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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Posts about Wild management

Thoughts on "tanking," the state of the Wild and the future

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 3, 2012 - 11:16 AM

Morning from Nashville, where the Wild will play its final road game of the season tonight. The morning skate is in a few hours. The only potential lineup change will be Warren Peters entering for Cody Almond.
Peters was supposed to fly in yesterday, so if he’s able to play, Almond would have to be reassigned because he’s an emergency recall.
My guess is, if healthy (he’s been walking gingerly), Niklas Backstrom will start vs. backup Anders Lindback.

There’s been lots of talk lately about the Wild finally winning games and thus, potentially, ruining its draft position after such a disappointing season.
Hey, I get it. If you’ve read me for years, I’ve always contended that one of the Wild’s biggest problems throughout its history is the fact it’s always just good enough to get the 10th pick or the 12th or whatever. If you’re going to miss the playoffs, you might as well get a real, legit, bona fide consolation prize for it.
I talked to coach Mike Yeo about that yesterday. Yeo finds himself in the awkward position of defending the Wild … winning games lately.
You can read that story here.

My random thoughts in reaction to a couple things that have been tweeted or emailed to me by readers:

1) What’s Yeo supposed to say? His job is to win games, not lose them.

2) One of the things I agree with Yeo on: It does just come down to quality drafting, not necessarily where you pick (see Benoit Pouliot at No. 4 in 2005).
First of all, other than the first couple in this upcoming draft, there are allegedly no sure things. And as I pointed out in the article, years from now, we may find out that Mikael Granlund (at 9th overall) and Jonas Brodin (at 10th) were better draft picks than some of the guys taken ahead of them.
One big reason the Wild’s where it’s at isn’t so much the fact that it didn’t get top-5 picks (although it would have helped) but that the previous regime absolutely swung and completely missed at arguably five consecutive first-round picks (Thelen, Pouliot, Sheppard, Gillies and, maybe too early to declare, Cuma) and the new regime traded its first first-round pick, Nick Leddy.
I mean, just think about that: The Wild absolutely blew SIX consecutive first-round picks. You don’t recover from things like that very easily. Throw it the fact the Wild got squat for Marian Gaborik, and … thit is why the Wild’s got such little skill, such little depth at top-6 forwards, why it’s so far behind so many teams in this league.
Look at the Wild’s opponent on any given night and count how many of their OWN first-round picks are in the lineup compared to the Wild.
The Wild has ONE – Mikko Koivu. That’s completely unforgivable, and the terrible Leddy trade aside, this is why the Wild’s new regime needed to stockpile prospects with quality drafting (Granlund, Larsson, Bulmer, Zucker, Brodin, Phillips, Lucia), quality college and junior free-agent signings (Spurgeon, Prosser) and quality trades the last few years (Coyle).
Now, in the next few years, Wild fans will hopefully start to see those dividends.

3) The idea of tanking is impossible. I’ve written this so many times, but again, I keep reading comments, “Fill the team with minor leaguers, … bring up Hackett, … force Koivu to sit.” This stuff cannot happen. Years ago, the league and players’ union implemented a rule where you can only have FOUR post-trade deadline callups. Otherwise, it’s an emergency recall. That means, if you have 12 healthy forwards, they stay. If one forward gets hurt, an emergency callup can come up. When the one forward returns, that forward must go back. Same with goalies. So when Josh Harding and Backstrom returned, Hackett HAD to go back. Why is this? Myriad reasons: 1) Keep teams from shutting down NHLers and filling them with minor-league scrubs (union’s fairly interested in making sure its players don’t have jobs and ice time taken away); 2) The concept that the team you pass the deadline with should in large measure be the team you enter the playoffs with; 3) Since there is no roster limit after the deadline, it prevents gross stockpiling at the NHL level.; 4) It also protects the competitive integrity of the AHL season -- AHL would have major issue if there wasn’t some limit on number of recalls; 5) Similarly, protects the competitive integrity of the NHL season. I think last year the Chicago Blackhawks would have had a pretty big issue if on the season finale, the Wild dressed a bunch of ECHLers against Dallas.

4) On the concept, “Is the Wild building a culture of winning or is the Wild winning games because the pressure’s off,” I think that’s a great debate. I do agree with many readers that it’s mostly the latter. Where was this when the season mattered? Where was this great play by certain individuals when the season could have been saved? You see this annually: An out-of-playoff team suddenly playing well when it’s allegedly playing for pride and trying to save jobs. I talked to Yeo about that, and he says it’s a different kind of pressure, but it’s still pressure. I’ll try to squeeze in those quotes tomorrow or in the next few days.

5) On the idea that Yeo wants to build a culture of winning, yet a lot of readers have noted many of these guys won’t be back. I was asked a few times by fans whom I think will definitely be back.
Barring trades, the following will be back: Koivu, Setoguchi, Heatley, Brodziak, Powe, Zucker (NHL or AHL), Clutterbuck, Gilbert, Backstrom, Prosser, Scandella … and injured Bouchard (can’t buy out an injured player), Spurgeon, Cullen, Kassian (AHL or NHL), Kampfer (AHL or NHL).
Guys I could see being back: Stoner (unrestricted) and Veilleux on a two-way contract. Wild has decisions to make on restricted free agents, Justin Falk and Nick Johnson. I’d think you’d tender them qualifying offers, but Johnson in particular has been so lost defensively in the second half, it’s becoming a major issue and hurting them often in games. Because he’s restricted though, he I’d think they bring him back.
Christensen, though, is an unrestricted free agent. I don’t think he’s brought back despite the big goals lately. First, when they needed him, he went 15 games without a point. That game in Chicago doesn’t get to overtime without Christensen and Johnson being so poor defensively, and that’s been a common theme with Christensen. If you start penciling in potential free agent signings and the Granlunds and maybe Coyles and Zuckers next year, where does Erik Christensen fit? On the fourth line? Uh, no. Erik Christensen cannot be an effective fourth-liner. He’s skilled, not gritty. Also, the Wild will have plenty of shootout options next year with the kids. Let’s put it this way: I don’t see Christensen being re-signed before July 1. If he’s brought back, my guess is it’s because they missed on some things post July 1. I could be wrong, but that’s my sense.
If guys like Jed Ortmeyer and Warren Peters are brought back, it’ll be on two-way deals.
I don’t see the injured Latendresse coming back unless they get him on a quality one-year deal at a great price. But this is two years in a row the Wild’s been hamstrung by him missing an entire season with injuries.
The Wild will have to make a decision on Josh Harding, and part of that decision will be Harding’s.
Kurtis Foster won’t be back. Mike Lundin won’t be back. And like I said, I have my doubts that Christensen will be back.
6) Frankly, the Wild’s improved play of late, I think, proves just how big of a loss Mikko Koivu was. That’s why it’s incumbent on GM Chuck Fletcher to fix this problem. It’s inexcusable that the Wild annually is a Mikko Koivu injury away from disaster. I think the Wild could have survived Latendresse and Bouchard alone, but when Koivu went down with those two, and then it lost Devin Setoguchi, the Wild went from being a team with interchangeable parts to a team that couldn’t survive the loss of so many top-6 forwards. Players changed their roles and never got rediscovered that early season “stick-to-it-ness identity. Koivu’s presence stabilizes everything. His presence allows others to get better matchups, it allows others to play their appropriate roles, it forces teams to respect his line, it allows him to take the big faceoffs and play the big special-team shifts. This one player missing fouls everything up because the Wild, at least the past two years, didn’t have the depth. Hopefully, now that the Wild’s actually drafted well the past two years, the depth is on its way. That depth still will need to develop though. The Wild’s not going to be able to snap its fingers and just be good – barring the signing of a potential star forward and defenseman, of course.

OK, I'm out of breath. That was a lot of writing. Digest, and I'll be back after the skate to update this blog with the highly-anticipated, "Will Warren Peters play? and Who's in goal?" news.
 

Chuck Fletcher speaks about today's two Wild trades, and about the future

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 27, 2012 - 11:53 PM

For more on Kampfer, here's a good profile that was written last year by CSNNE. Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr knows Kampfer well as part of the Anaheim scouting staff that drafted him in 2007.

Also, I'll be on KFAN with Paul Allen at 9 a.m.

Here is Chuck Fletcher talking late this afternoon on a conference call.

Fletcher on Greg Zanon, traded to Boston for Steve Kampfer: “Heart and soul player, blocked shots, physically competitive every night and gave us everything he had every game he played. He did everything we asked of him and he was a very good teammate.”

On Nick Schultz, traded to Edmonton for Tom Gilbert: “Represented the Minnesota Wild as well as any hockey player could represent us, both on the ice, off the ice, played 743 regular-season games for our team, was part of the Wild team that had a run back in 03, popular teammate, great in the community, good family man, was a very solid defensive defenseman and played very hard for us.”

“Today’s trades were not about getting rid of those players as much as adding different pieces for us going forward.”

Getting puck moving defensemen for defensive guys: “I’ve heard some characterizations of Tom Gilbert as an offensive type of guy. I’m pretty familiar with Tom. Tom played in Wilkes-Barre a few years ago when I was general manager of that team on loan from Edmonton. … I think Tom is a strong puck mover and has the ability to contribute offensively, but ideally he has a very solid two-way game. He logs a lot of minutes. When the Minnesota Wild played Edmonton this year, Tom Gilbert was often playing on [a shutdown] line with Ladislav Smid. He’s a guy that can play in any situation, he moves the puck well and he does have an offensive component. But I don’t know if I’d characterize him purely as an offensive defenseman. I don’t think that’s fair to his talents. Our ability to transition the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone is an area we wanted to improve.”

On Kampfer: “He’s going to start off in Houston. He’s missed some time this year. He’s been down in Providence getting some ice time. We felt it would be best for him to go down. John Torchetti is a great coach. We play the system in Houston that we do here in Minnesota and give him a chance. I think between [Providence and Boston], he’s only played 20-odd games. He’s a young guy, he needs to play, let him get his confidence, get his game going and he can learn from there instead of just throwing him into the fire. We’re carrying six defensemen. We do expect Clayton Stoner back hopefully within two weeks and Steven is available if anybody gets hurt. So we have depth. … He’s not big in stature (5-11). He’s competitive. He’s mobile. He can move the puck. He’s spent last year with the Bruins for a lot of the year and was the seventh defenseman for a lot of this year. He did have an injury earlier this season that knocked him out for awhile. … We feel he has some upside and provides us some depth for this season and going forward hopefully can be a guy that can be part of our group.”

When Gilbert trade talks started: “Even though we’re in the same division, I do talk to Tamby (Steve Tambellini) quite a lot. I remember having a conversation about Tom Gilbert three summers ago to be honest with you when I first took the job. He’s one of those types of players I just felt would help our team. Over the last couple days the conversations picked up. They were looking for a particular fit and we were looking for a particular fit. It’s a trade that probably benefits both clubs in terms of the types of players that they have on their team.”

How agonizing is it to trade a popular teammate like Schultz? “Extremely hard. There’s been a lot of people singing his praises today and rightfully so. It was a hard conversation. This was a hockey trade. This was not a salary dump or dumping a player that we didn’t appreciate or we didn’t value. You’re trading a good player for a good player. That’s always difficult. We felt going forward we needed to … add a little bit more puck-moving ability to our back end. Over the next couple seasons, we hope to add more and more talented, young forwards. It’s no secret we’ve struggled offensively this season and I think this is a natural evolution for our team. I can tell you one thing: There would have been a lot of other pieces I would have preferred to move besides Nick Schultz, but Steve Tambellini knows the players and knows the league. It wasn’t an easy price, let’s put it that way.”

Lots of salary cap space, flexibility this summer? “At least last summer, we felt we were a bit stuck in terms of not being able to get over the hump for the present and maybe not having enough assets going forward. … We’re very cognizant of the fact that over time here we have to add more NHL talent, too. Part of our push as we get better will be from young players, part of it will be from adding NHL players. In order to do that, you either need cap space or you need young assets to trade, and the good news is we feel we have both. Whether it’s this summer or this winter, we think we’re in the best position we’ve ever been in terms of being going out and get better quickly.”

Big fish is next objective? “It’s funny. I was talking to [Chicago GM] Stan Bowman the other day and their big break was Brian Campbell. They had all these young players and they went out and got a player to come play for them and they took off. Again, whether that’s a trade, and we have assets now, again we have some good, young players, we have some extra picks now, or whether it’s free agency, whether it’s a trade next year during the season, at some point we want to go out and try to add some top-end guys. I think keeping Mikko Koivu here was extremely important for our franchise. I think adding Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi was very important, particularly a guy like Heatley, who’s a top offensive player in this league. So I think we’ve made some strides. But clearly when you look at our team this year, we have a good core of players. But we just need a few more. And that’s our challenge. And how quickly we get there, I can’t say. But we’ll certainly try. That’s the next step for us as a franchise.”

On not doing anything else: “If you look at the trades we made, all three of them (including Zidlicky), all of them we feel can help our team right now. We’re competing for a playoff spot. We have some work to do. But we’ve won three of our last four games. We’ve shown a lot of heart recently. And I feel we have the capability at taking a run at this. We’re always interested in adding younger assets, and I think for the most part, we were able to accomplish both. We were not looking to sell players. We were not looking to dump players off our team just to pick up draft picks. We had some opportunities. It was a non-starter. We weren’t interested in being quote-unquote sellers.

On not trading Harding: "Josh is somebody that can very well be part of our future going forward. He’s a big part of our present. I wasn’t looking to sell him. If there was ever a hockey trade that makes sense, you’d consider him. But we were not looking to just to move Josh Harding or sell him. He’s won a lot of hockey games for us. He’s a young goalie and we haven’t dismissed the idea of attempting to re-sign him for the future.
 

Richards an NHL coach again

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: January 9, 2012 - 10:29 AM

Todd Richards is the new coach of the Columbus Bluejackets.

Richards, fired as coach of the Wild after last season, takes over on an interim basis after Scott Arniel was fired this morning.  Richards had been Arniel's top assistant.

Columbus has the worst record (11-25-5) in the NHL. Richards' appointment will last the remainder of the season; he was 77-71-16 with the Wild from 2009-11.

The Bluejackets' next game is Tuesday night in Chicago.

Arniel was 45-60-18 since starting the 2010 season as head coach.

Richards, 45, was 38-36-8 in 2009-10 with the Wild and 39-35-8 last season.

Chuck Fletcher's vision being accepted by the masses?; Tons of Wild smatterings

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: July 1, 2011 - 11:49 PM

Evening.

Here's the main Wild story for Saturday on the Wild re-signing Josh Harding and not signing any external free agents on Day 1

Here's the sidebar of Andrew Brunette, talking from London, signing with the Chicago Blackhawks after three missed postseasons in Minnesota

All day, as I sat in this very spot not burning calories and consuming coffee, I was looking forward to going out tonight. But the weather stinks and I've got no life anyway.

So I'll blog.

I'll do my best to not make this a long, convoluted blog because I do want to get out of here, but it may be a bit all over the place because I have some leftovers that I couldn't squeeze into the paper, such as quotes from Cam Barker and Josh Harding and Jose Theodore and Chuck Fletcher.

But I'll start with this. I love Twitter (follow me at www.twitter.com/russostrib  ) because it's obviously a great means of information, but it also gives me a great gauge of what Wild fans are thinking in real-time.

Unfortunately, on the day it was revealed Mike Yeo was the next Wild coach, and on the day of Yeo's news conference, and on draft night when the Wild took Jonas Brodin, traded Brent Burns an hour before deadline (thanks Chuck) and drafted Zack Phillips right at deadline, I didn't get to read a single tweet the fan base sent me. (Sorry, but all your comments that I'm certain were brilliant and witty and thought-provoking went for naught because I was just swamped).

Today, because frankly I wasn't manic dealing with, say, the six signings and one trade my colleagues in Florida had to deal with, I got to read every word you wrote me.

And as I was writing my stories tonight for Saturday's Star Tribune that you plan to purchase, I began to wonder: How come very few people ranted to me throughout the day that the %$@!^#& Wild didn't sign a single %&$*%I@! sole (other than re-signing Josh Harding and signing draft pick Kyle Medvec to an entry-level deal)?

I started wondering, "Is this apathy setting in, did folks just get out of here for the long weekend or are fans starting to buy what Chuck Fletcher's selling?"

So instead of wondering, I took the question to the masses. Yes, of course, I got the few with a couple choice things to say back about the Wild, but take a look at a sampling at the majority of responses:

@russotrib Happy Wild showed restraint. My fellow season ticket holders may disagree

@Russostrib I think the Wild have all their ducks in a row and are smart to build through the draft and trading for a while

@Russostrib The last two drafts have been good/great IMO, along with failed FAs means I'm ready be patient for once.

@Russostrib I'm glad we're not overpaying for second tier players. #stillwantMaddenback

@Russostrib I think we all kind of expected it. Atleast Fletcher has a clear vision for this team now. If he can keep drafting well, I'm in!

@Russostrib we are quiet. why? It is amazing what honesty from a GM and management team can do for fans.

@Russostrib i like the youth movement, keep cleaning.

@Russostrib Harding will be back in a Wild sweater, Fletcher has a good plan, Yeo has the reins. I'm good :) Will miss Bruno though (:

@Russostrib I think we're buying into the formula. In two years I hope to see a @mnwild free agent FRENZY to setup for our REAL Cup run!

@Russostrib maybe it's cuz many of us see that fletch has a plan and we see the future as u pointed out in ur post-draft write up?

@Russostrib Nope. Reality has set in Mike. Build from within. I'm excited!

 

@Russostrib They see how overpriced all the deals are. Best deals this year are the ones not being made.

@Russostrib besides Richards there hasn't been anyone I would break the bank for, lots of average players getting big deals today.

@Russostrib maybe Fletcher managing expectations in his post-draft presser worked? Maybe they realize these are ridiculous deals?

@Russostrib prices are high, and I think most are satisfied with the direction they are headed

@Russostrib We're getting smarter. Subpar UFA class and losing Barker keep us quiet.

@Russostrib cause fans know they actually have enough guys after harding signed, in chuck we trust

@Russostrib I think this is the right approach; allowing the younger players to compete for the open spots instead of overpaying for vets.

Obviously this small sample doesn't express the opinion of every Wild fan, but these were the majority of the tweets I got back. Now, I don't know if the article/blog comments are vastly different, and I'm not naive enough to believe every Wild fan is jovial with the direction of the Wild, but all these responses did get me thinking.

As one of the fans alluded to above, Doug Risebrough was derided for his "manage expectations" line in the news conference before he was fired.

But sometimes as a GM, it's imperative to clearly, succinctly get your message out there, explain to the fans who invest so much into your product what your vision is for the future.

Fletcher's done that the past couple months, but especially weeks. Everybody's not going to buy into it, but you've got to convey it nonetheless.

Some want to use the negative connotation that the Wild's "rebuilding." Chuck Fletcher would rather use the term "building."  

Whatever it is, if Fletcher doesn't make it abundantly clear that the Wild's going the draft and development model, that they're going to fill the majority -- not all, but the majority -- of its holes from within, Wild fans perhaps storm the gates today.

But I do think a lot of Wild fans are tired of the losing, are tired of a franchise stuck in mud, see the fact that the Wild hasn't drafted and developed players nearly as well as other franchises, see the fact that the stars on most other teams are homegrown, and these fans are at the point where they just want to see a clear vision of how the Wild gets from Point A to Point B.

As I wrote in that Sunday Insider, there are no short cuts to success, and for too long, the Wild tried to do two things at once -- draft and develop, while signing expensive free agents and trying to accelerate the process through trades like Cam Barker and Chuck Kobasew. It didn't work.

Now, this could take awhile. There's going to be growing pains. Trust me on that. I'm not going to sit here right now and tell you I believe this team will be better next year. The first wave of kids are coming now, and they're not the top-end of the Wild's growing prospect pool. But it's the next wave of kids where I think you'll start to see some skill in the development pipeline -- guys like Granlund and Larsson, who I'm telling you I keep hearing incredible things about, and Coyle, who was San Jose's No. 1 guy on its reserve list and San Jose's No. 1 guy on last season's Hockey News Future Watch edition.

And then these kids need to, well, develop.

So like I've said for awhile, it may take patience. There could be tough times ahead where we all need a reminder when we snap what the larger picture is. But as long as the Wild brass is right about these kids -- not every one will make it, but the more kids you stockpile, the better the likelihood that you'll find some real deals -- this should prove worth it.

We shall see.

But at the very least, we know what the path is now. The goal of this team is to build from within, keep cap flexibility, fill holes internally, and when the time is right to hit that home-run with a truly top-end player via free agency or trade, pounce. When that is, we'll have to stay tuned. But I'd think that's at least a summer away.

We continue, and since this blog's gone longer than expected like most my late-night blogs, I'll try to make it snappy:

-- Now with all that said, that doesn't mean the Wild will be completely silent the rest of the summer. It just didn't sign anybody on Day One during a crazy, spendy day. As I mentioned on one of the blogs today, I personally see holes and think they could use at least one more NHL-experienced defenseman. They made some calls today, but I think they'll let the dust settle a little bit and then revisit whether there are some fits out there.

Fletcher said he's had a lot of conversations with agents for signings and teams for trades, and he'll see if he can make something happen.

Here's Fletcher on some subjects:

On depth because I keep harping to him 'What if you have injuries????': "I really believe we have a lot of depth. The depth is the best it’s been since I have been here. It’s not to say you can't continue to improve. But we've mentioned we’re transitioning to a younger team and it's very important we give some of these players an opportunity to show they can make it. We’ll see what happens in training camp. But it’s going to be a very competitive camp. That’s how you get better -- as players make our team and gain some experience and bring energy and speed and some cases skill to the lineup."
 
Do you lose veteran presence with no Brunette and Madden?: "I think have good veteran presence still in our group. We'll see. I've had conversations, we'll see what transpires the next couple weeks. Nothing may happen, but there may be the potential opportunity to make another change or two. We'll see if we can make it happen."

On today in the NHL: "There’s been a lot of money spent today. It’s been an interesting day. We’ve been watching it. We’re in our warrom and looking at everybody’s cap situations and rosters, and a lot of big contractual commitments were made. It’ll be interesting to see how some of these things work out over the next season or two, or 10."

-- Cam Barker talked to the Edmonton media today:

How disappointing was it in Minny: "Toughest year of my life, no question. Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. I had a couple of injuries. It was extremely frustrating. I'm glad to move on, I'm really motivated and I want to prove people wrong. That's going to drive me to training camp and into next season."

Being bought out? "I didn't look at it as such a bad thing. Obviously it's not the best circumstance. In terms of your career, you don't wish for this. But it's worked out for the best. I wish those guys in Minnesota the best. No hard feelings."

Proving a point now: "There's always the pressure to be that player (third pick overall) and I put it on myself. I want to learn from my time in Minnesota and move on. I want to be the player I was two and three years ago and build on that. I know Mr. Renney is a great teacher."
 
"Glad to be joining a team with fresh talent. I'm a young guy too."
 
See self as top 4 guy? "For sure, top 4 and powerplay. But everybody has to earn their ice-time."
Being hurt in Minny: "Back injury for the better part of three months. Nothing more frustrating than a nagging injury, especially in your back. It just didn't get better. It wasn't a herniated disc, nothing that needed surgery. I saw a different specialist outside the organization and he said to rest it for a month. That month was up a couple of weeks after the season. I've got a clean bill of health now. I've been skating, working out."
 
GM Steve Tambellini: "No risk for us. One year contract. he's only 25. I think he can be a top 4 guy."
 
-- Josh Harding Extra: 

It’ll be interesting to watch Harding in training camp to see his comfort level dropping on his right knee again.
 
But he said, “I think it’s going to be fine. I’ve skated here for awhile now. I’ve had no setback. I don’t think it’ll change me as a goalie. I don’t know I really had a style before anyway. I kind of just try to put myself in front of the puck.
“I guess we’ll see. As for now, I’m pretty sure it won’t hinder me.”

He said, "It’s going to be exciting. Just to get back to the team I started with. Me and Backy (Niklas Backstrom) have had a lot of years together now. We know each other well. I know what he wants of me. I know his routine and when to stay out of his way in a couple situations (laughs). I’m just proud to be a Wild and honored to be with Nik again."

He said Kyle Brodziak will continue to run the music in the locker room even though that was Harding's old job. "I like Brodzy's music. One less thing for me to worry about in my book."

--Jose Theodore extra:
 
Theodore was great talking about Harding as you can see in the main story, but he loved his one year in Minnesota. After not signing until Oct. 1 a year ago despite a successful regular season in Washington, Theodore wasn't messing around this time.
 
He knows how easy it is to get shut out of the NHL as a goalie. Only 60 jobs, and a few openings. So when six calls came from teams early Friday, he pounced. In January, before his shutout against Pittsburgh, Theodore called me over for a long conversation about Florida. He asked me about the neighborhoods in Boca Raton -- my hometown -- and every single detail about the organization.
 
You could see the wheels were churning in his head. He wanted to still be a No. 1 and he knew Tomas Vokoun may very well be gone. So that's why I had been predicting for some time Theodore to Florida. It was "tops on my list, so when they called, it happened quick. It was an easy decision.
 
"I think it'll be pretty easy to adjust to going to practice in shorts in December. Enjoy your fur coats and parkas," he said with a laugh.
 
-- Andrew Brunette extra:
 
Don't really have too much more to say from what I wrote in the article other than I'll miss the old-timer. I've covered some great people here, from Brian Rolston to Kurtis Foster to so many others, and Brunette's right up there.
 
Just a very good dude, and a great player.
 
The Wild didn't try to bring him back. The team's direction was obvious, so I didn't think they would. They're clearly going younger, and after three years of not making the playoffs, they probably figured it needed to start fresh without Brunette.
 
But deep down, you could tell Brunette was hurt they didn't attempt an overture.
 
He talked about that but then said, "You know what though, it would have been a tough decision if anything was brought in by them to make it close. In a way, it's probably the best thing hopefully that I didn’t have to make a gut-wrenching decision."
 
Like I said, I've got great respect for Brunette and can't wait to watch him play with the so-many stars in Chicago.
 
 
--Lastly, this got overshadowed today, but the Wild did sign former University of Vermont defenseman Kyle Medvec, 23, the 6-6 former Apple Valley player. He'll start his pro career in Houston, and we'll be part of the new wave of blue-liners down there (Chay Genoway, Tyler Cuma coming back from surgery, Jeff Penner, etc) with so many like Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser, maybe Justin Falk, getting looks up here. He recorded six points and 28 penalty minutes in 29 games during his senior season at Vermont. He had 38 points (10-28=38) in 139 games in four seasons with the Catamounts. Medvec served as an assistant captain this season and was named to the 2008-09 Hockey East All-Academic Team. He helped lead the Catamounts to the 2009 Frozen Four. Born in Westminster, Colo., and raised in Burnsville, Minn., he played at Apple Valley High School and was a finalist for the 2006 Mr. Hockey Award. He was originally selected by the Wild in the fourth round (No. 102 overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
 
OK, that's it. Finally.
 
That was a very, very long blog. Imagine how long it would be if they signed a player outside the organization!!!
 
Good night folks and if I don't talk to you this weekend, have an awesome 4th!

Final Wild draft thoughts; A look ahead; 2011-12 Wild depth chart

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 26, 2011 - 10:47 AM

Morning to you. I'll be on Joe Schmit's Sports Wrap on Channel 5 tonight, I think around 10:30 p.m.

NHL Draft is over. Only business yet to come: Qualifying offers must be tendered by 4 p.m. CT Monday; First buyout period ends Thursday and free agency begins Friday.

I'll write more about free agency as we get closer, but with the Wild in draft and development mode, the Wild trying to get out of the habit of overpaying for veteran free agents, the fact this free-agent class is below average, the fact that next year's free-agent class is potentially star-studded by free-agent class standards and the fact that most teams are trying to create cap flexibility due to the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations that will almost certainly result in a restructured (lower) cap ceiling, I wouldn't expect a splash from the Wild.

As has been reported many times the last month, the Wild is going to leave openings for players like Colton Gillies, Cody Almond, Casey Wellman, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and others to try to challenge for spots. If they come to camp and don't earn spots, the Wild would react then to find players.

The Wild will sign one backup goalie this summer, whether that be Jose Theodore, Josh Harding or another. I'd think they'd have to sign at least one defenseman and I think they'd like to add maybe one character forward, prefarably via trade. You can see the depth chart below to see the open spots (as they stand this very moment at least; this could change).

Here's the coverage from today's paper:

My Insider on the fact that Chuck Fletcher's plan is clear to see now. May require patience, but the Wild's been spinning its wheels the last 3 years. The team has been trying to take short cuts with trades and some free-agent pickups, but most have been disappointing. This path just hasn't worked.

I've been preaching for years that this team was way behind the majority of teams in this league in terms of young talent. Well, it's clear they are now completely investing into trying to stockpile young talent. Now the hope is that many of these kids pay off and the team can build internally like most the great teams in this league did (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, etc).

This above fact is not hard to see, by the way. Somebody wrote me today, saying "Name one!" I mean, are you serious? Just peruse the rosters of most the top or up-and-coming teams in the league. Most their stars/quality, impact players are homegrown talent. The Wild hasn't developed a top-6 forward since the 2002 draft (Bouchard). The Wild hasn't developed a top-4 defenseman since the 2003 draft (Burns).

You want to know why your favorite franchise is stuck in mud. Look no further than those harsh facts. If you've read me for awhile, you know my opinion has long been that building through youth the way those other teams do is the way to go. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I endorse this path now.

Once you build a strong number of assets, that's when those players either impact your lineup or that's when you can maybe swing for the big trade or the big free agent.

Onward:

Wild notebook on drafting locals, Craig Leipold's delight when Mario Lucia was drafted, update on assistant coaching situation, update on Houston Aeros coach finalists, Charlie Coyle note, Big Buff update and Markus Granlund draft note

Mario Lucia, hometown team, feelgood story, by Roman Augustoviz

Good stuff on the anxiety of the draft by David LaVaque, highlighting especially Seth Ambroz's long wait

Brian Stensaas on Stevan Fogarty jumping up the draft board, and other Minnesotans; As an aside, here's the Minnesotans drafted with video

Wild's Day 2 picks

Kelly Smith on the sights and sounds of hockey heaven in St. Paul

Here is the 2011-12 depth chart as it stands this moment

Here's the text from the link:

Here's a look at the Wild's depth chart for next season as it stands today. The TBDs indicate open spots that either need to be filled through the promotion of Wild prospects or external acquisitions (free agency or trades). Below each player are his 2011-12 salary and 2011-12 salary-cap hit. The salary-cap ceiling for next season is $64.3 million.

FORWARDS
Line 1: Pierre-Marc Bouchard ($4.25 million salary, $4.08M salary cap hit); Mikko Koivu ($7.29M, $6.75M); Devin Setoguchi ($2.75M; $3M)

Line 2: Guillaume Latendresse ($2.6M, $2.5M); Kyle Brodziak ($1.3M, $1.15M); Martin Havlat ($5M, $5M)

Line 3: TBD; Matt Cullen ($3.5M, $3.5M); Cal Clutterbuck ($1.5M, $1.4M)

Line 4: Eric Nystrom ($1.4M, $1.4M); TBD; Brad Staubitz ($600K, $575K)

Note: Three or four spots are open depending on if the Wild keeps 13 or 14 forwards, seven or eight defensemen and two goalies make the team.

Vying for spots: Colton Gillies, Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, James Sheppard, Patrick O'Sullivan, Carson McMillan, Matt Kassian.

Unrestricted free agents: Andrew Brunette, John Madden, Antti Miettinen, Chuck Kobasew

Restricted free agents: Wellman, Sheppard, Gillies, O'Sullivan

Minor league unrestricted free agents: Robbie Earl, Jed Ortmeyer.

DEFENSEMEN
Line 1: Nick Schultz ($3.6 million salary, $3.5M salary cap hit); Marek Zidlicky ($4M, $4M)

Line 2: Greg Zanon ($2.1M, $1.933M); Jared Spurgeon ($535K, $527K)
Line 3: Clayton Stoner ($575K, $550K); Cam Barker* ($3.25M, $3.08M)

Note: One or two spots are open depending on if the Wild keeps 13 or 14 forwards.
* The Wild is considering buying out Barker by Thursday's deadline.

Vying for spots: Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Justin Falk.

Restricted free agents: Falk.

Unrestricted free agent: Drew Bagnall.

GOALIES
Starter: Niklas Backstrom ($6 million salary, $6M salary cap hit)

Backup: TBD

Note: One spot is open.

Vying for spots: Dennis Endras.

Unrestricted free agents: Jose Theodore, Josh Harding.

SALARY BREAKDOWN
• Actual 2011-12 payroll (as of today): $50,250,000

• Salary cap hit: $49,876,110

Notes: Includes bought-out Mark Parrish's $927,778 payoff and cap hit. ... This total also includes the 17 of a possible 23 players.

 

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