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.

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Wild's updated 2014-15 depth chart; Report: Wild interested in Steve Ott

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 3, 2014 - 6:05 AM

WILD DEPTH CHART

Here’s a look at how the Wild is shaping up to look like next season. This will change undoubtedly throughout the summer as the Wild add and delete players.

Remember, at some point, the Wild’s expected to acquire a physical defenseman to replace Clayton Stoner. It may also look to replace the gritty element up front of Cody McCormick. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun -- the great Pierre LeBrun, I may add -- reports the Wild has shown interest in Steve Ott, the former Dallas Stars agitator/smack talker and Sabres captain who was dealt with Ryan Miller to St. Louis last season. He once fought Cal Clutterbuck twice in the same game after Ott ran Josh Harding either that game or the game before, I can't remember (video of that incident on bottom of blog). Ott can play center and wing and kills penalties.

Toronto has also shown interest in Ott, I have heard.

The Wild does lack toughness in my opinion (especially defensively), and when I say toughness, I’m not necessarily talking fighting. I just mean physicality, clearing bodies from the net … and some scare factor. There are times Mikael Granlund and Jared Spurgeon have been targeted. Heck, Nik Backstrom’s health really began to derail last season after Nazem Kadri ran him AFTER running Granlund in the same game.

So I’d expect a few moves may still be made, and if you look at the lines, certain players maybe on "my" depth chart's fourth line don't fit there and could be parlayed into pieces via trade at some point.

Note: The depth chart is my opinion. Obviously, lines change, roles change, etc. There are interchangeable parts, and as I mentioned, I’d expect a signing or two or a trade this summer.

In parentheses, each player’s cap hits with some assistance from the incredible web site, www.capgeek.com. The RFA’s will get done eventually. I’d think Justin Fontaine would sign a one- or two-year deal. I don’t even want to guess on Darcy Kuemper. If I’m Nino Niederreiter, I sign a one- or two-year deal, prove myself bigtime and then try to hit a homer on my next contract. But that’s me. Jason Zucker is a rare Group 1 free agent, meaning he has almost no rights. No arbitration, can’t sign an offer sheet, nada. So I’d think he takes his qualifying offer. Kuemper, Fontaine and Jon Blum have arb rights. That has to be filed by Saturday, and remember, if it happens, it’s just part of the process and usually a contract gets settled prior to the hearing. Arb, in my opinion, is usually a good thing because it guarantees no holdout, too.

Forwards

 

Left wing                         Center                          Right wing

 

Zach Parise ($7.5+M)       Mikael Granlund (900K)  Jason Pominville (5.6M)

 

Thomas Vanek ($6.5M)   Mikko Koivu (6.75M)     Charlie Coyle (900K)

 

Matt Cooke (2.5M)            Erik Haula (900K)           Nino Niederreiter (RFA)

 

Jason Zucker (RFA)          Kyle Brodziak (2.83 M)    Justin Fontaine (RFA)

 

----------------- (13th forward)

Vying for spots: Zucker, Stephane Veilleux (587,500), Brett Sutter ($600K), Michael Keranen (792,500), Joel Rechlicz, Brett Bulmer (780K), Kurtis Gabriel (667K), Tyler Graovac (747,500), Zack Phillips, Brady Brassart, Raphael Bussieres, Curt Gogol, Zack Mitchell.

Defensemen

 

Left Defense                     Right Defense

 

Ryan Suter (7.5+M)          Jared Spurgeon (2.66M)

 

Marco Scandella (1.025M) Jonas Brodin (1.4+M)

 

Keith Ballard (1.5M)          Christian Folin (925K)

 

Jon Blum (RFA)

Vying for spots: Folin, Blum, Stu Bickel ($600K), Matt Dumba (894,167), Gustav Olofsson (795K), Guillaime Gelinas, Colton Jobke.

Goalies

 

Niklas Backstrom (3.42M)

Josh Harding (1.9M)

Darcy Kuemper (RFA)

 

* Kuemper can be sent to the minors without waivers even if he receives a one-way deal.

 

Vying for spots: Johan Gustafsson.

  

Total cap hit roughly: $54,287,758.

 

Available cap space roughly: $14 million roughly (I based this on a $68.3 million salary-cap ceiling; NHL salary cap next season is $69 million, but the Wild will be charged a bonus overage of a little less than $700,000). Note, the $14 million excludes re-signing restricted free agents and excludes whoever will be the 13th forward. Also, always take the available cap space number and subtract a few million because GM Chuck Fletcher will always try to leave space for injury callups and in-season acquisitions.

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