Latendresse future up in air

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2012 - 11:58 PM

The health of Pierre-Marc Bouchard is another issue the Wild will have to monitor.

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Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom watched the puck zip by him into the net as Phoenix's Radim Vrbata scored in the third period Saturday as the Coyotes topped the Wild 4-1.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Two of the biggest offseason question marks for the Wild will be the futures of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse.

Bouchard's future is relatively cut and dried; Latendresse's not so much.

Bouchard has one more year left on his contract at $4.3 million, which means he'll be back. He missed 45 games (43 with a concussion, two on suspension), including the final 41. He's still having symptoms such as fatigue, but he skated lightly in a tracksuit the last few days.

"I'm confident I'll be playing next season," Bouchard said. "I'm staying positive. The good thing is I'm seeing progress. I don't think I'm far from doing slight exercise."

As for Latendresse, his two-year, $5 million contract will expire July 1. He missed 66 games (65 with a concussion) and played 27 games during the past two years ($185,185 per game). His loss the past two seasons was devastating.

Latendresse can become a restricted free agent if the Wild tenders him a $2.5 million qualifying offer in June. That seems unlikely. The two likeliest options? 1) Walk away by not tendering him a qualifying offer, thus making him an unrestricted free agent; 2) Negotiate a one-year deal at a lower salary in June.

"I've met with Gui, and what I told him is, 'Let's get you healthy first, and then we'll sit down and have a candid discussion to see where you're at mentally and where you're at physically and what are your expectations going forward,' " General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "He was a pretty good hockey player for us three seasons ago and he is still a young man.

"I am open-minded and am not ruling out anything at this point in time."

Another debut

With Nate Prosser suspended and Clayton Stoner out with a broken rib, former University of North Dakota Chay Genoway made his NHL debut in Saturday's season-ending 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, who won the Pacific Division. Genoway assisted on Dany Heatley's 24th goal.

"Just a bonus. I gave the puck to the right guy [Mikko Koivu]," Genoway said. "It was a bit of a quick trip. It was really exciting."

Defenseman Kris Fredheim also played his third NHL game.

With the loss, the Wild finished with the seventh-worst record, giving it a 4.7 percent chance of winning Tuesday's draft lottery. If it wins, the Wild would get the third pick in the draft as opposed to the seventh.

"We have to face it: We're not where we want to be, and that has to change," Koivu said. "I think everybody knows that it's been too long that we finished a season like this. Being part of teams that are done at this part of the year, it's just been too long."

Stoner's future

Stoner has been prone to injury throughout his pro career, but the Wild is interested in re-signing the physical defenseman.

"We would love to see him in the lineup, and durability is important when you're trying to make those decisions, but this is a character guy," coach Mike Yeo said. "This is a guy that plays for his teammates and is effective when he's on the ice. We'd like to get more games from him, but he's a valuable piece."

Etc.

• Goalie Niklas Backstrom won't take part in the world championships in his native Finland. He will have right ankle surgery next week. He was initially hurt in December.

• Now that the University of Minnesota's season is over, Fletcher plans to sit down with prospect Erik Haula and Gophers coach Don Lucia in the near future to discuss the sophomore's future. Haula led the Gophers with 49 points in 43 games.

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