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 thoughts on trades, Walzie and baseball

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Vikings draft, Stanley Cup, Wild news, Wild off-season news Updated: June 8, 2010 - 7:34 PM

Coming to you live from Citizens Bank Park's press box, where I'm taking in slugger Mike Stanton's major-league debut for the Florida Marlins tonight against the Phillies. There's not exactly the hoopla here as Stephen Strasburg's debut in DC, but this guy will be a star.

The 20-year-old California native, who's so big Men's Wearhouse had trouble outfitting him yesterday when he scurried over for emergency travel wardrobe, was sending bombs into the second deck during his first big-league batting practice.

 

 

Of course, it was almost predictable that the guy who can send a baseball a mile into the sky hit a little chopper over the pitcher's head for an infield hit in his first at-bat. If you haven't seen Citizens Bank Park, it's quite the contrast to Target Field. The ball launches out of here. Four homers, and we're just in the fourth inning thus far.

-- So, my Insider this morning wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy, I know. But my goal wasn't to depress the heck out of Wild fans on an out-of-the-blue quiet Tuesday morning. It was basically to get the team back in the paper and give you an indication of what some of the issues are not only heading into the offseason, but really the next few weeks. Remember, the draft is the second-most active trading time in the NHL and is a time where huge trades happen (Roberto Luongo to Florida, Chris Pronger to Philly are a few off the top of my head).

The Wild's often been active, acquiring Pavol Demitra, Todd White, Cliff Ronning and Kyle Brodziak and setting up the Manny Fernandez and Marek Zidlicky trades. So, the Wild, especially if it wants to clear some cap room heading into free agency, could be active.

I hear they'll definitely be looking to move Josh Harding by the draft. Again, that won't be simple because there are a bunch of goalies available.

Back to the column, I don't think the headline really reflected the column. I do think the Wild can definitely improve this summer.

My point was the Wild can't come back with the status-quo and fool itself into thinking things will magically get better. So with little cap room and a lot of work to do to turn the team into a true contender, my point is GM Chuck Fletcher's got some big decisions to make this summer and will have his work cut out for him. And I'm referring to trade decisions.

I don't think the Wild's out there aggressively pursuing trading Brent Burns. But I do think the Wild would very seriously consider it as long as the price back is significant. In other words, they're not about to trade Burns just for the sake of trading Burns.

But other than Mikko Koivu, whom the Wild's lone goal after July 1 will be to try to extend his contract, Burns is the one guy on the team that might have what it takes to draw back that long-coveted No. 2 centerman and/or top-six winger. And with the Wild's improving depth on the blue line, it's something Fletcher can consider.

But like I said in the column, it's a huge risk. If Burns goes elsewhere and becomes what most of us think he can be, yikes

Otherwise, Fletcher's going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat because there's not a lot of cap room and not a good free-agent crop to choose from anyway. And teams that look at free agency as a means to fix rosters usually are left disappointed anyway.

-- I'm still waiting to hear back from Pierre-Marc Bouchard regarding how his appointment with the Boston-based neurologist went yesterday.

-- Really cool to see how former Wild players Wes Walz and Antti Laaksonen are doing the Wild Road Tour. I don't know Laaksonen, but I know Walz used to love doing the road tour as a player -- not just the meeting fans and signing autographs, but hanging with teammates and broadcasters on the road.

Walz has moved back to Minnesota, and with him home, it would be a cool thing if the Wild brought him in to work for them in some capacity. Who knows? But he's a good guy and great hockey man, and as I wrote in that column a few months back, he meant the world to youngsters in Tampa, like Steve Stamkos. Regardless, whether he's hired or not, since he's doing the Road Tour, you know he'll be visible and willing to help his old team in a number of ways.

By the way, I hear Walz kicked T.C.'s butt for a second time last week in his Saturday home-run contest. Pretty embarrassing. Nobody ever seems to beat T.C. except for Walz. Maybe the Twins should make this a weekly event.

-- The Wild's exhibition schedule will be released early next week. Let's just say, it's a tad condensed. Training camp starts Sept. 17, and apparently there's six preseason games in something like eight nights before the team heads to Finland for a week. The exhibition game in Tampere vs. Ilves is Oct. 4. Wild has three home games, three road games in North America. I could tell you where, but then I'd have to duct tape your mouth.

-- I got a few emails that some Swedish site's reporting the Wild's pursuing former Oilers draft pick Fredrik Pettersson from Frolunda. Untrue.

-- Oh, Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals is Wednesday night!!! Will the Stanley Cup parade the Flyers' ice, or will the series head back to Chicago?

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