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 brass on Mathew Dumba; Wild inquired about Staal

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild off-season news Updated: June 22, 2012 - 11:28 PM

UPDATED Well, I nailed the Mathew Dumba selection on KFAN this morning, mostly because I told the brass yesterday I thought they were taking Dumba and both gents seemed to have a coronary.

Just watching video of him the last week, reading about him and talking to folks about him, Dumba just seemed to me to be a terrific package of offense, shot, speed, passion and ridiculous physicality.

You just don't get that many skill-sets in one player often, and considering the Wild needs defensemen and specially one with those attributes, he just seemed to be the obvious pick.

Seems like a real good kid and definitely a confident one, somebody who wants to make the roster next season. He doesn't turn 18 til next month, mind ya.

He's heard good stuff about the Wild from Darcy Kuemper, the Wild goalie and his former Red Deer teammate. He's also pals with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft.

“He said, ‘take it easy on me out there,’” Dumba said, laughing. “The one thing about Nooge is you’ve got to keep up with him and make sure he doesn’t embarrass you.”

His parents, Treena and Charlie, and brother, Kyle, were understandably giddy, and you can see those quotes in the paper or on www.startribune.com/wild.

The Wild often moves quickly with contracts. Remember, Jonas Brodin signed less than a month after the Wild drafted him last year, and Dumba has Don Meehan and Craig Oster as agents, whom I saw Brent Flahr meeting with the other day about Justin Falk. Knowing Flahr, he was probably also making sure it would be no problem signing any of the Newport guys at the top of the draft, including Dumba.

You can read Flahr and Chuck Fletcher quotes on Dumba below, but a couple things first:

1. The Wild didn't try to trade back when Dumba was left. That's who they wanted.

2. The Wild did try to get another first-rounder, but the price was high and other teams wanted to keep their picks, said Flahr.

3. Fletcher expects a quiet day tomorrow other than just taking their picks in Rounds 2-7 (starts at 9 a.m., NHL Network).

Lastly, Fletcher kicked tired a ton the last few days, but talking to him this afternoon, he again will not gut his prospect corps, he also is really looking at free agency. He also thinks this is a summer when a lot of trades could happen around the league in July and August, and Fletcher has shown in his Wild history that he makes summertime trades after the draft.

This afternoon, I watched Fletcher meet with Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero for about a half-hour. I know from sources that Fletcher was inquiring about Jordan Staal. But as I wrote yesterday, it was also clear only one team would be able to trade for Staal and sign him to an extension -- Carolina.

I felt, and everybody else I've talked to also felt -- Carolina could just wait a year and get him without giving up assets. But the Hurricanes pounced now and Shero got a terrific return -- Brandon Sutter, who may wind up being like Staal, a first-rounder and a prospect.

In other trades, Mike Ribeiro went from Dallas to Washington, Lubomir Visnovsky was traded from Anaheim to the Islanders, Sergei Bobrovsky was traded to Columbus for three draft picks from Philly (sign of a shrinking goalie market, my guess that Roberto Luongo wouldn't waive his no-trade to go there and that the Wild ruined the Jackets' day earlier in the week when it re-signed Josh Harding) and ex-Wild D Z Michalek was traded back to Phoenix by the Pens.

Here are Flahr and Chuck Fletcher on Dumba. 

The story on Dumba is here, and well as my draft notebook on Fletcher talking about investigating trading for the rights of free agents, a Gui Latendresse update (this could go til July 1), a Nick Johnson update, etc.

Brent Flahr on Dumba

Very excited. He’s an exciting player. He’s an offensive defenseman, he’s very physical, he’s very mobile. He plays with a lot of passion. I think our fans will be able to identify with him very well. He’s a leader, he’s been a leader on his teams, whether it’s in Red Deer or the national program. We’re obviously excited. He’s a great kid and hopefully he’s going to come in with the intention of making our team.

On his style: He doesn’t hide much. He’s an emotional kid. He comes to play every night. His team this year was decimated by injuries, and he played 35-40 minutes some nights. He was the kid we were hoping we could possibly get and things work out.

What separated him from the other D on the board: The combination of his ability to shoot the puck, generate offnse from the back end, but also his character, his passion that he plays with and the way he comes to play every night, it’s hard to find players with his dedication to the game and just the way he carries himself around the room.

On making the team: He’s a fairly strong kid the way he tested out at the combine. He knows he’s going to have to put on weight, get stronger, especially the way he plays because he likes to hit. But his mobility is probably good enough and the way he plays, he might have to simplify his game at the pro level like any young kid does, but there’s no reason he can’t come in and compete for a job.

Does his hitting translate at NHL: I think he can. You probably have to pick your spots, but I think he knows how to take that out of his game and I’m not sure that’s ever going to come out of his game or that we want that to come out of his game. That’s what makes him what he is.

Do you have to rein him in a little: I think so…He’s obviously got to tone down his play, and he knows that. On his team this year, which I think he probably had to do more than he should just to generate offense and try to win games, but that’s the type of kid he is.

When all those guys dropped, did you try to trade for another first rounder? “We made a couple calls to try to get a late first-rounder, but just the price and the interest level from other teams were wanting to pick. No luck, but we worked the phones and tried to do some things.

On difference Brodin and Dumba: They’re both very mobile. Obviously Brodin’s a very intelligent player, really gets the puck going, likes to get up ice. And this kid, the probably one difference that he does is really shoots the puck. Brodin, defensively, is exceptional, and Matt, I think, is going to have to work on it a little bit, but there’s no reason for concern, that’s for sure.

Talk to anybody about trading back: No. Not with him available.


Chuck Fletcher

Can he make the team: That’s great. I hope all these kids come to camp next year trying to make the team – Brodin and Dumba and all the forwards. We have lots of opportunity, so whoever earns it can make it. It’s a tough league to make. He’s 18 years old, but you don’t get picked this high unless you’re a top-end prospect, so we’re open-minded.

Package of offense, physicality, skating: We have a lot of veteran guys that have seen lots of games over the years, and they were all very excited about him. It’s hard. First of all, it’s hard to find skilled right-shot defenseman, and to find somebody that shoots the puck that hard, skates that well and has a physical edge, it’s a rare package. Like any young player, he’s going to have to mature and learn from things positionally, but that’s why we have an NHL coaching staff and Brad Bombardir to help him make that transition. The things he does well, you can’t teach. He’s a thoroughbred. It’s exciting. He’s skilled, he can shoot the puck, he can skate, he can hit, he plays in every situation. He probably had to play too much in Red Deer, but that’s not a bad thing. We’ll work with him to round out his game, but the things he does well, you can’t teach.

I saw you talking to Ray Shero for awhile. Can you say if you were talking to him about Jordan Staal: (smiles) I can’t. Ray and I talk lots. I don’t really want to comment [on the trade]. It’s not really my place. Nothing really should surprise anymore in the new NHL. Teams have to make lots of choices. It’s an interesting day and I think the next few weeks, we’ll see a few more interesting things as well.

With you involved?: (laughs) We’ll see. Lots of conversations. Today went kind of as expected. We hoped to get a top-end D and we were fortunate to get the one that we did. I expect tomorrow to be a pretty quiet day. We’ll probably just make the picks we have and go from there. But the rest of the summer should be interesting.

On Dumba: Every year you look at it, there’s always a couple names you hope one of them fall to you, and we were lucky for second year in a row (they wanted Brodin last year badly).

I know you’ve kicked a lot of tires. How tough is it to make a trade knowing you don’t want to get rid of your kids and you’re waiting for free agency: If there’s an opportunity to make your team better, it’s hard to wait because there’s a lot of unknown factors in free agency. It’s hard just to assume you’re just going to cure all your ills there. If we can improve our team by trade, we will. We’ll be aggressive. Right now the sense I got is there’s a lot of things that maybe later on the summer as opposed to a draft type situation. … again, we’ve worked hard to build up our prospect pool and we’re not looking to gut it to solve an immediate problem. We certainly want to solve some immediate problems, but not at the expense of this pool that we’ve worked so hard to build up. What’s exciting for me is when you look at it now, just from a prospect standpoint, you look at the forwards we have, the goaltenders we have, the defensemen we have, it’s a well-rounded prospect pool. It’s really good depth. It’s exciting. It’s exciting to think of eight or nine kids coming into camp next year with a potential shot at making the team. Our best days are ahead of us. We all want to get there tomorrow. But if we have a little bit of patience here, we’re all going to be rewarded in a big way.

I told you you were taking Dumba too: Yeah, you did. I was hoping you were right.

 

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