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Russo's Rants

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

Wild reaches deal with prospect Chase Lang; other signing news

The Wild signed forward prospect Chase Lang to his three-year, entry-level contract this morning.

Lang, 19, is considered a two-way center who plays with energy. The 2014 sixth-rounder put up points in junior (66 goals and 155 points in 244 career games), but assistant GM Brent Flahr has always said that Lang's bread and butter will be his defensive game and energy. He's a good penalty killer. As with most kids, he needs to keep filling out and get stronger, which he'll have a chance to do starting next season in Iowa.

The Wild had until June 1 to sign Lang.

Similarly, it has until June 1 to sign forward Reid Duke, who's currently playing in the Memorial Cup for the Western Hockey League champion Brandon Wheat Kings. Brandon got smoked last night, 9-1, by the London Knights, so the Wheat Kings now must beat host Red Deer to advance in the tournament.

Duke, a 2014 sixth-rounder, ranked sixth in the WHL playoffs with 24 points in 21 games. He tied for 23rd in the league during the regular season with 33 goals.

The Wild has until June 1 to sign Duke, trade him or let him go back into next month's draft. I'm hearing the Wild has had three or four teams call on Duke in the last week, so my gut says, if the Wild can't sign Duke or is uninterested in signing Duke, it'll trade his rights in the next week for a pick or young player.

Remember, the Wild will likely be looking to add picks in this year's draft. It currently has no second-, third-, fifth- or sixth-round pick. It has a first, fourth and two sevenths.

Also, it doesn't sound like 2014 fifth-round pick Tanner Faith will be signed. The defenseman had a good underage year with Kootenay, but he has had some shoulder injuries.

As for the other 2014 draft picks, Alex Tuch and Pavel Jenys are signed, Louis Belpedio is still in college and Kaapo Kahkonen and Pontus Sjalin are still in Europe. So the Wild still owns their rights.

Also, the Wild doesn't plan to sign former Michigan State defenseman John Draeger, a 2012 third-round pick. The Faribault native also had a number of injuries throughout college.

Back to Lang, from the Wild press release:

Lang, 19 (9/13/96), notched 63 points (27-36=63) including eight power-play goals and five game-winning goals and 76 PIM in 69 games with the Vancouver Giants and Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League (WHL) this season. He was traded by Calgary to Vancouver on Oct. 27, and led the Giants in scoring and ranked second in goals. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound native of Nanaimo, B.C., recorded three points (2-1=3) in 11 games with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL) following the conclusion of the WHL season. Lang tallied 155 points (66-89=155) and 199 PIM in 244 career WHL games with Calgary and Vancouver. He was originally selected by Minnesota in the sixth round (167th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Wild replacing assistants Wilson, Sydor; Brunette moving to front office

There will be two new assistant coaches on either side of recently-hired head coach Bruce Boudreau next season, the Star Tribune has learned.

Longtime Wild assistants Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor have been informed they won’t be returning to the bench, multiple sources have said. Both coaches have contracts that expire June 30. It’s unclear as of now if they could potentially stay with the organization in other roles.

In addition, assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, the Wild’s eye in the sky during games, and goalie coach Bob Mason will sign new contracts and return to the club in their same roles.

Assistant coach Andrew Brunette, who has a year remaining on his contract, is expected to rejoin the front office. Brunette, who played six seasons for the Wild over two stints, was originally hired by General Manager Chuck Fletcher as a hockey operations advisor before former coach Mike Yeo asked him to be an assistant the past two seasons.

He was largely responsible for the power play.

Former interim coach John Torchetti, who has another year left on his contract as coach of the Iowa Wild, is a candidate for assistant coaching positions with the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings. He has been granted permission to pursue other jobs. If he doesn’t get one, Torchetti and Fletcher are expected to speak again regarding a job within the Wild.

Wilson and Sydor are both respected coaches, especially with young D, and great guys. Sydor, especially, was always an awesome interview for us writers. Personally, I learned a lot about the position during my many talks with Wilson and Sydor.

Wilson, 65, spent six years as a Wild assistant. He came to Minnesota before Todd Richards’ second and final season as coach and was carried over onto Yeo’s bench. He has been a NHL assistant or associate coach for five franchises since 1988 (including the North Stars during their final season in 1992-93) and won a Stanley Cup in 1999 with Dallas.

Sydor, 44, spent five years as a Wild assistant. He came to Minnesota along with Yeo after the two coached the Houston Aeros to the 2011 Calder Cup Final. Sydor, drafted seventh overall in 1990 by the Los Angeles Kings, played 18 seasons in the NHL, ranks 18th all-time among defensemen with 1,291 regular-season games and won two Stanley Cups.

Fletcher had said previously that he had different ideas regarding the makeup of the coaching staff, but Boudreau would be given “free rein” when it came to his chief lieutenants.

Over the last two years in Anaheim, Boudreau’s assistants – Bob Woods and Brad Lauer -- were let go by GM Bob Murray.

I asked Boudreau on Thursday if he felt his legs were cut out from under him because of that.

Boudreau said, “I don’t think it’s the best thing. But, I mean, the guys that Bob Murray selected were really intelligent, good hockey people, so it made it easy. But you always like to think you know the person that you’re standing beside.”

That last line was the key line, obviously. Boudreau wants to know the guys to his left and right.

Because of that, there are two names that come to my mind that Boudreau may have interest in.

This is pure conjecture:

One is Woods, his longtime right-hand man in Hershey, Washington and Anaheim. He currently is the Saskatoon Blades GM and coach. The other is good friend and very successful minor-league coach John Anderson. He used to coach the Atlanta Thrashers and is currently on a second stint coaching the AHL Chicago Wolves.

On how he conducts a bench, Boudreau, who calls the forwards, told me, “Usually in the past, one guy runs the defense, there’s myself and another guy to my left ends up usually running the power play while at the same time talking to players as they come back to the bench because I can’t focus on telling them what to do while also trying to match lines and get ready for the next shift.”