Madden's plan: Wild or retire

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2011 - 8:55 AM

The veteran center might have to wait, as the Wild pursues the highly sought Stephane Da Costa and looks toward top prospects for next season.

John Madden

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In John Madden's mind, he has two options this summer: re-sign with the Wild or retire after 11 NHL seasons.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion has fallen in love with Minnesota. He plans to live in Edina full-time with his wife, two children and five dogs after his career ends.

"I definitely want to play hockey, I definitely think I can," said Madden, who turns 38 May 4. "But it's a family issue. It's not fair to the family to move them around if I don't come back here. So there's definitely a probability that I might not play again.

"I came here with the goal in mind to help the team make the playoffs and we didn't, so I'd love to get another crack at it."

Unfortunately for Madden, it's not that simple.

Even if the Wild wants to re-sign the checking center, there are a number of things that might limit its ability or at the very least delay a decision until later this offseason.

There are only so many spots available and only so much salary-cap space left, especially since next season the Wild plans to give a few youngsters shots at making the roster.

First, according to multiple sources, the Wild is aggressively pursuing Merrimack sophomore Stephane Da Costa, the leading scorer for the Warriors and the biggest fish of all the college free agents.

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher, along with several Wild scouts, have watched Da Costa closely for two years, and Fletcher attended Merrimack's regional semifinal loss to Notre Dame on Saturday.

Fletcher is scheduled to talk with Da Costa and agent Wade Arnott on Tuesday. Like Casey Wellman before he signed with the Wild out of Massachusetts last year, Da Costa has drawn interest from more than 15 teams. But only a few can offer Da Costa the immediate opportunity the Wild can.

The Wild, Ottawa, Florida and Boston are the front-runners, sources say, with others trying hard.

Also affecting Madden? Wellman and Cody Almond could fight for roster spots next season, while the Wild hopes to sign draft picks Mikael Granlund, who scored three goals and two assists during IFK-Helsinki's first-round victory over Jokerit, and Johan Larsson. The Wild also hopes to sign Mikko Lehtonen, who was acquired from the Bruins for goalie Anton Khudobin and led the Swedish Elite League with 30 goals and was second with 58 points.

The Wild also will be looking for forward help via trade, so for a team that already has $50 million of salary-cap space chewed up next season, Madden could be squeezed out.

If the Wild lands Da Costa and he makes the team, his cap hit alone could reach $3.75 million. That includes a maximum $900,000 salary and $2.85 million in potential bonuses.

Since every serious contender is offering Da Costa the same contract, it becomes a recruiting job. Fletcher has worked hard for two months to convince Da Costa that his best shot to play right away is in Minnesota.

Da Costa, a native of Paris who scored 14 goals and 45 points in 33 games this season, is a smart, skilled, offensive player who is capable of playing center. He can sign a three-year deal that would start next season or have it begin this season so he can play games now (as Wellman did last year).

All this leaves Madden, a former Selke Trophy winner as the league's best defensive forward, in flux.

With his family settled, he is unwilling to be separated from his wife and kids for a year. And he doesn't want to uproot them for a job in another city either.

For instance, his 11-year-old son, Tyler, was part of Edina's Squirt A team that went 41-0.

"He's good," Madden said, laughing. "He really fell in love with his teammates. Hockey here is incredible. I've been in other places where the kids' hockey is competitive, but it's not a good level. Here it is, and I like the whole playing for your town thing and being part of the Edina culture that they have. I don't want to take him from that."

So for Madden's career to continue, is it Minnesota or nothing?

"That's the deal pretty much," he said. "Obviously stranger things have happened, but that's the idea right now for us as a family."

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