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Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Dalpe claimed off waivers; Wild's Boudreau, players react to Hanzal trade

The Wild suffered a bit of a blow to its center depth this morning when the Columbus Blue Jackets claimed Zac Dalpe off waivers for the sum of $15,000.

Ryan Carter and Teemu Pulkkinen cleared, and the Wild will look to trade Pulkkinen before Wednesday's 2 p.m. deadline.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher really hoped Dalpe would slide through waivers, as did coach Bruce Boudreau, who didn't seem too pleased when he was told Dalpe was taken.

Boudreau was so taken aback, I wonder if Dalpe was playing tonight vs. the Kings (Devan Dubnyk vs. Jonathan Quick) or maybe there was some other kind of trade in the works that he's aware of.

Seemed pretty cryptic and stunned. Maybe somebody's sick? I didn't see Mikko Koivu this morning, and that's pure conjecture. But reporter instinct: It was weird.

Behind Dalpe in the minors now is Tyler Graovac, who had a hat trick in yesterday's Iowa overtime loss.

UPDATE: Graovac was recalled, so I think something's up with the lineup (Koivu?)

Unless the Wild makes a reactionary move now to scoop up a center, the Wild has Charlie Coyle, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan White and Carter who can also play center in a pinch.

Dalpe was placed on waivers to reset his waiver clock. He had played nine games. A 10th, and the Wild would have to place him on waivers if it later wanted to send him to the minors.

Dalpe's two-year Wild career was full of bad injury luck. He underwent a hip surgery and two knee injuries, playing only 11 regular-season games and three playoff games.

He's a former Buckeye, so Columbus should be comfortable, played for John Tortorella in Vancouver and may play the Wild on Thursday.

To answer a question a lot of people keep asking: Do I think the Wild's done. I think if the Wild can tinker with the blue line, it will.

Fletcher told me he told Shep Harder this morning to let him know exactly how much cap space the Wild has left. has the Wild having the ability to add a $2.3 million player or players before the deadline. That's barring a body coming off the Wild roster or the other team retaining money back. So by Fletcher getting Arizona to take half of Hanzal's cap hit, the Wild has room to still do stuff.

Martin Hanzal and Ryan White are expected to debut tonight, but they don't get to town this afternoon.

Boudreau indicated the lines could have a different look tonight but wouldn't divulge them maybe because he was caught off guard with the Dalpe news. It wouldn't have shocked me if he planned at least to start Hanzal on the fourth line with White just because he didn't practice today, has been flying all day and has had no systems work. This way you could ease in Hanzal, frankly, out of fairness to him.

Dubnyk, the ex Coyote, said Fletcher asked him before yesterday's practice what Hanzal was like.

“He just asked me what kind of guy he was. I, obviously, played with him for a short period of time and you always want to make sure those things ... it was funny to have that conversation and then go out and practice then 40 minutes later, the trade was made," Dubnyk said. "But to have a player of that size and strength with the skill and the shot that he has is an unbelievable combination. I just told [Chuck] that he’s good in the room, guys enjoy him. You see Shane Doan’s emotion after the trade, you know what kind of guy he is. It speaks for itself right there.”

Hanzal will wear No. 19 for the Wild because 11 obviously isn't available. That may be an ode to his pal, Doan. We will find out after the game because that will be his first availability to the local media.

"He’s a big horse of a guy," Boudreau said of Hanzal. [When I was with the Ducks, Hanzal] played against [Ryan] Getzlaf and did a really good job. He can be physical, he’s mean, he’s got a deft little touch, he’s really good on faceoffs, he was Arizona’s shutdown guy. I think he does a lot of things great, being the size that he is he’s not the fleetest of foot, but at the same time he gets around the ice pretty well."

Boudreau said Fletcher identified Hanzal as a guy the Wild wanted before Jonathan Toews lit up Minnesota with five points last week, but "It certainly does help to have two genuine shutdown guys that are playing the position of center and I think that actually makes us as deep as any team in the League in that position."

On whether he's concerned this could disrupt chemistry, Boudreau said, "We all have one common goal and that’s to win. We’ve said this all year long that we don’t have four superstars on this team. We’re all in this together, so I think the fact that we made ourselves better and the fact that it’ll help us be a better team will get everybody on the same page. I think it’s not a question of spreading minutes around, I think we do a pretty good job of that and I don’t think that will change, but I think these guys both coming in want to win as well so I think they both will jump right in."

Hanzal is a solid penalty killer, but like Jared Spurgeon told me, he's a "huge" net-front guy.

So with the Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle power-play unit all dried up, I wonder if Hanzal eventually goes to that unit, maybe takes Coyle's spot.
"I don’t know," Boudreau said. "I guess we’ll see how that goes. Obviously we’d like both units to be going really good. Mikko’s unit is pretty hot as of late, the other group is not, but also it gives you an option that’s for sure."
Asked if he thinks the move will energize the team, Boudreau said, "It energizes the coach. I don’t know if it energizes the players, I hope it does."

Asked if this moved Erik Haula full-time to the fourth line eventually, Boudreau said, "Long-term, I guess fourth line, first line, it all depends on how we’re playing. I’ve got no problem moving guys that are playing really good up and guys that are playing really bad down, so I think it gives us great balance and I’m a firm believer that you have to have four lines to be successful and this certainly gives us 12 NHL forwards."

On the trade, Chris Stewart said, "There is no time like the present for this group with the way we've been playing. We don't know when we're going to get another opportunity like this. [Fletcher's] giving us a chance. It's up to us to do it."

Stewart said, "The top three centers on this team have an average height of 6-foot-5 and at least 220 pounds. That's going to be tough to play against. [Hanzal] definitely brings that physical edge to the game. He's pretty good offensively too. I think he'll fit in here well.

"He's really good on faceoffs. He has an undercover mean streak too. You don't really notice until he's there in front of the net. He takes pride in the way he plays. I think he's going to be excited to be here."

Eric Staal said, "I think with the way we've played this season has helped and put us in a position to be able to do something like that. Obviously Chuck making a move like that is a good feeling for this group. We are excited about adding to what we've already got going on here. We have to do the same things we've done all season. We have to get back on the horse here tonight and adding those two guys is definitely not going to hurt. They are strong, big, tough guys. That's been our matchup for the most part this entire season."

Staal said Hanzal "is a tough guy to play against. You line up against a guy that's 6-foot-5 and big and strong and that can get difficult as the night goes on and through the course of a playoff series. It's nice to be able to add that to what we've already got going here down the middle. We have some big, strong guys that can lean on people and make it tough to play against. We are excited to have him and Whitey join us."

On tonight, the Wild hasn't lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 1 and 5 or consecutive games since Nov. 29 and Dec. 2. The Kings are very desperate. The Blackhawks are now one point behind Minnesota, although the Wild has three games in hand.

"They know that every team that’s in the West keeps winning," Boudreau said of his group. "Calgary is winning, Nashville’s winning, so we’re playing a desperate hockey club and I know exactly how good they can be when they’re desperate. They’re not going to cheat the game one iota. If we’re not ready to play our best game coming out of the break in awhile, then we won’t be very successful."

The Wild’s franchise-record-long eight-game homestand (4-2-1) comes to an end with the front end of back-to-back home/road games; the Wild plays in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

The Wild’s coming off its five-day “bye.” Teams coming off their bye are 7-15-4 (4-11-3 in February).

The Kings, outside the playoff bubble, have lost six of nine but are coming off a big win over Anaheim. The Wild is 4-0-2 in its past six vs. the Kings.

The Wild is 13-6-4 in its last 23 games against the Kings with six of the games decided in a shootout. The Wild’s 13-4-4 in its past 21 meetings with L.A. at home. … The Wild leads the Western Conference with 195 goals scored and 3.31 goals per game; the Kings rank 25th in the NHL at 2.44 goals per game.

Jason Pominville has 20 points in the past 16 games. Since becoming a line Nov. 25, Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund has a combined 45 goals, 69 assists and 114 points. Koivu has 33 points in 35 meetings with L.A. Granlund leads the Wild with 14 multi-point games. He has 24 points in the past 20 games.

Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 29 points in 38 games against Minnesota. Jeff Carter is tied for second in the NHL with 30 goals. Marian Gaborik is the Wild’s all-time leading goal scorer, but he was a healthy scratch Saturday.

I'll be on NHL Network at 5:40 p.m. CT.

Fletcher Q&A: 'We are taking a swing. Our players, fans deserve that'

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher held a conference call Sunday night following the acquisition from Arizona of forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, who both are expected to debut Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Here's a transcript of the call, so many of your questions should be answered. Basically, the hefty price in terms of draft picks was palatable because of the young core being intact on the Wild and the top prospects coming. Fletcher would much rather give up picks than maturing prospects.

If you want to hear me opine on the trade, I'll be on KFAN at 9:55 a.m. Monday and NHL Network at 5:40 p.m. CT. I'll also be on Fox Sports North during Tuesday's telecast.

Why were you able to stomach trading so many draft picks?: We were trying to accomplish a couple things at the trade deadline here. we felt we needed to add a couple forwards to our group. We were looking to add some experience, some size, some versatility to round out our roster and make us a little deeper going down the stretch and into the playoffs. And the second goal was not to give up any of our prospects. Teams have been calling on a lot of our guys for awhile. That’s been the preferred choice of payment for a lot of them. That’s a credit to [assistant GM] Brent Flahr and our scouts that we’ve been able t draft the guys we have. I’ve traded a lot of picks over the years and I think it’s tremendous the number of guys we have. So if we could acquire some assets without giving up our top prospects, we were willing to trade picks. We added two guys that we think will help our team.

Hanzal: He’s an extremely tough player to play against. I know if you speak to any of our players having to play against Arizona over the last few years, he’s a big, strong centerman, he plays a heavy game, he makes you earn every inch of the ice when you play against him. he’s a guy that can contribute offensively, he can win faceoffs, he can play both specialty teams. We thought he was the top rental forward on the market, if you will. Of all the guys with expiring contracts, we thought he, at forward, would have the biggest impact on any roster. So certainly our goal was to have him play for us and also to keep him away from other teams in the West. He’s hungry, he’s excited, he’s playing for a contract, he’s played tremendously over the last couple months.

Message to the team: They’ve sent a message to me. We’ve never reached 84 points this early in the season. There’s obviously a long way to go and a lot of obstacles that we have to face yet, but they’ve played very well. They’ve been very consistent. I think the message that they sent to me is they believe we’re a team that can compete and contend and I think this was the appropriate response from management and ownership. Craig has been tremendously supportive. You never know. You never know what the future holds. But I know our team believes that we have a chance, and hopefully this message is appropriate for how well they played this year.

Ryan White: Andrew Brunette called him a junkyard dog watching a lot of video of him the last couple months. He’s a guy that was a heck of a junior hockey player, has a good shot, was a player coming up that was an offensive player in a lot of ways. He’s morphed more into a checking, gritty type of player. He’s a player that plays in your bottom six. He competes, he shows up everyday, he’s good around the net, he can make plays, he has scored some goals in this league. He played in front of the net on the power play for Philadelphia last year. he’s been a guy that has been used in PK situations, he’s a right shot that has taken some faceoffs from time to time because he was a centerman in junior. Just the versatility, the compete, the grit, he adds some qualities that you need this time of year.

Hanzal strictly a rental: Anything’s possible. But right now we’re just putting our chips in the middle of the table for this year. We like our group and we think our players deserve the best chance possible to compete and see what we can do. Nothing’s promised. We know it will be tough. I think our thought is we may as well take a swing and see how far we can go. With respect to this summer, there’s an expansion draft, who knows where the cap will be, there’s unrestricted free agents, there’s restricted free agents, there’s a lot of things that have to be taken care of, but right now our focus is on the next stretch in the regular season and hopefully we can continue playing long into the spring.

Young core intact, prospects coming, did that make giving up picks more palatable?: It helped a lot. Brent, I can’t say enough about Brent Flahr. I’m not sure there’s a better scout in the game. I don’t know all of them, but he’s got to be right there if not at the top. We have a good staff. We have a lot of legitimate guys that are knocking on the door over the next year or two, and I think that will help a lot with our depth and also with our cap management. It’s not fun trading picks. I don’t take it lightly. But yet I would much rather keep the prospects we have than trade future picks. You can’t do this all the time. We’ll see if we can make a couple of them up. We did get a fourth-round pick back at least this year to help offset the fourth-round pick in 19. But there’s no question we paid a price. Give John Chayka credit. Arizona exacted a price from us. But we’re happy to be where we’re at and we want to see how far we can take this.

Concern over disrupting chemistry: I don't think so. You never know. From all reports, these are quality guys, character guys, and they're both extremely excited to come to Minnesota. To come and compete and play on a team that has a chance to have some success here. The fact that we didn't subtract anybody from our NHL roster I think is a statement to our group that we believe in them. I think that should help in that respect. We have a character group. They want to win. These guys will help us win so I don't anticipate any issues.

On the Staal, Koivu, Hanzal playing together: Well hopefully it poses matchup problems for opposing teams. We obviously have three big strong centermen. We have a lot of size in the middle of the ice and we have Erik Haula who has speed. You know the hallmark of our game is still our defensive identity. We need to play well in our own zone. We need to defend. We need to keep our goals against down. Our offense this year at least has usually transitioned from a strong defensive game. I hope we're a hard team to play against. We defend well and we have that depth where hopefully we at least present tough matchups for the opposing teams.

On whether they think about the Blackhawks when making trades: Obviously everyone knows Chicago has won three Stanley Cups over the last six or so years. Clearly in the West they're always the team you have to go through and you have to beat to get anywhere you want to go to. But there's a lot of other good teams too. To be honest, the focus was just on improving our depth. We thought we were just a little bit thin at forward. We have a lot of players that we think can play. It's just a little bit more unproven, the depth. If you run into injuries down the stretch here I thought that we could maybe really thin out up front. This was a way of obviously providing more depth and giving Bruce a lot of versatility with respect of what he wants to do with the lineup. We have guys that can move around, can play different positions. We have a lot of games here coming up. It's going to be tough. The difficult part of the season is just starting now. We are who we are and that's why we made these moves. To reward our players. We are going to push as hard as we can. I think we all recognize the tough part of the season starting. Anything can happen both good and bad. I think the more depth a team has it helps, reduce that uncertainty.

On looking at his past moves: Some deals work well and some don't. Believe me. I've made some deals that have helped our team and some deals that haven't helped our team. I recognize that. I just think this is a year where to me I think our players have played hard. They deserve management and ownership to step up and support them with how hard they've played. Who knows what happens down the stretch here. Anything could happen. It could be a great finish. It may not be. But there's not going to be a called third strike here. We are taking a swing. Our players deserve that. Our fans deserve that. We will see where it goes. There are no guarantees. We are adding quality people. We are adding guys that we think will help us in some areas of need and we've improved our depth and maybe as importantly we've kept our top prospects. We are satisfied with what we've been able to do today.

On the prospects: We have Alex Tuch. We have Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Kaprizov up front. Then we have Olofsson and Soucy and Mike Reilly, Louis Belpedio on defense. There are a lot of good kids that we get asked about all the time. To me a prospect that is one or two years further developed is much more valuable than a draft pick. You already know that they're trending the right way and that they're still projecting to play in the NHL. With a team like ours where we're always close to the cap having players that can play on entry level deals is a critical part of future cap management and fielding a competitive roster. These guys are important to us. We'd rather give up a pick than move them. Our scouts of done a great job. I've taken a lot of picks away from them and they've continued to perform admirably.

On whether he's done: That's a great question. I'll have to get with [director of hockey administration] Shep Harder and see where we're at cap-wise. We have to make sure we have depth coming down the stretch here in case of injuries. I'm happy with where we're at. You're never perfect. You're never satisfied. Every situation you want to try to take care of. That's the nature of the system now. I'm sure every team has holes they'd like to look at. I would assume we're done. We will take a look at things tomorrow, regroup tomorrow, get with the coaches and just continue to look at everything on a day by day basis. We still have two games before the deadline. As we know things can happen. We think our depth is strong. This is certainly the best team we've had since I've been here. We are kind of anxious to see what that means.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Miami at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Los Angeles at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wild at Winnipeg

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Pittsburgh at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Utah

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Twins at Baltimore (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Gophers women's basketball vs. Penn State

    5:30 pm on BTN

  • Nebraska at Gophers men's basketball

    6 pm on ESPN, 1500-AM

  • Wild at Columbus

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Philadelphia (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan

    5:30 pm on ESPNEWS, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC at Portland

    8:30 pm on FS1

  • Toronto at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Gophers women's hockey vs. UMD

    5:07 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan

    7:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Washington (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's basketball

    5 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • St. Louis at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN

Poll: What do you think of the Wild's trade with Arizona?

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