Wild will get calls on Burns' availability

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2011 - 1:35 PM

The Wild could be among the teams looking to deal this draft weekend, with Brent Burns sure to draw interest.

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There have been rumors that the Wild could trade defenseman Brent Burns (right) this weekend. Burns is entering the final year of his contract.

Photo: Mark Humphrey, Associated Press

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Whether it was Dustin Byfuglien last year or big names such as Chris Pronger and Roberto Luongo in previous years, the NHL entry draft is often about the size of the splash.

Thursday was more like a tidal wave.

The Philadelphia Flyers got the trade ball rolling by sending 30-goal scorer Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets and captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings on the eve of Friday's entry draft at Xcel Energy Center.

The trades were precursors to the Flyers signing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a reported nine-year, $51.5 million contract, but they were also reminders to NHL players everywhere that they need to keep their heads up and their ringers on when draft day comes around.

Wild defenseman Brent Burns, the subject of many trade rumors, isn't fretting. But you also know he won't keep his cell phone too far from his hip pocket Friday.

"I don't have any reason to be on pins and needles," said Burns, 26, who scored a career-high 17 goals and 46 points and made the All-Star Game for the first time last season. "I've been here a long time, I love it here, I feel comfortable here, but I also feel very comfortable in my game and what I can bring and I know I'm going to get better and better every year.

"I think I made a lot of steps last year and I know I'm going to make a lot more steps next year. Wherever that may be -- I hope it's in Minnesota -- but I know I'm going to be a big part of any team that I'm a part of."

Burns can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. So like captain Mikko Koivu last year, this is the summer the Wild must decide whether to sign Burns long-term or potentially trade him.

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher was expected to talk again with Burns' agent Thursday. Burns can't sign an extension until July 1, but Fletcher needs to know now whether or not Burns' contract demands are something the Wild's willing to entertain.

While Fletcher is under no time constraint to trade Burns, it's also harder to trade a player such as Burns once teams start spending their free-agent dollars July 1. So Burns knows to be on guard Friday.

In the meantime, the Wild owns six picks heading into this weekend's two-day draft, starting with the No. 10 pick Friday. This will be assistant GM Brent Flahr's second in charge of the Wild's draft table -- the first looking like a success with the selections of forwards Mikael Granlund, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker.

The price to move up so far has been significant, so the Wild's expected to take the best forward or defenseman on its draft list at No. 10 or look to move back a few spots if it means adding another first-rounder or a second-round pick it doesn't currently possess.

"I don't want to move back 10 spots because I think it drops off," Flahr said. "But we're prepared to pick or maybe trade up or back if something comes out of the blue. The good thing is what we were hoping for last year, it appears we got.

"We still have a ways to go, but we've added some depth up front, some skill and speed, some character and grit. All four guys either met or exceeded expectations."

As is often the case with draft picks, the Wild has to wait for Granlund, Bulmer, Larsson and Zucker to enter the system. That will require patience from everybody.

"Even on our side, sometimes you want to rush these kids," Flahr said. "But it's not fair. They have to be ready physically and, more than anything, mentally. It's a tough league, it's a grind and it can eat you up."

When one considers the strides prospects Colton Gillies, Marco Scandella, Matt Hackett, Cody Almond, Casey Wellman and others made in Houston last season, there are signs a foundation is being built.

The Wild is using the draft-and-develop model. Fletcher points to the Detroit Red Wings as a model franchise.

"They're very patient with the players they draft," Fletcher said. "Rarely do you see a Red Wings prospect rushed to the NHL.

"If some organization has a player spend one year in the American League, you might see Detroit have that player play two or three years in the American League. Their year-to-year success gives them the luxury to be more patient with prospects. But they understand how to develop them. That's what we want to do."

Building more depth would also give Fletcher more flexibility to swing deals. One reason the Wild would consider trading Burns is because he's the one tradable asset that could land an impact forward and other valuable pieces.

The Wild had been talking to the Flyers about Carter, but Columbus simply had more to trade. The Wild was never in on Richards, again because of the lack of assets.

Some viewing the Wild from afar see Fletcher making strides in developing the youth quotient of the organization.

"You can take any general manager in the Hall of Fame and make him the GM of the Minnesota Wild -- and I'm not slamming Dougie [Risebrough] because he's a good friend -- but rebuilding a team takes time and people need to be patient," Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said.

"You get lucky sometimes where it's quicker than other times. But it's not an easy thing. You can't wave a magic wand. When you're a farmer, there's a lot of work where ... there's no visible signs of anything until you harvest.

"There's a lot of steps that go into it until finally you get a product that you're proud of. It's no different here. There's some hard work that goes into this. The fans aren't going to see the fruits of that labor right away."

  • NHL DRAFT

    6 tonight, 10 a.m. Saturday • Xcel Energy Center

    TV: VS. and NHL Network

    Wild in first round: Pick No. 10

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