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 trade news

Thoughts on Mike Rupp trade, what this means for Matt Kassian

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 4, 2013 - 2:48 PM
As you know by now, the Wild traded Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri to the New York Rangers for rugged 33-year-old veteran forward Mike Rupp this afternoon.
 
Rupp will meet the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday and practice for the first time Wednesday. He will likely make his Wild debut Thursday against Vancouver wearing No. 27.
 
 
The common theme the last few days around the Wild has been size and specifically the Wild’s lack of it up front. The Wild’s board play has been poor, especially in Friday’s 3-1 loss at Anaheim.
 
So yesterday, the Wild recalled Charlie Coyle to make his NHL debut tonight at Phoenix. Today, it acquires a 6-foot-5, 230-pound versatile forward that will make the bottom-six tougher. He’s also another character guy that’s known as a great teammate.
 
He won a Stanley Cup in 2003 with New Jersey, scoring the Cup-clinching goal against Chuck Fletcher’s Ducks.
 
“I have pretty bad memories of Mike Rupp,” Fletcher cracked. “He wasn’t my favorite player or anybody in Anaheim at that point.”
 
Coach Mike Yeo also coached him in Pittsburgh.
 
“He’s a big guy, he’s won a Stanley Cup and brings a lot of size, experience and grit to our team," Fletcher said. "He’ll bring a presence to our lineup and complement [our skilled players].”
 
Asked if he recognized a size deficiency with the Wild and is trying to rectify that, Fletcher notes that guys like Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk are big, that Zach Parise, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck and Zenon Konopka play big, but he said, “When you go on the road, having size is important, the perception of size is important.”
 
He feels Rupp will be able to contribute in multiple ways. He’s also a media darling.
 
Powe was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers two summers ago and immediately signed to a three-year deal. Fletcher called him a high character player who brought speed and energy to the lineup. He thanked Powe, who was well-liked in the Wild room. He finished second among NHL forwards last year with 91 blocked shots.
 
Still, he was playing a fourth-line role this year, limited minutes, was expendable and frankly his game is limited. As coach Mike Yeo said this morning before the trade, his game hasn’t been sharp this year.
 
Palmieri, to me, is just a non-factor. He held out last summer. He refused to report to Houston initially after being cut from camp. As I wrote a few weeks ago, he was on the outs and had no future in Minnesota. It was just a matter of time before the Wild moved him.
 
In terms of cap hits, Powe had another year left at $1.067 million. Rupp has another year at $1.5 million.
 
Trading 2 for 1 also frees up a contract. The Wild was at the max 50. Now it’s at 49.
 
I haven’t talk with Rupp yet. Powe was on the phone making arrangements when I saw him in the lobby an hour ago.
 
As for Matt Kassian, his future may also be elsewhere at this point. He’s being scratched in his ninth consecutive game tonight. At some point, the Wild either needs to move him or put him on waivers to give him a chance at being claimed elsewhere. He deserves it. He’s a good soldier, a great character guy, etc.
 
But if you need to get grittier on the wall and the Wild’s calling up players and making trades rather than putting Kassian in, it’s clear the writing’s on the wall and the end of his line in Minnesota could be on the horizon.
 
“I’ll sit down with the coaches and see what makes sense,” Fletcher said. “I have to talk to Matt and his representation and see what the coaches think and do what’s right for the team and for Matt going forward.”
 
Asked if he’s got anything else in the works, Fletcher said, “We were looking for some size and this deal presented itself and we jumped on it. We’ll see how players respond. We need a little bit more production from some of our guys. If we want to be a competitive team this year, we’re going to need some diversified scoring, some secondary scoring, so we’ll keep looking for that.”
 
This is all about getting the attention of the team, too.
 
Yeo wants to see how Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund plays on the fourth line tonight with Zenon Konopka, who joked that those two “won the lottery.”
 
“This is kind of a message [to Setoguchi and Granlund] and let’s see how they react,” Yeo said. “We want to see them have a good night.”
 
Yeo said Charlie Coyle coming up without an injury and getting second-line duty should be a message to the team, too.
 
“I haven’t gone in and made a big deal talking about it in front of the group,” Yeo said. “But certainly you would want to read between the lines. We’re committed to winning hockey games and putting the best product on the ice. We’ll do whatever we have to.”

Wild and Sharks swap again; Sheppard sent to No. Cal

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 6, 2011 - 10:46 PM
 
The direct line between the Wild and San Jose Sharks buzzed again Saturday night when the Wild shipped disappointing former first-round pick James Sheppard to Silicon Valley for a 2013 third-round pick.
Sheppard, 24, was suspended all of last season after breaking his kneecap in an all-terrain vehicle accident. Sheppard, a restricted free agent drafted ninth overall in 2006, had his qualifying offer expire when he didn’t sign a new contract by the July 15 deadline.
However, it’s believed the trade was on hold because just prior to that, Sheppard underwent a second operation on his knee. Sheppard is not expected to be ready in time for training camp.
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr couldn’t be reached for comment, but the Sharks confirmed the trade.
The move was the third of the offseason between the Wild and Sharks.
On June 24, Brent Burns and a 2012 second-round pick were traded to the Sharks for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick that became Zack Phillips. On July 3, the Wild acquired Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat.
Sheppard, who was rushed to the NHL from Cape Breton at age 19, scored 11 goals and 49 points in 224 games for the Wild. Of the seven players taken in 2006 by the Wild, only Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Medvec are still in the system.
 

Heatley, Fletcher talk; Koivu, Yeo excited; Updated Wild depth chart

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: July 4, 2011 - 6:09 PM
Happy 4th of July everybody. I haven’t even opened my front door yet, so I’m looking forward to getting out of here.
 
Check out Tuesday’s paper for the coverage, but the local media chatted with new Wild sniper Dany Heatley this morning as well as General Manager Chuck Fletcher.
 
I also had a long chat with Mikko Koivu, a Private in the Finland Army, and coach Mike Yeo.
 
On Tuesday, by the way, the Wild’s expected to announce Yeo’s Houston Aeros’ replacement.
 
Like I said, we talked to Heatley this morning, and he certainly sounded motivated and excited about the new chapter in his career. He said his first phone call after talking Sunday night with Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Fletcher was to Devin Setoguchi.
 
“I was sad to see him go last week and happy to be back with him now,” Heatley said.
 
Like I said, check out tomorrow’s story for all the Heatley/Fletcher stuff, but I did talk to Yeo and he said he is looking forward to experimenting in training camp with line combinations. He wants to try Pierre-Marc Bouchard with Koivu and Heatley, but he’s also like to try Setoguchi with Koivu and Heatley.
 
Setoguchi (by the way, the guy is a quote machine, and check out his comments in Tuesday’s story) said he and Heatley have already talked about that and Seto said he’d be willing to move to the off-wing (left wing) and play there. He says he loves taking one-timers from that side, and with two lefties to his right setting him up, that could actually be a neat possibility.
 
Koivu said he woke up to a bunch of text messages, so he knew something big happened. He was very happy with the pickup of Heatley, and as sad as he was to see Brent Burns go, Setoguchi.
 
“You see Dany Heatley is coming to our team, and you’re just so proud,” Koivu said. “He is such a great player who can score goals. And for myself and for the whole team and for the fans and the whole state, I think it should give us a lot of confidence and a lot of excitement. We should be proud to have a guy like that on our team. It’s a great thing for the whole hockey in Minnesota.”
 
He said when he went to work out this morning, he was “just so motivated and happy.”
 
He reiterated how tough it is to see Marty Havlat and Burns go. But he says it shows the Wild’s at least trying to improve after three missed postseasons and he likes the direction.
 
I asked him about Andrew Brunette leaving.

“I’m going to miss Bruno a lot – on and off the ice, we were real close friends,” Koivu said. “I think that’s the tough part, and on the ice we clicked as well. It was a fun three years and our friendship will be forever.”
 
Here are a couple extra Fletcher quotes I didn’t use:
 
“I think there are situations where some hockey players fit into some teams better than others,” Fletcher said of Havlat. “Marty was, I thought [in 2009] and still do, a very good acquisition for our franchise to get a player like that to commit to coming to Minnesota and bring his talents.
“And today, we sit here and now we have the ability to acquire Dany Heatley because of it.”
 
“We’re always looking for the right fit. I think we’re always looking for the right fit. I think there are situations where some hockey players fit into some teams better than others. To add goal scorers like Heatley and Setoguchi is the right decision for this time for this team.”
 
Fletcher reiterated that he traded a “30-year-old skilled offensive winger for a 30-year-old skilled offensive winger. Whether we made the trade or not, we would have had a 30 year-old skilled offensive winger. This doesn’t deviate at all with what we’ve spoken about (youth movement).”
 
Also, Havlat’s agent Allan Walsh said, “When Chuck Fletcher approached us yesterday about a possible trade to San Jose, Marty analyzed the situation and determined that San Jose could be a better fit for him at this point in time. Marty has performed previously at a very high level in the playoffs. While everyone in the Wild organization has been wonderful to Marty, the move to San Jose made a lot of sense for everyone.”
 
Wild Depth Chart
 
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); Dany Heatley ($8M, $7.5M)
 
Line 2: Guillaume Latendresse ($2.6M, $2.5M); Matt Cullen ($3.5M, $3.5M); Devin Setoguchi ($2.75M; $3M)
 
Line 3: Darroll Powe (RFA); Kyle Brodziak ($1.3M, $1.15M); Cal Clutterbuck ($1.5M, $1.4M)
 
Line 4: Eric Nystrom ($1.4M, $1.4M); TBD; Brad Staubitz ($600K, $575K)
 
TBD; TBD
 
Note: Two or three spots are open depending on if the Wild keeps 13 or 14 forwards, or seven or eight defensemen.
 
Vying for spots: Colton Gillies, Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, James Sheppard, David McIntyre, Carson McMillan, Matt Kassian, Jed Ortmeyer, Jeff Taffe.
 
Restricted free agents: Powe, Wellman, Sheppard, Gillies, Jarod Palmer
 
Unrestricted free agents: John Madden, Antti Miettinen, Patrick O’Sullivan
 
Minor league unrestricted free agents: Robbie Earl.
 
DEFENSEMEN
 
Pair 1: Nick Schultz ($3.6 million salary, $3.5M salary cap hit); Marek Zidlicky ($4M, $4M)
 
Pair 2: Greg Zanon ($2.1M, $1.933M); Jared Spurgeon ($535K, $527K)
 
Pair 3: Clayton Stoner ($575K, $550K); TBD
 
TBD; TBD
 
Note: Two or three spots are open depending on if the Wild keeps 13 or 14 forwards.
 
Vying for spots: Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Justin Falk, Drew Bagnall.
 
Restricted free agents: Falk, Jeff Penner.
 
GOALIES
 
Starter: Niklas Backstrom ($6 million salary, $6M salary cap hit)
 
Backup: Josh Harding ($750K, $750K)
 
SALARY BREAKDOWN
 
• Actual 2011-12 payroll (as of today): $52,219,445
 
• Salary cap hit: $50,418,111
 
Notes: Includes bought-out Mark Parrish’s $927,778 payoff and cap hit and soon-to-be-bought-out Cam Barker $541,667 payoff and $375,000 cap hit.
 
This total also includes the 17 of a possible 23 players. So this doesn’t include Powe, the youngsters vying for the team or possible free-agent or trade acquisitions. Obviously the payroll and salary-cap hits are in actuality higher because Powe will be signed and players like Gillies, Scandella, etc., will be on the team.

Digesting Heatley-Havlat trade

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: July 4, 2011 - 3:52 AM
Well, that was fun.
 
Let me just give you a quick timeline of my night. So I’m in downtown Minneapolis watching my friend’s band when I get a text at 9:22 p.m. saying the Wild’s about to make a move. I call our main editor on the copy desk, Kevin Bertels, and tell him I’ve got something and let’s just pray it’s a minor-league move because I’m not home.
 
9:30 p.m.: I get an email telling me Dany Heatley for Marty Havlat is a done deal. I write back to make sure this source isn’t making some sick joke, he confirms the facts again, and I tweet it. I sprint out of the venue, run across Nicollet, dodge a bus and hop in a cab without even making sure it was empty of customers. While screaming my address at the driver (he had to think my wife’s water broke or something), I scream into the phone to Bertels “Heatley for Havlat, how much time do I have?”
 
He tells me 25 minutes for first edition. Remember, I’m not home, and the only thing that pops into my head: the last thing I did before I left home was shut down my computer. That’s a 5-minute ordeal right there. I get home, finally get the laptop cooking and write everything that pops in my head in 10 minutes for first edition.
 
Like I said, that was fun. And I mean it. Any sportswriter will tell you there’s nothing like the adrenaline that comes with an insane deadline. Here's the second edition story, incidentally
 
Sooooo, where to begin?
 
If you’ve followed me on Twitter the last few days, you may have noticed that I’d written to a few people I thought the Wild had something up their sleeve. In my blog late July 1, I ended the lead with this: “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.”
 
From the moment I published that line, I started to get indications from a number of folks that there actually could be some big news coming very early this week from the Wild.
 
So on early July 2, I emailed my editor, Mark Wollemann, that we needed to prepare for something. I just didn’t know the what, but I told him I hear it’s got the potential to be big.
 
In fact, I went out to watch the Twins game with local sportswriter Aaron Paitich last night. The entire time I was trying to figure out what the heck the Wild had up its sleeve.
 
I knew it couldn’t be a signing, meaning it had to be a trade. My two big guesses to Aaron: Zach Parise (despite Lou Lamoriello’s continued assertion he’s not going anywhere) or Marty Havlat to Florida because of the Dale Tallon connection and the Panthers’ willingness to take on big $$$$ this offseason. I had been asking everybody for two or three weeks if the Wild had asked Havlat to waive his no-trade. There was no doubt in my mind he'd waive it to the right team.
 
I did not see this coming though for one big reason. As Aaron can attest, I was told at the draft that the Wild could have taken Heatley if it wanted to in a bigger trade involving Setoguchi/Burns. It obviously didn’t happen, I figured the Wild just didn’t want Heatley and I put it out of my mind.
 
Now I know that what I was hearing was one tiny snippet of the correct information. The Wild couldn’t take Heatley at the draft even if it wanted to. As part of his original contract signed with Ottawa, Heatley was allowed to submit 10 teams this past July 1 that he would not accept a trade to. The draft was June 24-25, so those teams weren’t in yet. As it turned out, Heatley submitted the list, didn’t list Minnesota, and the trade could go through.
 
Earlier today, Havlat, who had been having ongoing discussions with the Wild for about a month to waive his no-trade according to sources, waived it to go to San Jose.
 
I was told tonight this trade was supposed to happen Tuesday and the Wild was caught off guard earlier this evening when it got out to a few of us.
 
Now, to the trade, I think the trade can work for both teams.
 
Havlat was the first big addition from Chuck Fletcher. It just didn’t work. He’s an immensely skilled player, but there just wasn’t that fit here. He didn’t see eye-to-eye with Todd Richards, and there was basically no chemistry between he and Mikko Koivu.
 
Now Havlat gets to go to San Jose, where he should be reinvigorated and get to play with top players. He said tonight: “I’m very excited that I’ll be going to a team where they’ve been one of the best teams in the whole league the last few years. I’m excited to be on a team with (a lot) of great players. It’s a big challenge for me.”
 
Havlat may thrive there, and as he's shown in the playoffs (especially in Chicago the spring before he got to Minnesota), be a big-game player there.
 
As for Heatley, I talked to Setoguchi tonight, and he was absolutely on top of the world. He and Heatley are close friends and he said he hung out with Heatley more than just about everybody there. In fact, he said he and Heatley were already dreaming about how cool it would be if they got to play on the same line here.
 
For that to happen, one would have to move to left wing. That will obviously be up to Mike Yeo. I’d think Yeo may want Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the left side because of his playmaking skills. Bouchard to Heatley could be magic, and that could give you two shooters – Heatley and Setoguchi – on the top two lines.
 
The big rap on Heatley the last few years has been his playoff performances. He’s scored five goals in 32 games in the playoffs for San Jose. We’ll see which Heatley the Wild gets, but I’d think we’re going to see a very motivated Heatley here.
 
When healthy, when happy and when motivated, Heatley’s as pure a goal scorer as there is in the NHL. He’s a point a game player. Since he entered the league in 2001, Heatley ranks first among all players in power-play goals (128) and game-winning goals (58), third in goals (325) and fifth in points (689).
 
Heatley's been picked and prodded his entire career starting with the tragic car accident in Atlanta that killed his teammate, Dan Snyder (ironically, I got to town with the Panthers right after that, so I wrote a ton about the incident at the time). He's asked off two teams.
 
Personally, I like Heatley as a player. When he's on his game, he's beyond dangerous. And I've never had a problem with him during interviews. And trust me, I’ve interviewed him a gazillion times dating back to those Atlanta-Florida no-defense days. He used to light those games up. And of course, he absolutely lit it up during the 2003 All-Star Game in Florida. He was MVP. So I’ve seen him on top of his game, and he’s got that incredible lethal ability.
 
But that was a long time ago. He's 30 now. Even though he's played 80 or more games five of the last six seasons, he's dealt with a lot of little injuries, from torn groins, to knees, to a broken hand that caused him to get numbing agents daily the last few months of last season, GM Doug Wilson said. Some say his hands aren’t the same, some say his skating stride isn’t the same, some criticize him for his fitness level.
 
But I think he’ll enjoy the fresh start here and the ability to be the key cog on a very new-look Wild team. Like Setoguchi when I spoke to him two minutes after he was traded, Heatley was apparently stunned tonight. But from talking to a very excited Setoguchi tonight, he sounded like Heatley was already looking ahead and excited about the new challenge.
 
I can tell you Setoguchi vouches for him both as a person and as a player, and he says Wild fans should be ecstatic right now.
 
Like I said earlier, I just don't see one harm in this trade. Havlat wasn't working here and could be exhilarated by a change. And they definitely needed a change in San Jose after losing so easily to Vancouver in the playoffs.
 
So I think this trade could work for both teams. San Jose gets a replacement for the lost speed in moving Setoguchi. And the Wild gets its first potential star since Marian Gaborik.
 
And also, this doesn’t affect the youth movement one iota. Not one player the Wild planned to give opportunity to in the fall will be boxed out by Heatley. He’s 30. Havlat’s 30. They just flip for each other.
 
The Wild continues to wait for its top prospects in a year, and maybe a fan base gets excited about this team again and about next year again. So that should help from a ticket perspective.
 
Plus, just perhaps, two things can happen: You start to infuse the young kids AND put forth a competitive team that can actually make the playoffs while you wait for those potential blue-chip prospects to arrive.
 
That'd be a novel concept, eh?
 
Oh, and Heatley's pops, Murray, played for the Fighting Saints. Just a tidbit of interesting info.
 
Anyway, it’s late. I’m going to bed. Chuck Fletcher and Dany Heatley will address the local media Monday and I'll be back.
 

Sharks-Wild Blockbuster Part 2: Heatley for Havlat

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: July 3, 2011 - 10:06 PM
Nine days after the earthquake came the aftershock.
In another Wild-San Jose Sharks blockbuster, General Manager Chuck Fletcher acquired much-maligned but potentially-lethal goal scorer Dany Heatley Sunday night after Martin Havlat waived his no-move clause to head west.
At the June 24 draft, the Wild acquired 24-year-old goal scorer Devin Setoguchi along with prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick (became Zack Phillips) for defenseman Brent Burns and a second-round pick.
Heatley, 30, long a controversial figure who two years ago asked out of Ottawa and before that Atlanta, has seen declining production since consecutive 50-goal seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 with the Senators.
After scoring 119 goals the past three seasons, Heatley scored 26 goals and 64 points in 80 games last season for the Sharks. Much of it was blamed on a hand injury in the second half.
In 669 career games, Heatley scored 325 goals and 689 points.
Havlat, 30, Fletcher’s first big free-agent addition when he came on board in 2009, scored 40 goals and 116 points in two seasons with the Wild.
Heatley has three more years left on his deal at $7.5 million annually. Havlat has four more years left at $5 million annually.
More later

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