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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The Wild's acquired Philadelphia Flyers forward Darroll Powe, the former Princeton Tiger, from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2013 third-round pick.
Powe, 26, will become a restricted free agent Friday -- if not re-signed before then. Powe can fly, hit hard, is a terrific penalty killer and can play wing or center -- i.e. the character fwd they were trying to get via trade as mentioned in yesterday's Insider.
He led the Flyers with 196 hits and had the second-most shorthanded minutes among forwards (257).
He's a lot like Cal Clutterbuck, only faster but minus Clutterbuck's big wrist shot coming down the wing.
This makes for some great competition for spots on the third and fourth lines in camp. As it stands now, you've got Powe, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck, Eric Nystrom, Brad Staubitz and then guys like James Sheppard and Colton Gillies and Cody Almond. I still believe for Casey Wellman to contribute, he's got to be put in a position to score. But Wellman would be in this mix, too. I'm not mentioning Kyle Brodziak because to me, he's the second-line center as of now because of his chemistry with Marty Havlat, and frankly, with Gui Latendresse and Havlat two years ago.
Also, the Wild has qualified Powe, Gillies, Wellman, Sheppard, Justin Falk, Jarod Palmer and Jeff Penner. They'll become restricted free agents Friday if not re-signed before then. The Wild has not qualified Patrick O'Sullivan. I'll explain why in the paper tomorrow, but there's a very sensible reason. The team may consider re-signing him via free agency on a two-way if he doesn't sign with another NHL or European team.
Also, the Wild should have a Houston coach in place by early next week. I'm hearing the candidates are Gary Agnew, Trent Yawney and Ryan McGill. Kirk Muller took the Milwaukee job today.
Some feel-good news early in Day 2 of the NHL entry draft when the hometown Wild trades its third- and fourth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for the second-to-last pick of the second round (No. 60).
With the selection, the Wild drafted Wayzata High School's Mario Lucia, the son of the U's Don Lucia.
Good wee hour of the morning to you.
I caught up with Clayton Stoner, who's brother tragically passed away last month. Here's that story
Also Judd Zulgad and photographer Jeff Wheeler got great behind-the-scenes access of Gabriel Landeskog before, during and after he was drafted. Check that out
As for the trade, I will write a column for Sunday's paper with my complete thoughts, but the plan is clear as day now.
The Wild's getting younger and is in absolute add talent mode. They added four forwards in last year's drafts in Mikael Granlund, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker. Tonight, they added three more forwards -- streaky but dangerous goal scorer Devin Setoguchi, stud college power forward Charlie Coyle (as integral to the trade happening as Setoguchi) and Zack Phillips, who scored 95 points this past season for Memorial-Cup winning Saint John.
They also with the No. 10 pick took puck-moving defenseman Jonas Brodin.
Folks, I'm nobody to preach to people that spend a fortune on tickets, merchandise, etc. But this path is how this franchise must go now. It's been spinning its wheels for too long, and now is looking to infuse young talent into the organization to catch up with the more talented teams in this league.
Unfortunately, the price tonight was Brent Burns. Snag him on your fantasy team next season because he'll have the ability to put up monster points skating with Thornton, Heatley, Marleau, Pavelski, Couture, etc, etc.
But Burns was the lone tradeable asset this team had that could fish three key pieces, and with his contract up in a year, the Wild had to make a tough decision whether to trade him or sign him. I'll go a lot more into all this in my column.
Burns was sad to leave but exhillarated by what's ahead. He was extremely excited to play for San Jose and in front of those fans. And you've got to think now the Sharks are confident they'll be able to sign him long-term. You don't give up three assets like they gave up only to lose a player in a year.
Setoguchi is a shooter on a pass-first team. You add him to the fold and think suddenly how many young, talented forwards are inside this organization now, the future's starting to look brighter if these guys can develop. Again, it won't happen overnight. But this process had to begin and be invested in. It'll take patience, but this is how the other teams got so far ahead of the Wild.
Here are some videos tonight of Chuck Fletcher, Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips. Also, assistant GM Brent Flahr's comments are below. There should also be a webcam with Judd Zulgad and myself on the site by Saturday.
Here's Brent Flahr, and thanks to Brian Stensaas for transcribing
(Chuck deferred to you on the picks, so tell us about Jonas) An elite-skating defenseman, really good puck moving ability and really thinks the game well. He played in Farjestad and played regularly for most of the year. It’s obviously a huge step for a young player to make that step and keep his composure and sense. And with his composure and natural ability to play the game – he played well. I was over there for the championship series against the Adam Larsson’s and these players and he really played well. Then he joined the Under-18 team in Sweden partway through the tournament and really helped them out, got them to the final game. He’s a terrific skater and has a terrific mind for ther game.
(Did he move up a lot?) Maybe in some rankings. But I think most teams were pretty aware. I think some of the ratings don’t get to see him play regularly. Because he’s playing with men he doesn’t get all the first-team power play ice time. You see that in his statistics, but when you get to see him play with his peers you understand what he is and he’s obviously a high-quality prospect.
(Does the fact that he’s played against men put him ahead of some North Americans?) I think it’s easy to recognize his hockey sense and his ability to make quick decisions. He’s a young player playing with men and at a high level. He’s got very good composure and reads the play, moves the puck and gets out of his own end very well. It’s easier for him to make the transition to the pro game just because of his experience already.
(Was this your guy or was it a tough call?) We had a number of players there we had penciled for our first pick. We actually had Jonas a little higher. [Duncan] Siemens is a totally different kind of defenseman. Big, physical kid. For what we thought we need with mobility and skill on the back end, it was an easy choice.
(Couple years away?) He thinks the game so well, I’m not going to put any limits on that. We’ll talk to his people. Obviously he’s got to get physically stronger and put on weight.
(Will the scoring come for Jonas?) He’s a young guy, like I said. And That’s the way it works in Sweden. Young guys have to earn their time. I was there in the playoffs, and he scored the winning goal one game. Off the crossbar, I believe. You watch his feet, his vision and his skill and we’re confident the scoring will come. When he plays with the Under 18 team he plays so many minutes.
(Phillips knows where the net is) A very smart, heady player with good hands. Always in the right spot. A nose for the net. He’s a competitive guy who really stepped up in big games and that’s what we’re looking for.
(Average skater?) You look at him, and he has skill and competitiveness. But he’s not a big-framed kid. He’s going to have to get stronger and work on that. And he’s aware of that. He’s got some work ahead of him but we’re convinced he’s willing to do that and we’re looking forward to seeing it. He was injured during the Memorial Cup, actually. Give a lot of credit to him for playing with that.
(What do you remember about Coyle?) A terrific pick by them the year before. Came out of the Eastern Junior League out there, so it’s a big jump but he had a terrific year out in Boston University andwith the world junior team he played very well. Big, strong kid. Off the ice, he’s already very mature. He’s strong; plays in the hard areas. Goes to the net. Good hands in traffic. A power-forward frame. He’s a big piece to the puzzle here.
(At what point did the Burns trade come up?) We took a lot of calls, and a lot we dismissed easily. When San Jose put together a package we had to listen to, it made sense.
Here's a transcript of Fletcher presser. Obviously could be some typos as we're under the gun, but I wanted to you to be able to read his quotes:
(Talk about the decision to trade Burns) “We weren’t looking to trade Brett Burns but it came together quickly and, of course, discussing things quite recently with Doug Wilson, the pieces came together and it made sense for us.”
(Was that why they signed Devin?) “I don’t think so. Again, this deal came together quickly so I certainly didn’t have …
(Gut wrenching to trade Burns?) “It was very difficult. First of all, I’d like to thank [him] for six, seven years he gave the organization. He was a tireless worker in the community, obviously, with military families, the National Guard, different organizations. But he was a very hockey player for us. I just look at our team right now and we really need to aggressively add young players. The last two years have been disappointing. We’ve obviously talked about that. But in order to compete with the top teams in this league we have to have more talent. I think today you look at it, we added the equivalent of four first-round picks. We gave up a very good piece in Brent Burns and a very good human being in Brent. I think our time frame needs to be stretched back a bit, we need to add more young players. We very quickly assembled a lot of good young talent. Obviously, we need to work in some pieces, we need to try to fine-tune our roster for next season. We created some holes and created some opportunities but that will be the work for the rest of the summer. I can’t state how important we felt and I felt that we needed to add talent. I think we did that today.”
(The wrap on Devin?) “He’s 24 and he scored 70-odd goals the last three seasons and playing 18 minutes a night on a very, very good San Jose team. He was on the second power play and I believe we were the worst shooting team in the league last year. We certainly didn’t shoot the puck a whole bunch and when we did shoot it, we didn’t shoot it particularly well. So, Devin is a very good skater, he’s a shooter and he’s a goal scorer. He always has been and is a right shot, which is an added bonus, and I think he fits very well into our group of young forwards.”
(How about Coyle?) “I know Charlie a little bit and San Jose drafted [him] 28th overall last year. There is no way this deal gets done if Charlie Coyle’s not in it. We feel he’s one of the top young power forwards in the game. He can play center, he can play wing, he can first line to third line. He adds a lot of versatility, a lot of size, a lot of character, tireless worker on the ice. Coming off a strong season at BU and a very good performance at the World Junior Championship. I think that size and that versatility and that character is very, very important for our team as we continue to fill out our forward group. You get the scorer in Setoguchi, the power forward in Coyle and then we got just a terrific offensive talent in Zack Phillips.”
(Coyle coming?) “It remains to be seen. He just played his freshman year at BU. I think you know by now I don’t really want to rush players. I would like everybody to be able to play tomorrow. Believe me. But I feel very, very good about our path and our direction. We have some decisions to make. We moved a very good player in Brent Burns, I can’t overstate that. But to move one to get four, or to add four today in total I think is a really good break for our organization. I think Coyle, maybe it’s a year, maybe it’s two years. It will be up to him. But he’s a big guy, he’s physically strong and he’s mature. Maybe he’s a faster track type of kid.”
(Want him to stay in college?) “I haven’t even spoken to him yet. I just left a message. I’m not a big believer in pulling kids out of college. It’s really up to the young man and his family to make that decision. We’ll certainly sit down and speak to him and I’ll speak to Jack Parker and we’ll try to go through the process of assessing exactly where he’s at and be up front. The goal in trading [for] him was not necessarily to get him in uniform right away. It was to add another piece and hopefully over the next one to two to three seasons he’ll have a very positive impact on our franchise and give us a big forward we can use to match up against some of the big forwards in the Western Conference.”
(Feel like have to replace Burns?) “We have some pretty good defensemen still. Obviously, Marek Zidlicky is a very talented player and Jared Spurgeon took some strides this year and we have some quality vets in Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon and an emerging physical player in Clayton Stoner. We’re high on Marco Scandella, we’re high on Tyler Cuma, Nate Prosser is right there, Justin Falk’s right there. But you look at our first-round pick today. But Brodin’s mobility and puck skills are elite. He needs to fill out, he needs to gain experience and mature like every 18-year-old kid but we added a player that can really have a big impact with respect to the puck moving part of the game.”
We felt as the morning moved to the afternoon and this deal came together, we realized we were moving a good hockey player – a very good hockey player. But the opportunity to add four first rounders – for lack of a better term – was too appealing. We need to gain ground on people and drafting one first rounder every year and waiting three years – to me I’m getting a little impatient. I’d like to add a whole bunch of young talent and it’s not going to happen overnight. But I think our path is very clearly defined and not every kid you draft or trade for is going to ne an NHL player, but we think we have a whole bunch of them coming now.
(Setoguchi?) Works hard. He’s strong, a good skater. Shoots the puck a ton and had a good work ethic. Coming off a strong season in San Jose in the playoffs. He’s 24 years old and I don’t have the exact number but he’s scored 70-odd goals the last three seasons playing in a secondary offensive role. In some respects, anytime you have Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley and Ryan Clowe – that’s a lot of great forwards and speaks again to why we made this move today. We’re going to try aggressively to gain ground. We’ll take some swings here and try to get better.
He was shocked, excited. He recognizes he’s leaving a very good hockey team in San Jose that’s been to the final four the loast two years. But he also senses an opportunity to play with some very good players. Mike Yeo will make the coaching decisions, but with Mikko Koivu and Granlund coming, we obviously have some quality players any goal-scoring winger would love to play with.
I think he senses an opportunity to expand his role and take another step in his career. We didn’t shoot the puck enough or well enough last year. We have some pass-first players and there’s nothing wring with that as long as you have some players who are willing to shoot and I’m hoping Setoguchi is a the first step in that. Maybe a player like Clutterbuck can take a step this year. And Latendresse coming back and all of a sudden we have a few guys that can put the puck in the net with some regularity.
(Trade) It came together very quickly. I was not soliciting calls. I received a lot of calls. I was not actively looking to trade him. Next thing you know - San Jose’s trying to win the Stanley Cup next year and not that we’re not, but we need assets to compete with these teams. I think it’s a classic example of two teams getting what they need. And again, we’re very happy with it. We have some more work to do this summer. We’ll see how it shapes out. I just look a the last two drafts in particular. We’ve added some very good players. That’s very exciting to me.
It’s not an easy decision to trade Brent Burns and I told him that when I spoke to him. It’s not something I set out to do, I can assure you that. I did set out to try to add a lot of assets to our organization and to give our fans and ownership and players the type of team that can compete ata higher level than we’re competing now. For two years we’ve been stuck in same place and we’ll see what this year means. I see the path now and I believe our fans see the path now and we’re going down it aggressively and quickly.
The Wild made its first offseason trade this afternoon by sending a dynamic offensive defenseman to the New Jersey Devils for an offensive forward!
No, not Brent Burns for Zach Parise, but Maxim Noreau for David McIntyre.
Noreau, 24, is a bona fide minor-league All-Star who is just itching for a chance to make it in the NHL. It's become clear that's not possible in Minnesota, not with the amount of defensemen on one-way contracts, plus two-way depth with Clayton Stoner, Marco Scandella, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, Tyler Cuma, Chay Genoway, etc, etc.
Noreau was to become a restricted free agent this summer and it was just time to give him a chance to move on.
McIntyre, 24, played four years at Colgate, scoring 82 points his final two years. He was originally drafted in the fifth round by Dallas, has played in Anaheim, New Jersey and Minnesota systems now in the past year and scored 30 points in 78 games for Albany last year with 51 penalty minutes.
Nothing flashy, but there's offensive upside, he's fast and works hard.
The 6-foot, 190-pound native of Oakville, Ont., was named a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2009 after recording 43 points (21-22=43) in 37 games during his junior season. McIntyre was also named to the ECAC All-Academic Team, the ECAC First All-Star Team and the NCAA East First All-American Team in 2009 and was an ECAC Second All-Star Team selection in 2010.
Noreau recorded 54 points (10-44=54) in 76 games with the Houston Aeros and ranked tied for third in scoring amongst AHL defensemen and was named to the 2010-11 AHL First All-Star Team. He added 12 points (2-10=12) in 24 playoff matches. Noreau also skated in five games with the Minnesota Wild during the 2010-11 campaign.
In other news:
As reported in today's paper here, Craig MacTavish interviewed this morning with Winnipeg, but he is still the guy the Wild is eyeing. The problem I see here is Winnipeg does not appear close to hiring a coach. There's MacT, Claude Noel, Craig Ramsay and Mike Haviland in the mix.
The Wild, I very much doubt, is in a position to let MacTavish wait, so if he's offered the Wild job, he may have to either take the job or the Wild may have to move on.
If the Wild moves on, the most likeliest candidate appears to be Houston coach Mike Yeo.
Yeo, 37, is a rising star among the coaching ranks, and maybe unfairly, he's getting lumped in with Todd Richards because Richards was a young coach with limited head-coaching experience. But the reality is Yeo has a different personality and has been through different experiences, like two Stanley Cup Finals and a Stanley Cup as Pittsburgh's assistant.
He makes sense in a lot of ways. First, he took a Houston team with very little offensive firepower all the way to the Calder Cup Finals thanks to a structured, hard-forechecking, aggressive system. Well, the Wild's not exactly bustling with offensive firepower and could use some structure. Houston routinely outshot its opponents dramatically and surrendered shots in the low-20s. Also, if the Wild's going young next year with potentially guys like Colton Gillies, Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, etc., it could prove beneficial to have a coach they know and respect.
But, I get the sense from inside the organization that they're very concerned going young for a second straight hire and passing over a more experienced coach.
I still get the sense that MacT is the one the Wild wants. But the draft is coming. The Wild wants to have a coach in place.
The search needs to come to an end at some point soon.
Lastly, anybody catch a glimpse of former Wild players Anton Khudobin and Shane Hnidy hoisting the Cup last night? Khudobin was a black ace, while Hnidy was a depth player. Neither will likely get his name on the Cup (Hnidy maybe if the Bruins petition), but they'll get a ring, so congrats!
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