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 still in the Parise, Suter ballgame; Fletcher on Mitchell, Konopka

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 2, 2012 - 8:26 AM

I'll be on KFAN at 9:55 a.m. Monday

Zach Parise's agent Wade Arnott says that his client has narrowed his list of teams to a "small select group," and according to sources, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has been informed the Wild is on that list.

Fletcher wouldn't comment, but talking to the beat writers an hour or so ago, Fletcher said it's still early in the process, which would seem to indicate that he has not been told he's out the way other teams were told late this afternoon.

Does that mean the Wild's going to land Parise? No. Parise will sleep on it tonight, reconvene with his agents in the morning and make a decision, I'm told, and the hefty competition includes teams like Pittsburgh and Detroit, and maybe Philly, L.A. and, of course, New Jersey.

The Wild's hot after Ryan Suter, too, and he also won't make a decision tonight. Detroit's bigtime after him as well, but I have been told by sources that the Wild is on Suter's short list as well.

The Wild has clearly offered astronomical contracts for both (see 2 blogs ago).

My gut is exactly the same as this morning: Wild gets Parise, it gets Suter. Wild strikes out to, say Pittsburgh, for Parise, Suter goes to Detroit and Wild will move on to Plan B's.

Just a total opinion.

As for the day's events, Fletcher talked about signing Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka:

"We felt last year, particularly when all the injuries set in, that our lack of depth was exposed and we had gone into the summer with the goal of improving our depth. Through the graduation of a lot of our young players from junior, college and Europe to the pro ranks, we think that’s a great start for improving our depth and our skill level, but we also wanted to go out and add a couple guys that can play on our third and fourth lines, that have some experience, and basically just make us a harder team to play against. Both these players do make us harder to play against in different ways. Torrey Mitchell has tremendous speed and is somebody that’s able to create a lot of havoc on the forecheck, is able to kill penalties, is able to play on the third line and he’s a player that has pretty good experience in this league. So we just felt that speed would be something that third line potentially a very difficult line to play against. And Zenon Konopka’s a guy that makes us harder to play against with his size and his toughness and historically he’s been an excellent faceoff man. So it gives us a little bit more depth down the middle. Again both of these guys are guys that have played in the league, hopefully makes us harder to play against, gives us more depth and allow us not to have to rush young players and put them into third and fourth line type situations early in their career."

On players changing roles last year with injuries and how does this guard against that? We hope it does help. Strengthening our third and fourth lines was something we wanted to do this summer. We have some other needs, but I don’t think it can be understated it is to have quality guys on your third and fourth line and guys that can keep the puck out of your net and play different roles to make you’re a better all-around team. Speed is something you can never have too much of, and Torrey has good experience and he’s able to move up and down your lineup and can play even in your top-6 for spurts and is a good third-line player and has that ability to kill penalties. Again he’s an experienced guy. That’s something that’s important to us. Last summer, we lost a lot of NHL experience with players like Brunette and Miettinen and Kobasew and Madden. We were a little thin last year and for awhile it didn’t matter. But as we ran into injuries, I think that became a problem for us. And this year we felt if we can improve our depth, we can prevent some of these situations from happening.

So would Mitchell play on that left side or fourth-line right wing? That’s really up to Mike [Yeo]. We’re bringing him in thinking he’s more of a third-line player. Clutterbuck’s played some left wing in his career. Torrey, we believe, can play left or right wing. And it’s really up to Mike and the coaching staff to make those determinations, but we see him more of a third-line player and a guy that can slot up from time-to-time, too, depending on how many injuries you have.

Did signing these guys close spots for the prospects? Well, whoever makes our team. You can always find spots for players if they make your team, and as we’ve seen, there’s injuries. There’s times you have four or five players hurt at the same time. So I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with finding spots for good players. I don’t think we ever had any intention playing young players on the fourth line unless we’re forced into it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense when they’re 20 years old. We wanted to improve our depth and create competition throughout our lineup. It would nice to have a problem where we have too many good players. Coming off the year we did, we’d rather again have a lot of competition and depth versus the alternative.

You tweeted you made offers to the big two. Can you give us a sense of the color of the day? “It’s still really early. I don’t really have any comment because it’s a process and we’ll just wait and see how things play out. We tweeted it out because we just figured you guys would want to know if we had made offers officially, so we just let everyone know that we did make offers officially and from there I can’t comment. Obviously, free agency, we’re not really in control of the situation, so there’s really not a lot I can comment on at times.

Did you get to at least make verbal pitches to both? “I don’t want to get into the details right now. Again it’s still relatively early in the process.”

Have you been told you’re on Parise’s shortlist? “I don’t want to comment on details. It’ll be what it’ll be.”

 

More later perhaps

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