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

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher on plenty of subjects

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher talked this afternoon at team headquarters about today’s moves to re-sign Mikael Granlund, Nate Prosser and Ryan Carter, make the Mike Reilly signing official, sign depth players Zach Dalpe, Ruslan Fedotenko and Marc Hagel, re-sign Jared Knight and sign goalie Stephane Michalek.

Please read the article in Thursday's paper, but here are some highlights from Fletcher's press scrum:

1. Darcy Kuemper. This actually didn’t come during the presser. It came on my KFAN interview with him this morning. It is very clear Kuemper won’t be Devan Dubnyk’s backup for the next six years. He’ll be traded at some point. But right now, especially with no spots obvious with the crazy goalie shuffle that happened last weekend, the Wild is content to have a $1.25 million backup this season, one that has proven he can win games in this league.

Fletcher to me this morning: “Looking at all the young goalies just been moved around the league, there’s clearly going to be value in Darcy, there’s clearly going to be a team that will have interest in him down the road.” Fletchetr went on to say that with the Wild’s turmoil in net and instability the past few years, it makes sense to keep Kuemper for the short-term because “we can’t rely on one guy.”

Fletcher said Kuemper will “have opportunities here in the next couple years to become a No. 1 and we’ll just have to wait for the right time to make those decisions.”

2. Fletcher said to expect one or two more depth moves “to try to help Iowa be a more competitive team” and provide recall options in the next few days or week. One will be a veteran goalie and likely Brody Hoffman or Michalek will compete for the second spot there.

3. Fletcher repeated what he said to me on the radio this morning: the opportunity for Tyler Graovac, Michael Keranen and/or Kurtis Gabriel to make the team is there.

4. On the Wild’s youngsters like Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, etc, Fletcher said, “there’s no sense boxing these young kids out, they’re ready. They all deserve an opportunity to grab more ice time and get a bigger share of the pie.”

Of course, coach Mike Yeo has to give them that opportunity, which isn’t easy with so many veterans always seeming to get that significant ice time or responsibility at big junctures in the game. Fletcher said nothing will be given, but a few of the young guys are knocking on the door and putting pressure on the vets.

5. Really interesting that one big reason why Nate Prosser is back is because of his versatility to play the left and right side. Two years ago, Prosser sat and sat and sat any time the Wild needed a left D because he apparently couldn’t play left D. But he got the chance last year when the Wild had no choice and proved he is able to do it.

Fletcher said Prosser “badly wanted to be here” and he thinks the stability of a two-year deal will be good for both sides. He came cheap, too, averaging only $50,000 more than the league minimum. Same with Ryan Carter.

6. As I noted on the previous blog, barring a trade, there doesn’t appear to be room for Jordan Leopold now. With Niklas Backstrom looking like he’ll be a third goalie on the team, the Wild will only be able to have two extra skaters. That likely means seven defensemen, and with Christian Folin, that’s eight. So while there’s no doubt you can never have too much defense depth, it’s not like Leopold’s about to sign a two-way contract, I don’t think.

7. Fletcher again talked up Kyle Brodziak, who as of now hasn’t signed with a new team. Fletcher said it’s unfortunate they don’t have the ability to bring him back.

As for Chris Stewart, maybe if he can’t get something in free agency and would take a $1 million salary or something, the Wild would be interested. Fletcher continues to laud him and said “never say never.” Fletcher said they “weren’t able to create space make an offer to him. That’s the reality. That’s the salary cap world we live in.”

But again, maybe Stewart circles back.

8. Fletcher said he was very happy to sit today’s day out from the sidelines. He likes the team, he says, and is very content, he says, to return with the same group.

“I think our defense is the strength of our team,” Fletcher said. “I put our defense corps up against anybody’s. We have as mobile, as strong a puck moving group of defensemen as any team in the league. We defend well. That’s our game.”

9. Next summer, Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon are all restricted free agents. I’m sure Fletcher will begin talking to them this summer. Asked how he affords them all, Fletcher said, “We’ll try to make the best deals we can and we’ll see. That’s a long ways off.  I’ve not lost one wink of sleep worrying about next summer yet. I’m still in this summer. Hey, there’s change every year on every hockey team. Whatever that change may be, we’ll figure it out.”

10. Erik Haula is still unsigned. He can file for arbitration by 4 p.m. Sunday if he elects. There are no issues here, I’m told by his agent. Also, Folin is in that weird Group 1 category. He cannot sign with another team and the Wild retains exclusive rights. So he’ll sign whatever the Wild offers him most likely, which I’d assume will be his qualifying offer.

11. I don’t buy the Kyle Okposo rumors. If the Wild wants him (and I’m sure it would be interested), it would just pursue him next summer as a free agent without giving up a big price now. Just makes no sense to pay a bunch of assets now when you can sign him for no assets a year ago. In fact, Okposo and Dustin Byfuglien are the types of players I have been referring to all along when I have indicated I thought the Wild would be quiet this summer and patiently await next. The Wild denied the Okposo rumors left and right, and Fletcher says right now he’s not in any ongoing trade talk for any player. Later in the summer, maybe.

12. I’m leaving town for the weekend now that it looks like the Wild’s going to be quiet the next few days. Barring news, you’ll probably only hear from me on Twitter.

Updated Minnesota Wild 2015-16 Depth Chart

Here’s a look at how the Wild is shaping up to look like next season. This will change throughout the summer as the Wild add and delete players.

The depth chart is my opinion. Obviously, lines change, roles change (maybe Coyle to wing eventually), etc.

In parentheses, each player’s cap hits.


Left wing                              Center                                    Right wing

Zach Parise ($7.5+M)       Mikael Granlund ($3M)       Jason Pominville (5.6M)

Jason Zucker (900+K)      Mikko Koivu (6.75M)          Thomas Vanek ($6.5M)  

Nino Niederreiter (2.66M) Charlie Coyle (3.2M)       Justin Fontaine (1M)

Ryan Carter (625K)              Erik Haula (RFA)                  ---------------------------


Vying for spots: Jordan Schroeder (600K), Tyler Graovac, (747,500); Brett Sutter (600K), Michael Keranen (675K), Zac Dalpe, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marc Hagel, Brett Bulmer (RFA), Kurtis Gabriel (667K), Zack Mitchell (615K), Brady Brassart ($836,667), Raphael Bussieres ($759,167), Grayson Downing (692,500), Pavel Jenys (688,333), Christoph Bertschy (575K), Jared Knight (761K).


Left Defense                     Right Defense

Ryan Suter (7.5+M)         Jonas Brodin (4.1+M)

Marco Scandella (4M)     Jared Spurgeon (2.66M)

Mike Reilly (2.025M)       Matt Dumba (894,167) 

Nate Prosser (625K)

Vying for spots: Christian Folin (RFA), Jon Blum (RFA), Gustav Olofsson (795K), Guillaume Gelinas ($596,667), Dylan Labbe (692,500), Zach Palmquist (692,500), Alex Gudbranson (610K), Hunter Warner (598,333)


Devan Dubnyk (4.33M)

Darcy Kuemper (1.25M) 

Niklas Backstrom (3.42M)

Vying for spots: Brody Hoffman (925K), Stephen Michalek.

*Likely to sign a veteran No. 3 goalie

Total cap hit roughly: $68,096,342 ($71.4 million ceiling).

*Includes $500K buyout cap hit for Matt Cooke.

**Excludes Reilly’s bonus for purposes of calculating the cap.

Available cap space: $3,303,658. This does not include players like Schroeder, the unsigned Folin or Graovac, who will be vying for spots, and unsigned Haula.

If injured goalie Niklas Backstrom is still on the roster as a third goalie come the season, the Wild would have to keep two extra skaters opposed to three. That could mean Folin starts in the minors if Reilly makes the team. That also would seem to indicate there’s no room as of now for Jordan Leopold.

The Wild will not be a cap-ceiling team because it’ll want an injury cushion and flexibility to make in-season trades.

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