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

Leaving for Blues, Prosser thankful to play so long for hometown Wild

You’ve got to hand it to Nate Prosser.

In a league where depth defensemen are everywhere and easily can get squeezed out of a job because of that, the Elk River native has carved out a quality NHL career that will reach Season Nine this upcoming fall.

It won’t come in Minnesota though (well, we assume it won’t come in Minnesota as I’ll remind you below).

Prosser’s two-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 a season ($400,000 guarantees) with the St. Louis Blues is official. He’ll rejoin his former Wild coach, Mike Yeo, a few states south of us and may have a solid shot of making the Blues, who have a strong group of six defensemen on one-way contracts.

Prosser, 31, was by far the longest-serving and most successful college free-agent pickup in Wild history. He played parts of eight seasons, ranks 26th in franchise history with 282 games, seventh in franchise history with 475 blocked shots and was always the good soldier when it came to being that extra defenseman.

Always smiling and always positive, Prosser’s nature was why four different Wild coaches were perfectly comfortable having him be the seventh defenseman. Even those times Prosser was undoubtedly frustrated with his role, coaches never had to worry about him creating a stink or distraction in the locker room.

He just showed up daily, practiced hard and waited for his turn.

“I’ve kind of always been that seventh man here for six, seven years, but with Yeo and Torch (John Torchetti) and Bruce [Boudreau], they’ve all been so great and so honest with me,” Prosser said Wednesday night. “That’s something, I’ve told Bruce, ‘Thank you for always being so honest with me.’”

I remember when the Wild signed Prosser out of Colorado College.

To be blunt, I had never heard of him, was at my buddy’s house in Nashville when the news came and quickly added a few graphs to the next day’s paper and posted a blog.

Prosser showed up in Nashville the next morning, was affable but nervous and, frankly, I’m not sure how much I even wrote about him because he wasn’t supposed to play those final weeks of the 2009-10 season.

But lo and behold, a couple injuries occurred at the end of the season and instead of recalling a defenseman, the Wild rewarded Prosser by thrusting him into the final three games of the season in Edmonton, Calgary and at home against Dallas.

In his NHL debut, Prosser assisted on an Andrew Brunette goal against the Oilers and he got to experience the season finale at Xcel Energy Center.

“That was supposed to be [Mike] Modano’s last game,” Prosser reminded.

The Prosser highlight always will be scoring that Jan. 18, 2014, overtime winner against the Stars. It came on Hockey Day Minnesota, an event hosted at Elk River’s Handke Pit – the same place Prosser skated around all the time as a small kid -- a self-described “annoying little shrimp” and pipsqueak -- before growing a full foot his junior year of high school.

To this day, Prosser still hears from friends that they can’t believe of all the talented kids skating in Elk River during his younger days, Prosser’s THE guy that has a pro career that’s a year shy from a decade.

Amazing, eh?

“There have been a lot of memorable games with the Wild, but that overtime winner, having Hockey Day being in Elk River, my hometown, knowing all the people watching, I mean, I never get out there in overtime, and then to get that chance where the [Nino Niederreiter rebound] just came to me, it was awesome,” Prosser said.

Prosser, a Seann William Scott clone, may go down as the Wild player who most took a hit to make a play, so to speak.

Nobody took a licking and kept on ticking like Prosser.

“Maybe I’ve got a little Gumby in me,” Prosser once told me.

Yeo, who respects Prosser wholeheartedly, once said of Prosser, “There’s certain messages that you can send to your teammates. It’s the ones I think where a player’s paying the price for his teammates that are the loudest and the clearest messages.”

Team-first. Charitable. Nice as can be. Shows up and works hard daily.

It’s a big reason our Professional Hockey Writers’ Association chapter once nominated him for the Masterton.

Prosser has talked to Yeo a few times this summer and particularly the past few days.

“I’ve been with him since Day One of pro hockey basically,” Prosser said. “I was in Houston with him and then I came up to Minnesota with him. He knows what I bring and I know his style and I know what he wants from me. He wants energy, he wants me to be physical and chirping and getting after guys and making that good first play. It’s just about being solid and playing good defensively. We have a good relationship. He’s a great guy for me to look up to.”

Prosser assumes he’s done in Minnesota. But remember, in 2014, Prosser signed with the Blues, didn’t make the team out of camp, was placed on waivers and the Wild, knowing what he brought in terms of depth, plucked him off waivers.

So who knows what tomorrow brings?

But if this is it for Prosser in Minnesota, he’s thankful.

He got married here, had three Minnesota-born daughters here because of the luxury of getting to play for his home-state Wild, got to play in front of his parents, siblings and 25 other family members often.

“And the fans have been unbelievable,” Prosser said. “In March and when playoff time comes around, you feel the buzz in this state. And there’s something about it that just gives you the goosebumps and makes you want it more and more. It’s been such a good journey. Whenever I look back at this experience, it’s been such a blessing to be able to play in my hometown for this long.”

I'm about to enter my 23rd season covering the NHL -- 13th covering the Wild. I've covered a lot of great human beings. Prosser's right up there at the top.

Granlund's only objective? A deeper Wild playoff run

Mikael Granlund, fresh off his brand-new three-year, $17.25 million deal, spoke on a conference call earlier today.

Standard stuff.

Obviously excited about his new pact but mostly talked about his desire to see the Wild to take the next step as an organization and go on a deeper playoff run. That’s something he mentioned four or five times.

The Wild has made the playoffs five years in a row but has only been past the first round twice and only won one playoff game this past spring.

Jim Souhan’s writing a Wild column for Thursday’s paper, but I wanted to toss up a blog with Granlund’s thoughts on his new deal.

Granlund, 25, who scored a career-high 26 goals and team-leading 69 points last season, said there’s always room for him to improve defensively, but “the biggest thing is just to as a team, I really want us to make a deeper playoff runs. Obviously we need to make the playoffs first, but we have a really good group of guys and we can make some damage in the playoffs. I think that’s my, personally, my biggest goal to help team success and hopefully we can make something special next year.”

I explained in today’s article here the reasoning for going three years with Granlund as opposed to longer (also in the article, what’s going on with Marcus Foligno).

For one, Granlund’s side didn’t want the length to go too too too long for the reason spelled out in the article, so please check that out if you’re confused by the term.

Out of curiosity though, I asked Granlund for his explanation as to why he was OK with three years and not longer. He simply said he’s happy with the contract and he’d prefer to only talk about on-ice things and let the decision makers – agent Todd Diamond and GM Chuck Fletcher – talk about the contract stuff.

“I’m really happy I can stay here in Minnesota and improve the team and hopefully we can make it even better next playoffs and do some damage,” Granlund said. “But I’m really happy with my situation. I’m just happy we got the deal done.”

He said his pal and mentor Mikko Koivu already called him to “pretty much say, ‘You’re paying the next dinner.’”

(Granlund may want to remind Koivu that the captain's actually the highest-paid player on the team this season at $9+ million) cool

Granlund, who averaged nearly 19 minutes a night, credited Bruce Boudreau for how he was deployed last season, saying the coach was “super great. We improved a lot as a team. Individually, too, he gave me a lot of responsibility. I think I took a step as a player. Hopefully we can keep that going next year and be even better.”

It is amazing how far Granlund has come when one considers frankly how out of place he looked at times his rookie year. Remember, he looked undersized, wasn’t strong on his skates, not confident offensively. But he slowly made improvements to his skating, got used to the smaller confines of an NHL rink, showed durability by missing no regular-season games to injury the past two seasons (one scratch to rest before the playoffs in Game 82 last season in Glendale) and last season broke out dramatically.

The question: Can he build on that next season or does he take a step back?

He had a heck of a season next to Koivu and, for much of the season, Jason Zucker. Granlund did shoot a robust 14.7 percent, something that very reasonably could come back to Earth this season.

But, hey, this is the state of the league right now. Contracts continued this summer to erupt and this contract was on par with the market. Knowing Granlund’s work ethic and character, the Wild was comfortable with the risk of the money and definitely the term. Granlund still believes he can improve “every little aspect of the game,” but more so, he feels as a team it’s time for the Wild to improve every little aspect and deliver in the postseason.

“I think we’re really ready to make a deep run in the playoffs,” he said.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Arizona at Twins

    1:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lynx at New York

    2 pm on NBATV, 106.1-FM

  • Cleburne at Saints

    5:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Loons at Seattle

    9 pm on FS1, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox (2)

    4:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Phoenix at Lynx

    7 pm on FSN PLUS/NBATV, 106.1-FM

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Toronto

    6:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Lynx at San Antonio

    7 pm on 106.1-FM

  • Saints at Fargo-Moorhead

    7 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Toronto

    12:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6 pm

  • Saints at Fargo-Moorhead

    6 pm

  • Loons at Chicago

    7:30 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

Today's Scoreboard

  • Toronto

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

    3

    4

  • LA Dodgers

    Detroit

     

    - F

    3

    0

  • St. Louis

    Pittsburgh

     

    - F

    4

    6

  • Seattle

    Tampa Bay

     

    - F

    7

    6

  • LA Angels

    Baltimore

     

    - F

    5

    1

  • Cincinnati

    Atlanta

     

    - F

    11

    8

  • NY Yankees

    Boston

     

    - F

    4

    3

  • Oakland

    Houston

     

    - F

    0

    3

  • Arizona

    Minnesota

     

    - F

    0

    5

  • Miami

    NY Mets

     

    - F

    1

    8

  • Cleveland

    Kansas City

     

    - F

    5

    0

  • Chicago White Sox

    Texas

     

    - F

    7

    17

  • Milwaukee

    Colorado

     

    - F

    6

    3

  • Washington

    San Diego

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Philadelphia

    San Francisco

     

    - F

    12

    9

  • Carolina

    Tennessee

     

    - F

    27

    34

  • Indianapolis

    Dallas

     

    - F

    19

    24

  • Kansas City

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    30

    12

  • Green Bay

    Washington

     

    - F

    21

    17

  • NY Jets

    Detroit

     

    - F

    6

    16

  • New England

    Houston

     

    - F

    23

    27

  • Chicago

    Arizona

     

    - F

    24

    23

  • Los Angeles

    Oakland

     

    - F

    24

    21

  • Denver

    San Francisco

     

    - F

    33

    14

No NBA games today

No NHL games today

  • Real Salt Lake

    Montreal

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Columbus

    Orlando City SC

     

    - F

    1

    1

  • Toronto FC

    Chicago

     

    - F

    3

    1

  • FC Dallas

    Sporting Kansas City

     

    - F

    0

    2

  • D.C.

    Colorado

     

    - F

    1

    0

  • Houston

    Vancouver

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Philadelphia

    San Jose

     

    - F

    2

    2