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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Wild signs center Cody Almond; Updated Wild depth chart

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 8, 2014 - 8:07 AM

As blogged about Monday, the Wild has signed center Cody Almond to a one-year, $550,000 contract. It will likely be announced at some point today.

It's a one-way deal, meaning the soon-to-be 25-year-old center has a real good shot at making next season's roster.

Almond, a fifth-round pick by the Wild in 2007, scored two goals for the Wild in 25 games over parts of three seasons before playing the past two seasons in Geneva, Switzerland. Last year, he broke out offensively, scoring 18 goals and 34 points in 44 games with 75 penalty minutes.

The Wild still owned Almond's NHL rights because he didn't sign as a restricted free agent in 2012, so if he wanted to again chase his NHL dream, he had to start off by returning to the Wild.

Almond is a 6-foot-2, 217-pound, left-shot center who can play wing. He hits, plays with an edge, skates well and is solid defensively. Coach Mike Yeo knows him well from their time together with the Houston Aeros. Basically, he provides depth and returns to the NHL a more mature, finished product.

Last month, Almond had signed a five-year deal to stay with Geneve Servette. Obviously, that changed.

Here is Monday's blog on Almond if you want to read a couple previous articles I wrote on Almond. Real nice kid.

I would think the restricted free agent signings start trickling in. But the Wild is still in the market for a big defenseman who can clear the front of the net and add a little physicality. If you look at the free agents available, they're not exactly stellar. So my sense is GM Chuck Fletcher is trying to make a trade.

Maybe it happens soon, maybe it doesn't. There's no real rush with training camp still more than two months away (Sept. 18).

UPDATED WILD DEPTH CHART

Here’s a look at how the Wild is shaping up to look like next season. This will change throughout the summer as the Wild add and delete players.

Remember, at some point, the Wild’s expected to acquire a physical defenseman to replace Clayton Stoner.

The depth chart is my opinion. Obviously, lines change, roles change, etc. There are interchangeable parts, and as I mentioned, I’d expect at least another defenseman.

In parentheses, each player’s cap hits with some assistance from the web site, www.capgeek.com. The restricted free agents will get signed eventually.

Forwards

 

Left wing                         Center                          Right wing

 

Zach Parise ($7.5+M)       Mikael Granlund (900K)  Jason Pominville (5.6M)

 

Thomas Vanek ($6.5M)   Mikko Koivu (6.75M)     Charlie Coyle (900K)

 

Matt Cooke (2.5M)            Erik Haula (900K)           Nino Niederreiter (RFA)

 

Jason Zucker (RFA)          Kyle Brodziak (2.83 M)    Justin Fontaine (RFA)

 

Cody Almond (550K)

Vying for spots: Zucker, Almond, Stephane Veilleux (587,500), Brett Sutter ($600K), Michael Keranen (792,500), Joel Rechlicz (600K), Brett Bulmer (780K), Kurtis Gabriel (667K), Tyler Graovac (747,500), Zack Phillips ($863,333), Brady Brassart ($836,667), Raphael Bussieres ($759,167), Zack Mitchell (615K), Curt Gogol ($551,667).

Defensemen

 

Left Defense                     Right Defense

 

Ryan Suter (7.5+M)          Jared Spurgeon (2.66M)

 

Marco Scandella (1.025M) Jonas Brodin (1.4+M)

 

Keith Ballard (1.5M)          Christian Folin (925K)

 

Jon Blum (RFA)

Vying for spots: Folin, Blum, Stu Bickel (600K), Matt Dumba (894,167), Gustav Olofsson (795K), Guillaime Gelinas ($596,667), Colton Jobke ($551,667).

Goalies

 

Niklas Backstrom (3.42M)

Josh Harding (1.9M)

Darcy Kuemper (RFA)

 

* Kuemper can be sent to the minors without waivers even if he receives a one-way deal.

 

Vying for spots: Johan Gustafsson (665K).

  

Total cap hit roughly: $54,837,758.

 

Available cap space: $13.46 million roughly (I based this on a $68.3 million salary-cap ceiling; NHL salary cap next season is $69 million, but the Wild will be charged a bonus overage of a little less than $700,000). Note, the $13.46 million excludes re-signing restricted free agents. Also, always take the available cap space number and subtract a few million because GM Chuck Fletcher will always try to leave space for injury callups and in-season acquisitions.

 

 

Wild development camp roster; 2 upcoming scrimmages open to the public

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 7, 2014 - 12:07 PM

First and foremost, Bryan Murray, the longtime NHL coach and GM for Washington, Detroit, Florida, Anaheim and Ottawa, needs your well wishes and prayers. Bryan was diagnosed with cancer prior to the draft and will begin treatment this week. He's one of the great, funny guys in this sport, has given a ton to it and has been beyond instrumental to my career, teaching me the ins and outs of the game on and off the ice very early in my career when I covered the Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. I used to actually ghost-write his column that would appear weekly in our paper, and man, it was a learning experience.

Bryan's long been a mentor to his nephew, Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray, and of course Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr.

Fletcher was Bryan's assistant GM in Florida and Anaheim and Bryan pulled Flahr out of the ticket sales office in Florida, making him a scout, then bringing him to Anaheim before taking him to Ottawa as director of hockey ops.

I wish Bryan all the best. He'll battle through this like the tough cookie he is. My best to his wife, children, brothers, sisters, extended family and long list of pals.

Onward, if you didn't see the previous blog on Cody Almond's upcoming return to the Wild and possibly next year's team, check that out.

But the Wild's development camp roster and schedule was announced this morning.

Camp will take place Wednesday (July 9) to Monday (July 14) and will feature two scrimmages that are free and open to the public. The first scrimmage is Friday (July 11) at 2 p.m. at Braemar Arena in Edina and the second scrimmage is Monday (July 14) at 6:30 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.

In addition to practices conducted by Iowa coach Kurt Kleinendorst and Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir, local skating instructors Barry Karn and Andy Ness will work with the players on skating, there will be other skill work, lots of off-ice training, nutrition instruction and fun activities outside the rink.

Some roster hopefuls for next season that will take part in the camp include Christian Folin, Matt Dumba, Michael Keranen, Kurtis Gabriel and Gustav Olofsson. Some top draft picks include Alex Tuch, Louie Belpedio, Mario Lucia, Zack Phillips and Raphael Bussieres. Some junior free-agent pickups that will take part are Guillaume Gelinas, Brady Brassart and Zach Mitchell. The only prospect I see missing is Pontus Sjalin, who was drafted last month. He was injured while training over the weekend. It's not said to be serious, but he would not be able to participate this week. Tyler Graovac has been to too many prospect camps. With the CBA now, a player is only eligible to come to three development camps (however, a player can request to come to additional ones).

Some interesting tryouts:

Tyler Sheehy (no relation to agent Neil Sheehy) – Burnsville kid that put up quality numbers this year in Waterloo (USHL).

Alex Iafallo – Future college free agent to watch.  Solid freshman year for Duluth.

Reid Gardiner – Was highly ranked early in the season by Central Scouting but was not drafted.

Zach Palmquist – D-man from South Saint Paul that played in Minnesota State last year.

Hunter Warner – Eden Prairie kid that played in the USHL last year.  Big tough kid but raw.

Gopher Vinni Lettieri (Lou Nanne's grandson) will also be in the house, as will Gophers backup goalie Michael Shibrowski.

2014 MINNESOTA WILD DEVELOPMENT CAMP NUMERICAL ROSTER

FORWARDS (26) HT WT SHOOTS BORN BIRTHPLACE 2013-14 TEAM LGE GP G A PTS PIM ACQ

34 Chase Lang 6-1 182 Right 9/13/96 Nanaimo, British Columbia Calgary WHL 68 10 15 25 52 EN/14
36 Michael Keranen 6-1 176 Left 1/4/90 Stockholm, Sweden Ilves Tampere Finland 52 17 35 52 47 FA/14
40 Tyler Sheehy 5-10 185 Right 11/20/95 Burnsville, Minnesota Waterloo USHL 49 21 28 49 4 INVITEE
41 Alex Iafallo 6-0 176 Left 12/21/93 Eden, New York U. Minn. Duluth NCHC 36 11 11 22 10 INVITEE
43 Mario Lucia 6-3 195 Left 8/25/93 Fairbanks, Alaska Notre Dame CCHA 40 16 15 31 12 EN/11
47 Zack Mitchell 6-0 184 Right 1/7/93 Caledon, Ontario Guelph OHL 67 31 52 83 40 FA/14
48 Christoph Bertschy 5-10 189 Right 4/5/94 Friburg, Switzerland SC Bern Swiss 37 6 8 14 10 EN/12
49 Raphael Bussieres 6-1 198 Left 11/5/93 Longueuil, Quebec Iowa AHL 61 5 14 19 51 EN/12
50 Vinni Lettieri 5-9 170 Right 2/6/95 Excelsior, Minnesota U. Minnesota Big 10 37 2 6 8 8 INVITEE
51 Reid Gardiner 5-11 185 Right 1/19/96 Humboldt, Saskatchewan Prince Albert WHL 70 22 22 44 39 INVITEE
52 Alex Tuch 6-3.5 218 Right 5/10/96 Baldwinsville, New York USNTDP USHL 26 13 19 32 36 EN/14
57 Adam Gilmour 6-4 192 Right 1/29/94 Albany, New York Boston College HE 39 7 12 19 10 EN/12
59 Eric Scheid 5-9 163 Left 5/5/92 Coon Rapids, Minnesota Penn State Big 10 36 11 9 20 10 INVITEE
61 Zack Phillips 6-0 194 Right 10/28/92 Fredericton, New Brunswick Iowa AHL 76 12 21 33 16 EN/11
62 Avery Peterson 6-3 200 Left 6/20/95 Grand Rapids, Minnesota Grand Rapids H.S. 27 37 30 67 8 EN/13
63 Kurtis Gabriel 6-4 214 Right 4/20/93 New Market, Ontario Owen Sound OHL 60 16 35 51 99 EN/13
65 Andrew Ryan 6-3 202 Left 1/15/94 St. John’s Newfoundland Halifax QMJHL 56 27 28 55 52 INVITEE
70 Adam Phillips 6-0 195 Right 8/11/90 Farmington Hills, Michigan UMass- Amherst HE 34 6 9 15 8 INVITEE
71 Brooks Bertsch 5-11 185 Right 5/10/90 Dubuque, Iowa St. Cloud State NCHC 36 3 3 6 8 INVITEE
73 Tanner Kero 5-11 175 Left 7/24/92 Hancock, Michigan Michigan Tech WCHA 40 15 10 25 16 INVITEE
76 Jessey Astles 6-2 205 Left 6/4/93 Coquitlam, British Columbia Tri-City WHL 50 11 9 20 67 INVITEE
78 Reid Duke 6-0 189 Right 1/28/96 Calgary, Alberta Lethbridge WHL 62 15 25 40 91 EN/14
79 Grant Opperman 6-0 185 Right 11/15/93 Wayzata, Minnesota Dartmouth ECAC 31 8 11 19 26 INVITEE
82 Olivier Archambault 6-0 190 Left 2/16/93 Le Gardeur, Quebec Quebec QMJHL 38 19 27 46 37 INVITEE
83 Brady Brassart 6-2 196 Right 6/15/93 Vernon, British Columbia Calgary WHL 70 35 50 85 94 FA/14
96 Pavel Jenys 6-2 198 Left 4/2/96 Brno, Czech Republic Brno Czech 29 2 0 2 4 EN/14

DEFENSEMEN (12) HT WT SHOOTS BORN BIRTHPLACE 2013-14 TEAM LGE GP G A PTS PIM ACQ
5 Christian Folin 6-3 210 Right 2/9/91 Gothenburg, Sweden UMass-Lowell HE 41 6 14 20 31 FA/14
38 Dallas Valentine 6-3 195 Right 5/28/96 Lousana, Alberta Moose Jaw WHL 69 3 11 14 44 INVITEE
42 Alex Gudbranson 6-2 204 Right 9/3/94 Orleans, Ontario Sault Ste. Marie OHL 66 7 8 15 76 INVITEE
44 Gustav Olofsson 6-4 191 Left 12/1/94 Boras, Sweden Colorado College NCHC 30 4 4 8 20 EN/13
55 Matt Dumba 6-0 183 Right 7/25/94 Regina, Saskatchewan Minnesota NHL 13 1 1 2 2 EN/12
Portland WHL 26 8 16 24 37
58 Dylan Labbe 6-2 194 Left 1/19/95 St. George, Quebec Shawinigan QMJHL 63 9 18 27 20 EN/13
60 Carson Soucy 6-5 200 Left 7/27/94 Viking, Alberta U. Minn. Duluth NCHC 34 0 6 6 60 EN/13
72 Hunter Warner 6-2 202 Right 9/21/95 Eden Prairie, Minnesota Waterloo/Fargo USHL 50 2 10 12 127 INVITEE
75 Zach Palmquist 5-11 175 Left 12/9/90 South St. Paul, Minnesota Minn. State Mankato WCHC 41 4 19 23 36 INVITEE
77 Guillaume Gelinas 5-10 185 Left 6/14/93 Quebec City, Quebec Val d’Or QMJHL 67 23 69 92 81 FA/14
80 Louie Belpedio 5-10 190 Right 5/14/96 Skokie, Illinois USNTDP USHL 53 7 13 20 24 EN/14
81 Tanner Faith 6-3 211 Right 10/5/95 Terrace, British Columbia Kootenay WHL 10 0 1 1 9 EN/14

GOALTENDERS (4) HT WT CATCHES BORN BIRTHPLACE 2013-14 TEAM LGE GPI W-L-OT SO GAA SV% ACQ
30 Kaapo Kahkonen 6-1 209 Left 8/16/96 Helsinki, Finland Espoo Finland Jr. 38 -- -- 2.39 .912 EN/14
84 Alexandre Belanger 6-1 184 Left 8/19/95 Sherbrooke, Quebec Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL 52 28-18-3 1 3.23 .881 EN/13
85 Brandon Whitney 6-5 208 Right 5/11/94 Kentville, Nova Scotia Victoriaville QMJHL 41 13-18-7 4 3.25 .906 INVITEE 86 Michael Shibrowski 6-1 199 Left 11/15/90 Andover, Minnesota U. Minnesota Big 10 5 2-1-0 1 2.34 .912 INVITEE

Wild's on verge of bringing back Cody Almond

Posted by: Michael Russo under Rookies, Wild off-season news Updated: July 7, 2014 - 8:46 AM

The Wild's on the verge of bringing back a familiar face.

Cody Almond, a fifth-round pick by the Wild in 2007, played the past two seasons in Geneva of the Swiss Hockey League.

But Almond is expected to re-sign with the Wild in the next few days, I have confirmed. The news was first reported by the Tribune deGeneve. Almond's decision to again chase his dream of becoming an NHL regular comes a few weeks after he signed a five-year contract to remain with his Swiss team.

This move comes two summers after the Wild couldn't reach a contract agreement with Almond, who was then an up-and-down minor leaguer who opted for a big contract in Switzerland.

At the time, it seemed a bit of an impatient move on Almond's part because he was just 22 and about to earn waiver rights, which would have given him a real good chance at making the following season's team.

But Almond is turning 25 later this month and by all accounts has developed into a pretty solid player. Over parts of three seasons, the Calgary native played 25 games for the Wild, scoring two goals in limited minutes on the fourth line. He's a big, left-shot center who can skate, hit, play with an edge and play wing, too. Last year, he broke out offensively with Geneva, scoring 18 goals and 34 points in 44 games with 75 penalty minutes.

For Almond to spurn a five-year deal with Geneva means he will likely be armed with a one-way contract from the Wild. That will give him an inside chance of making the team. Coach Mike Yeo knows him well from his time in Houston. Basically, he provides depth.

I added on a few Cody Almond articles from yesteryear. One is when he traveled almost 9,000 miles to play eight games in 10 nights -- four for Houston, four for Minnesota.

The other was in 2011 when Charles Barkley and Michael Strahan crashed the Wild's rookie dinner in Chicago.


Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
January 30, 2011 Sunday
METRO EDITION
MICHAEL RUSSO'S SUNDAY INSIDER;
The kids are all right;
Two sports superstars dropped in on the Wild's "rookie dinner," dispensing some advice with a little hazing mixed in.

BYLINE: MICHAEL RUSSO; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

SECTION: SPORTS; Pg. 10C

LENGTH: 964 words
 

No matter what Cody Almond accomplishes in his hockey career, the Wild rookie always will consider singing for Charles Barkley and Michael Strahan "icing on the cake."

Last Sunday at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Barkley, the former NBA great-turned-TNT commentator, and Strahan, the former New York Giants star defensive end-turned-Fox commentator, were dining at the same restaurant where the Wild was having its rookie dinner.

Wild center John Madden used to live in the same neighborhood as Strahan when Madden played for the Devils and Strahan for the Giants, so next thing you know, "Sir Charles" and the NFL's single-season sacks record-holder entered the room to, as defenseman Nick Schultz said, "hold court for two hours."

Barkley and Strahan told stories, especially about past rookie dinners during their careers. Rookie dinners are a pro sports tradition where the rookies buy the team dinner.

"Suddenly, Charles started getting all these crazy ideas in his head. I was just like, 'Oh man, here we go,'" rookie defenseman Jared Spurgeon said.

Yup, the rookie hazing of Spurgeon, Cody Almond and Clayton Stoner began.

"We gave a speech, told a joke, did three skits and sang a song," Almond said, laughing. "All the boys were howling pretty good and [Barkley and Strahan] were loving it, too," Almond said.

Spurgeon, who made his NHL debut on his 21st birthday Nov. 29, sang Travis McCoy's "Billionaire," where Spurgeon wants to be "on the cover of Forbes magazine, smiling next to Oprah and the Queen."

Guess the teammates' reaction on that one. "It was the first song that popped in my head, and the lyrics are pretty easy," Spurgeon said.

Almond, 21, did a scene from "Step Brothers" where Will Ferrell sings Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About" -- the scene where John C. Reilly tells him, "You've got to know, that's a voice of an angel ... a combination of Fergie and Jesus."

"I got a positive reaction from it," Almond said.

Stoner, Spurgeon said, couldn't think of a song so "he just told some joke."

For Spurgeon, the thrill of meeting Barkley and Strahan just adds one more unforeseen experience during a dream few months.

"At the start of the year, I was never expecting to be at my first NHL rookie party," he said. "It was just great to hang out with the guys, laugh, tell jokes, eat some good food and meet Charles Barkley and Michael Strahan."

Spurgeon shelled out $5,000 for his share of the check. "It was the most expensive meal I've ever paid for and probably ever will," Spurgeon said, laughing. "I'll be eating microwaveable dinners for the next little while to save up some money."

Almond "got off the hook" and didn't have to contribute to the dinner bill because he didn't play during his four-game call-up. He said Barkley and Strahan jabbed each other over Barkley's Taco Bell commercials and Strahan's Subway commercials.

"They're two of the funniest guys I've ever met in my life. Strahan kept calling Bruno [Andrew Brunette] the 'White Oprah,'" Almond said, in hysterics.

The two former athletes also gave Wild players sound advice, telling them to cherish team dinners like that one.

Barkley told the players that they have "hit the lottery" and "have the best jobs in the world and to appreciate what you've got every day, always have fun coming to the rink in the morning and really take advantage of it because your careers are short and when it's over, you're going to miss it every day," Almond said.

Barkley spent much of his career reminding everyone that, "I am not a role model."

But he made quite an impression on Almond. "This is a great year for my development," said Almond, drafted in the fifth round in 2007. "I'm on the same page with all of management and the coaching staff. I'm going to keep developing and learning in the AHL. But next year is my year. Hopefully, next year I'll be there in Minnesota the whole season."

------------------------------


Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
November 15, 2010 Monday
METRO EDITION
Prospect's callup turns into a travel whirlwind 2.36.2 news hed rej hed righerej righerej

BYLINE: MICHAEL RUSSO; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

SECTION: SPORTS; Pg. 12C

LENGTH: 447 words
 

TAMPA, FLA. - Cody Almond slept in Sunday, waking up in Peoria, Ill., after 12 o'clock -- understandable considering the odyssey he's taken across North America the past 10 days.

On Monday -- providing he's not retrieved by the Wild again -- the Wild prospect will complete an exhausting schedule, flying from Chicago to Houston after playing Sunday in his fourth game in four nights, sixth in seven and eighth in 10.

That's even abnormal for an up-and-down minor-leaguer. The eight games consisted of four games with the Wild, four with the Houston Aeros.

"I'm ready to come up at any time, but it'll sure be nice to go home, get some clean clothes and sleep in my own bed for a change," Almond, 21, said.

Almond has been recalled and reassigned twice since Nov. 4, a whirlwind that's taken him from Houston to Minneapolis to Columbus to Vancouver (Abbotsford) to Minneapolis to Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale to Tampa to Chicago (Peoria) to, Monday morning, Houston.

That's 8,769 air miles.

"I'll tell you what, with the mileage, that might be a record," Aeros GM Jim Mill said. "It's excellent for career."

This season, Almond has played four games with the Wild totaling 24 minutes, 9 seconds, almost what the two-way center played Saturday alone in Peoria. The Wild decided it was best to return Almond to the Aeros after he played only 6 1/2 minutes at left wing Friday at Florida.

"There's positives and negatives to both," Almond said. "A lot of ice time [with Houston] will help me develop, but it also helps being called up just watching the guys and practicing up there and learning from the coaching staff."

Almond's 10 days traveling the continent was with very few clothes. When he found out he was being recalled, he was dropping off his girlfriend at the Houston airport. He didn't have time to return home and pack, so roommate Carson McMillan "threw a bunch of stuff in a bag for me" and rushed it to the airport.

"He's not the smartest packer," Almond said. "He didn't pack me [normal shoes]. All I have is flip-flops and dress shoes, and no coat. It's been a struggle, but I've made it work."

Almond has been wearing the same two suits, "and they've been under in the belly of the plane quite a few times, so I'm not looking too hot."

Justin Fontaine files for arbitration

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 5, 2014 - 4:30 PM

Wild right wing Justin Fontaine was the only one of the Wild's restricted free agents to file for arbitration by today's 4 p.m. deadline. He's one of 20 to do so in the NHL.

Fontaine's agent, Neil Sheehy, will continue to try to negotiate a contract with the Wild. He can do so up until the hearing, which will be scheduled from July 20 to August 4 in Toronto in front of an independent arbitrator.

Most of the time, a contract is worked out prior to the hearing. By any player filing for arbitration, it ensures he can't be signed to an offer sheet by another club and it ensures no holdout from training camp.

Darcy Kuemper and Jon Blum, the Wild's other two restricted free agents with the right to file for arbitration, did not do so. Restricted free agents Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker don't have arbitration rights yet.

Fontaine, 26, tied for fourth on the Wild last season with 13 goals and tied for 12th amongst NHL rookies. His 13 goals were the third-most ever by a Wild rookie. He also had 21 points in 66 games, was plus-6 and had a goal and assist in 12 playoff games.

Wild's updated 2014-15 depth chart; Report: Wild interested in Steve Ott

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 3, 2014 - 6:05 AM

WILD DEPTH CHART

Here’s a look at how the Wild is shaping up to look like next season. This will change undoubtedly throughout the summer as the Wild add and delete players.

Remember, at some point, the Wild’s expected to acquire a physical defenseman to replace Clayton Stoner. It may also look to replace the gritty element up front of Cody McCormick. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun -- the great Pierre LeBrun, I may add -- reports the Wild has shown interest in Steve Ott, the former Dallas Stars agitator/smack talker and Sabres captain who was dealt with Ryan Miller to St. Louis last season. He once fought Cal Clutterbuck twice in the same game after Ott ran Josh Harding either that game or the game before, I can't remember (video of that incident on bottom of blog). Ott can play center and wing and kills penalties.

Toronto has also shown interest in Ott, I have heard.

The Wild does lack toughness in my opinion (especially defensively), and when I say toughness, I’m not necessarily talking fighting. I just mean physicality, clearing bodies from the net … and some scare factor. There are times Mikael Granlund and Jared Spurgeon have been targeted. Heck, Nik Backstrom’s health really began to derail last season after Nazem Kadri ran him AFTER running Granlund in the same game.

So I’d expect a few moves may still be made, and if you look at the lines, certain players maybe on "my" depth chart's fourth line don't fit there and could be parlayed into pieces via trade at some point.

Note: The depth chart is my opinion. Obviously, lines change, roles change, etc. There are interchangeable parts, and as I mentioned, I’d expect a signing or two or a trade this summer.

In parentheses, each player’s cap hits with some assistance from the incredible web site, www.capgeek.com. The RFA’s will get done eventually. I’d think Justin Fontaine would sign a one- or two-year deal. I don’t even want to guess on Darcy Kuemper. If I’m Nino Niederreiter, I sign a one- or two-year deal, prove myself bigtime and then try to hit a homer on my next contract. But that’s me. Jason Zucker is a rare Group 1 free agent, meaning he has almost no rights. No arbitration, can’t sign an offer sheet, nada. So I’d think he takes his qualifying offer. Kuemper, Fontaine and Jon Blum have arb rights. That has to be filed by Saturday, and remember, if it happens, it’s just part of the process and usually a contract gets settled prior to the hearing. Arb, in my opinion, is usually a good thing because it guarantees no holdout, too.

Forwards

 

Left wing                         Center                          Right wing

 

Zach Parise ($7.5+M)       Mikael Granlund (900K)  Jason Pominville (5.6M)

 

Thomas Vanek ($6.5M)   Mikko Koivu (6.75M)     Charlie Coyle (900K)

 

Matt Cooke (2.5M)            Erik Haula (900K)           Nino Niederreiter (RFA)

 

Jason Zucker (RFA)          Kyle Brodziak (2.83 M)    Justin Fontaine (RFA)

 

----------------- (13th forward)

Vying for spots: Zucker, Stephane Veilleux (587,500), Brett Sutter ($600K), Michael Keranen (792,500), Joel Rechlicz, Brett Bulmer (780K), Kurtis Gabriel (667K), Tyler Graovac (747,500), Zack Phillips, Brady Brassart, Raphael Bussieres, Curt Gogol, Zack Mitchell.

Defensemen

 

Left Defense                     Right Defense

 

Ryan Suter (7.5+M)          Jared Spurgeon (2.66M)

 

Marco Scandella (1.025M) Jonas Brodin (1.4+M)

 

Keith Ballard (1.5M)          Christian Folin (925K)

 

Jon Blum (RFA)

Vying for spots: Folin, Blum, Stu Bickel ($600K), Matt Dumba (894,167), Gustav Olofsson (795K), Guillaime Gelinas, Colton Jobke.

Goalies

 

Niklas Backstrom (3.42M)

Josh Harding (1.9M)

Darcy Kuemper (RFA)

 

* Kuemper can be sent to the minors without waivers even if he receives a one-way deal.

 

Vying for spots: Johan Gustafsson.

  

Total cap hit roughly: $54,287,758.

 

Available cap space roughly: $14 million roughly (I based this on a $68.3 million salary-cap ceiling; NHL salary cap next season is $69 million, but the Wild will be charged a bonus overage of a little less than $700,000). Note, the $14 million excludes re-signing restricted free agents and excludes whoever will be the 13th forward. Also, always take the available cap space number and subtract a few million because GM Chuck Fletcher will always try to leave space for injury callups and in-season acquisitions.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT