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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(updated) Fletcher confirms Wild's reached out to Modano

Posted by: Michael Russo under Brett Favre, Wild off-season news Updated: July 9, 2010 - 6:32 PM

(Updated)

"No to Mo" has turned into "Yes to Mo."

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher confirmed an ESPNDallas.com report this afternoon that not only is Detroit and San Jose in contact with Modano, but so are the Wild.

“We’re interested in speaking to Mike about his future plans,” Fletcher said. “We obviously have interest in doing anything that will make our team better and we just want to sit down with him and see if there’s a mutual fit.”

Modano told ESPNDallas.com, "It would be a fun storyline," referring to the fact that he began his future Hall of Fame career 22 years ago with the North Stars.

Fletcher said he hopes to sit down with Modano at some point to determine if there's a right fit. This is definitely not something that will happen overnight -- if it even does.

But I will say: I think Modano's "fun storyline" comment to Stars beat writer Richard Durrett is more than just a quote though. I really feel that he'd be very excited about coming to play specifically here. I felt back in April that Modano was dropping lots of hints that if he continued playing, he'd want it to be here.

I just never sensed the interest was reciprocated, and frankly it wasn't until the last few days.

Right now no meeting is planned because Modano told Fletcher he's got some things going on, and frankly, so does Fletcher. But Fletcher said at some point he and coach Todd Richards will sit down with the future Hall of Famer. But as I mentioned above, we could be far from a conclusion.

Hey, you're always patient with the Brett Favre wait. You'll have to be patient with this, too. In fact, Judd and Chip can cover both. They're experts. 

In this eventual sitdown between the Wild and Modano, I think they'll both have to convince each other that there's a mutual fit. Is Mike committed to playing and going through the rigors of training camp? Is he going to be comfortable and play the good soldier if it's the middle of the long grind and he's getting third-or fourth-line minutes and playing the second power play?

Remember, this is a proud athlete, a former superstar, one who's scored 50 goals in this league and 30 goals a bunch. Can he handle a secondary role?

I was led to believe for some time that the Wild wasn't going to be going after Modano, that it didn't make much sense to have him taking playing time from a kid like Casey Wellman. But clearly things evolve over time, and I think Fletcher signed Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom and then took a few days to really analyze the roster.

There's uncertainty with Pierre-Marc Bouchard's health, even though he is exercising and is trying to come back. I think there's uncertainty whether Casey Wellman will be ready for a full-time NHL job, even though he's turning 23 and not turning 19. I think there's a definite unwillingness to hand James Sheppard another NHL job unless he completely deserves it. This will be the biggest training camp of Sheppard's hockey-playing career.

And of course, even though Cullen was signed to be the No. 2 center, as even he said to me, "you can't script chemistry," so will there be chemistry with Cullen between Gui Latendresse and Marty Havlat?

Fletcher's very happy with the pickups of Cullen, Nystrom and Brad Staubitz and with the fact that he believes the Wild will be a harder-working team and more importantly a harder-to-play-against team. But there's still the concern of scoring and the skill level of the team, and if a guy like Modano could get 40 or 50 points and that means five or six more points in the standings, well, in the NHL, that could be the difference of making the playoffs and missing.

I've always said that if the Wild couldn't get their long-term solutions via trade, they'd look to short-term solutions in free agency. I was thinking more in the lines of Saku Koivu or Olli Jokinen when I wrote that in late June. Obviously, the Wild didn't get them, and obviously a trade hasn't transpired yet.

So they move on to Modano. What this also shows me is that since the Wild clearly sees a hole when it comes to skill, maybe guys that didn't make sense a few days ago could start making sense a few days from now or later in the summer.

In other words, I guarantee the kicking tires from Fletcher's part isn't just with Modano. Modano just revealed the contact. So could that mean Fletcher's kicked tires with guys like Alex Frolov, Lee Stempniak, Paul Kariya, Maxim Afinogenov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Miro Satan?

Hey, I ate crow on Modano, so I'm no longer discounting anybody.

On another subject, Fletcher said Richards has talked with assistant coaching candidates and he's also had conversations with some. Fletcher said the Wild is a week or maybe two from naming a replacement for Mike Ramsey.

 

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