This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael 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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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!
Afternoon. Real quick:
-- Jeff Penner is real young in his pro career after signing as a college free agent out of Alaska Fairbanks. Basically this is a depth move to fill a spot in Houston because Tyler Cuma, who will have reconstructive knee surgery this week, and Drew Bagnall are hurt.
-- Mikko Lehtonen leads the Swedish Elite League in goals and is second in scoring while playing for the top team in the league, Skelleftea. He's big and fast and the Wild's basically taking a run at trying to get him to come back to North America this summer. He left a few years ago after scoring 103 points in two years in Providence. The former Bruins third-rounder just got stuck behind a deep group of forwards. So maybe it turns out to be a steal, maybe he winds up being Petr Kalus. We'll see this summer.
--Again, and I didn't think this was any secret, but judging by the emails I'm getting from stunned fans, it was. The Wild was letting Anton Khudobin walk away this summer, so when somebody called for him, it decided to get something for him.
Heck, the Wild almost let him go last summer when he threatened KHL if he didn't get a one-way deal. At the deadline, in mid-July he signed a two-way. The Wild has Matt Hackett and will sign Darcy Kuemper as the 1-2 in Houston next year. The Wild plans to bring Dennis Endras over to compete for the No. 2. They'll also watch him at the world championships to see what they've got with him, but if worse comes to worse, you just sign a veteran backup this summer to play in Minnesota. There will be a million goalies.
What the Wild really wants to do is bring back Jose Theodore, so my suspicion is Theodore will take a few days on July 1 to guage the landscape to see if he can be a No. 1 somewhere. The Wild would hold its horses on signing a goalie and if Theodore can't find a job, it would welcome him back with open arms.
Josh Harding, sadly, is a non-issue in my opinion. He's a free agent and will likely have to move on. The Wild also has Johan Gustafsson in the system.
But as for Khudobin, he filled in admirably in the games he came up. But he was leaving anyway. If he becomes Dominik Hasek in Boston, email me frantically then. But as of now, really, don't get so needlessly up in arms.
--The no movement. There always is this perception that just because other teams made moves and the Wild didn't, the Wild "lost." Oh my God, Calgary added Fredrik Modin and the Wild didn't type of stuff.
The Wild didn't need third and fourth liners, so they're not trading for guys like Maxim Lapierre and Brad Winchester. As for the centers, correct me if I'm wrong, but other than Jason Arnott, whom the Wild didn't want, were any traded?
The Wild didn't like the ones available to them or weren't willing to give up the assets to get those players. As for the big deals, I'm thinking the Penner one, the Wild wasn't giving up those pieces, same with the Upshall/Lepisto one. Those, to me, are the only two deals that happened in the West where I felt OK, Columbus just helped themselves, OK, LA just helped themselves.
As for Chuck Kobasew, I don't think there was a lot of interest in the end. At least that's what I'm hearing. If there was, is getting a fifth or sixth round pick or whatever worth more than losing the depth Kobasew brings if the Wild gets injured after he's gone? Hard to answer until you're calling up Jed Ortmeyer again or Petr Kalus.
That's what the Wild had to ask itself.
I know TSN went out and bashed the Wild for not getting something for its UFA's, but the Wild made it extremely clear that it was going for a playoff spot, not trading its UFA's for picks. So unless you have that context, it's easy to rip.
You trade Andrew Brunette and John Madden, you're pulling the plug, and the Wild's not willing to do that. The Wild believes this room can get it done, so it's going for it with this room. We'll see if it works out.
As I've said all along, it would have been awesome to add a scorer, but the prices were clearly inflated in a market where there were few sellers or the ones available were players the Wild either didn't want want to pay major assets for or didn't want to put into a tight room.
I thought it would get a center, but again the prices were crazy. Second for Konopka? Second for Reasoner? The Wild wasn't willing to do that. So it'll continue to stopgap while Koivu is out, which I think will be another two to three weeks, although he's been healing nicely.
OK, sloppy, quick blog. Probably some typos and some confusing it's and they's, but that's what you get with about 15 other things on my plate to tackle. More after the game.
I was going to go with the "Wild trades for Penner" headline just to drive traffic, but I thought you might not find the humor in that and chickened out.
The Wild traded goalie Anton Khudobin to the Boston Bruins' forJeff Penner and Mikko Lehtonen in a minor-league move.
Not Dustin Penner and not Jeff Skinner. Defenseman Jeff Penner.
The Borat era is over. As I've indicated many times, it was over anyway this summer when he becomes a Group 6 unrestricted free agent. The Wild's turning to Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper, bringing over Dennis Endras and will probably sign a backup for Minnesota. The Wild also likes draft pick Johan Gustafsson.
Josh Harding's future is very uncertain.
Khudobin, 24, was a seventh-round pick by the Wild in 2004. You cannot say enough for the fill-in jobs he's done in Minnesota. With Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore hurt last month, he went 2-1 with a 1.59 goals against average and .942 save percentage. Last year, he went 2-0 with a 0.86 goals against average.
Penner, 23, has played two NHL games for Boston, is from Winnipeg, played at Alaska-Fairbanks and has played for the last 3-plus years for Providence. Restricted free agent
Lehtonen, 23, is a huge scorer right now in the Swedish Elite League. Restricted free agent.
Waiting for Jim Mill to talk about this.
Wild didn't make any other moves is a snoozer of a trade deadline league wide. Vancouver added Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre, Calgary added oft-injured Fredrik Modin (Jay Feaster connection), Chicago added Chris Campoli (Jordan Hendry got hurt last night) and of course LA added Dustin Penner. Those were the notable moves by the teams around the Wild. Forgot the biggest one in my opinion: Columbus adding Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto to Phoenix for Rusty Klesla.
The Wild's Chuck Fletcher will be available at 6:50, so nothing from him yet. But as you can see, it was a trade deadline where the prices were inflated because of how few sellers there were. Not a lot of quantity, and in the case of the Wild, it doesn't need the third and fourth liners and probably didn't have the pieces to add that top-line winger. As for the centermen, there were marginal ones out there and clearly the Wild's going to hope for Koivu's quick return and go with Almond, Peters, Wellman as depth.
Morning from an empty press box high above the empty ice at Xcel Energy Center. Wanted to check in, but follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib for instantaneous news.
The Wild's war room, which is about 200-300 yards from where I'm sitting, is up and running. I plan on delivering donuts around noon. Manipulative, I know, but you're talking to somebody who once held on to a team executive's sports coat as ransom for a scoop, which I did get, by the way.
--I hear the price for marginal centers is "stupid" right now, but the price often comes down at about 1:50 p.m., so we'll see if the Wild can upgrade its depth at center with Mikko Koivu still sidelined. I would imagine the Wild would have interest in Jason Arnott if the price isn't "stupid." Remember, the Wild's not trading its first-round pick and doesn't own a second-round pick, at least in the 2011 draft.
--Zenon Konopka, the NHL's penalty-minute leader at 225 and fifth-leading drawman at 57%+, is available. I don't know this for a fact (just throwing this out there based on last year's history), but the Wild may have interest. They could use a center AND the Wild almost traded Derek Boogaard to Tampa for Konopka and a draft pick at last year's deadline. But it fell through at the last second, I was told, because Tampa no longer owned the pick it was trying to trade to Minnesota. That was since denied to me by people in Tampa but confirmed to me by multiple sources from Minnesota and the NHL level. Regardless of what happened, the Wild had interest in Konopka previously and he's available now. He can win a draw, he's tough, he's a team guy, he's a PK guy. But he is a fourth-liner on the Islanders.
Fighter, yes, but if this trade was made, Konopka is not Chris Simon despite it being the same team. Konopka would play for the Wild. Simon did not and basically was scratched in the '08 playoffs by Jacques Lemaire.
--I'm told Marty Reasoner from Florida gets traded today. I don't sense a ton of interest from Minnesota, but I'm a fan. Fast, faceoffs, character, penalty kill.
--The Wild has long been interested in Stephen Weiss, but I don't see them giving up all the pieces it would take to get Weiss, at least, today. In the future, maybe. But today, I don't see it. But the Wild likes Weiss a lot. Chuck Fletcher was in Florida when he was drafted.
--Chuck Kobasew is in play if the price is right. Atlanta is one team I thought would make sense because it needed a top-nine winger and Kobasew played for coach Craig Ramsay in Boston. But the Thrashers just traded for Radek Dvorak, the Florida speedster and all-around awesome dude, in a package that included Niclas Bergfors, whom Rick Dudley had been trying to trade for some time. He was offered to the Wild a gazillion times, and there was no interest at all.
So I'm thinking Kobasew and Atlanta are no longer a match. As I wrote somewhere the other day, Carolina has long had interest in Kobasew ever since he was taken one slot ahead of the Hurricanes wanting to take him in the 2001 draft. Vancouver may have interest, but would the Wild trade him inside its division when it has to face Vancouver three more times and potentially in the first round of the playoffs?
--I don't see Dustin Penner being moved to the Wild today despite the Wild, at least at one point recently, showing interest.
--TSN report says Brad Richards will only waive his Dallas no-trade to go to the Rangers. The price is astronomical, so why would the Rangers do that now when Richards basically just told them he'd sign there for no assets given up as a free agent July 1?
-- Contrary to a few sites I've seen this morning, the Wild's in 7th in the conference, not 9th or 10th. As long as they've played the same amount of games or less than the team's they're tied with, they'll almost always have the first tiebreaker based on non-shootout wins.
Don't know why this is suddenly bold and won't un-bold, so I'll wrap up. More later, follow me on Twitter at russostrib and I'll be on 1500 ESPN tonight at 6.
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