard.

“With that also comes mistakes, and certainly there’s pressure to win and we’re going to be expecting to win, but on top of that, we have to understand that the kids can’t be perfect and we have to have some patience to try to help them next year. It’s our job as coaches to develop them.”

Yeo reminded that the Wild has a solid base of veterans returning, from captain Mikko Koivu to leading scorer Zach Parise to last year’s trade-deadline pickup, Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville, to goal scorer Dany Heatley to, of course, Norris Trophy finalist and first-team All-Star Ryan Suter.

Yeo will be expecting a bounceback year from Kyle Brodziak and vows Wild fans will grow to appreciate all the areas the 34-year-old Cooke can contribute.

Many fans freaked Friday night when General Manager Chuck Fletcher signed Cooke, controversial for his long list of questionable hits, to a three-year, $7.5 million deal.

“I’ve got firsthand knowledge of the person and the teammate and the player he is, so we’re real confident that he’s going to come in and be a great fit,” said Yeo, who coached Cooke as an assistant in Pittsburgh.

Yeo continued with a laugh: “I don’t want to say he’s misunderstood, but he’s evolved. He’s a smart guy and as he’s gotten older and the game’s changed, his game has changed with it. He plays a hard but honest game.”

Cooke is a terrific penalty killer. The Wild’s penalty kill ranked 18th last year. Pittsburgh’s ranked 25th, but it was in the top 10 (and top three twice) in Cooke’s first four years there.

“He was a huge key for us when we won the Stanley Cup [in 2009],” Yeo said.

With the Wild leaving just enough cap space for injury call-ups, there’s not a lot left Fletcher can do in free agency.

As of now, the answer to replace the 36-year-old Cullen (1,073 NHL games) as second-line center will be 21-year-olds Coyle or Granlund (combined 64 games).

“We’ll see if they’re ready for it,” Fletcher said. “Granlund’s a talented, young player and we feel he’ll be a good NHL player in time. Whether that happens right away or not will be up to him. Charlie Coyle’s a player that proved to all of us that he can play in the NHL last year.”

A center for much of his career, Coyle played right wing on the Wild last season. But in exit meetings in May, Coyle was told to prepare for a potential position change. He says he’s ready for it.

Fletcher says he is confident with the Wild’s forward depth, loving the mix of veterans and kids. Talking about all his prospects, Fletcher said, “I’ll put our young players up against anybody,” adding, “I’m just telling you, the calls I’m getting, I could trade every one of those kids today.”

With Fletcher, you always feel he’s got a splash in the works. If so, it’s probably next summer — not this one.

  • THE NEW AND THE OLD

    General Manager Chuck Fletcher was busy in the past week reshaping the Wild roster for 2013-14:

    Additions

    Keith Ballard, D, 30, from Vancouver

    Matt Cooke, F, 34, from Pittsburgh

    Nino Niederreiter, F, 20, from N.Y. Islanders

    Subtractions

    Pierre-Marc Bouchard, F, 29, to N.Y. Islanders

    Cal Clutterbuck, F, 25, to N.Y. Islanders

    Matt Cullen, F, 36, to Nashville

    Justin Falk, D, 24, to N.Y. Rangers

    Tom Gilbert, D, 30, free agent

    Devin Setoguchi, F, 26, to Winnipeg

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: K. Siegrist 6 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 7
Toronto 4 Top 4th Inning
NY Yankees 6
Arizona 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Philadelphia 5
Washington 3 Bottom 4th Inning
Cincinnati 0
Boston 1 Top 5th Inning
Tampa Bay 0
San Diego 1 Top 3rd Inning
Atlanta 0
Oakland 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Texas 0
NY Mets 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Milwaukee 0
Miami 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Houston 0
Chicago WSox 3 Bottom 1st Inning
Minnesota 0
Cleveland 0 Top 2nd Inning
Kansas City 0
Pittsburgh - C. Morton 7:40 PM
Colorado - B. Anderson
Detroit - D. Smyly 9:05 PM
LA Angels - T. Skaggs
Baltimore - K. Gausman 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Lincecum
Chivas USA 8:30 PM
Colorado
Calgary 26 FINAL
Edmonton 22
Winnipeg 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 7/26/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 7/26/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Winnipeg 7/31/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 8/1/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Brt Columbia 8/1/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Tulsa 48 3rd Qtr 2:58
Washington 57
Chicago 43 3rd Qtr
Atlanta 29
San Antonio 13 1st Qtr 3:51
Minnesota 11

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which uniform will Kevin Love wear next season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close