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Continued: Hartman: Granlund would look better if Wild could sign Parise

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 24, 2012 - 10:55 PM

The headline on the front page of Thursday's Star Tribune sports page read: "Finnish star starts a new Wild era."

Mikael Granlund, a 20-year-old star in Finland, hasn't played a single game in the NHL and already he is being built up as another Wayne Gretzky, or Ricky Rubio on skates.

Is there any doubt that the competition while playing with an elite Finnish team against other European teams is a lot different than facing proven NHL stars?

Still, history is on the Wild's side, since the only other first-round picks they have drafted from Europe before Granlund were Marian Gaborik and Mikko Koivu, taken in 2000 and 2001, the first two drafts in franchise history. They selected another European in the first round of the 2011 draft with Jonas Brodin.

But I think the Wild's Craig Leipold, a true hockey nut and a good owner, certainly understands that there's a difference between an unproven rookie and the kind of veteran presence this squad needs to make the playoffs next year.

That's why I'm sure he would provide the funds to really get the Wild fans excited by signing New Jersey Devils star and Shattuck-St. Mary's product Zach Parise.

Lou Nanne, whom I describe as Mr. Hockey in this state, has been a close friend of J.P. Parise (Zach's father and a former Minnesota North Star) for a long, long time, and he has been a confidant of young Parise since the young man hung around local NHL teams.

Nanne is convinced that the Wild would have a good chance of signing Parise if New Jersey is fortunate enough to win the Stanley Cup -- they have a 3-2 lead on the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.

Parise has been great for New Jersey in the playoffs, with 14 points in 17 games on seven goals and seven assists.

"If Jersey does win, it could really benefit the Wild because Zach Parise is a free agent and he wants to win a Cup," Nanne said. "It might be tough for him to come here right away, but if he wins a Cup in New Jersey, then that goal has already been met and then it might be really reasonable for him to come to the Wild as a free agent."

Nanne said Parise hasn't ruled out signing with anyone.

"I've talked to [Rangers General Manager] Glen Sather about that at the [trade] deadline when Glen was talking about dealing with Columbus for Rick Nash," Nanne said. "I said, 'All you have to do is sit and wait because if Parise doesn't win a Stanley Cup, he likes playing in New York and you have the budget and he could play for the Rangers. You got the [cap] room to go," Nanne said. "He enjoys playing in New Jersey, there's no doubt about that, but his one goal is to win the Stanley Cup and once he wins that, then I think he'd like to play back in Minnesota.

"He just bought a home in Minnetonka, his girlfriend is from North Dakota, and he's a Midwestern boy. J.P. and [his mother] Donna still live here.

"I would think once he reaches that goal, I'm certain he would like to finish his career with the Wild, or I would think he would, and that would be a big benefit to the Wild and to the Wild hockey fans."

If the Wild wants to regain its fan base and sell out Xcel Energy Center like it did before the team got rid of all of its stars, it needs to add a player like Parise. I don't believe Granlund will sell any tickets.

Gophers recruiting

For all of May, seven Gophers football coaches have been on the road checking on players who will be signing in April 2013, and with only 13 scholarships available for the '13 class, they have to make sure the players they recruit can make it in the Big Ten.

"We've been able to get several coaches in spots where they're having spring scrimmages," coach Jerry Kill said. "There's a lot of teams in the South that will play jamborees where they'll have seven or eight teams playing at one time in one area. So you know you get a chance for live evaluations and those kinds of things and then running around our state and the Midwest watching track meets and trying to get as many live evaluations as we can."

The Minnesota State High School League allows hockey and basketball preps to play almost all year. But spring football is outlawed here.

"For whatever reason, even I grew up in the state of Kansas, and we didn't have spring ball in the state of Kansas," Kill said. "It just seems like in the southern states it's been traditional for years and years and years to play spring football, and for whatever reason in the Midwest and the northern part of our country, there just hasn't been the philosophy of spring practice."

Kill also said basketball coaches are doing a much better job of getting players extra chances to practice than football coaches.

Jottings

• Maybe one can credit Flip Saunders for the great playoff run that Kevin Garnett has enjoyed with the Celtics, who face the 76ers on Saturday in the seventh and deciding game in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Garnett is averaging 19.7 points per game -- his highest playoff average since the '07-08 season, his first with Boston. Saunders has had a great relationship with Garnett even after they both left the Wolves. Saunders has been with the Celtics as an adviser since the playoffs started. There are rumors that Saunders and Celtics coach Doc Rivers are such close friends that if Saunders doesn't land a head coaching job he might wind up on the Celtics staff next year.

• Whether three local teams thrive next season will depend on how three local stars recover from knee operations: Trevor Mbakwe of the Gophers basketball team, Rubio of the Timberwolves and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. I can't recall this situation existing ever before.

• Early in the Vikings workouts that are going on now, it looked like the club might have another Harvard product on the team to follow the long tenure of Crimson alum Matt Birk. But Kevin Murphy, a 6-7, 295-pound tackle from Harvard, failed to pass the physical.

• Goaltender Matt LaPrade of the AAA Colorado Rampage has committed to the Gophers men's hockey team for 2012-13. During the 2010-11 season, LaPrade went 7-10-4 with three shutouts in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League. LaPrade, from Chanhassen, played for Holy Family.

• Gophers baseball coach John Anderson is excited about the 2013 Big Ten baseball championships being held at Target Field. Anderson credits Twins President Dave St. Peter and his staff for doing a fantastic job selling the Big Ten office on holding the tournament here.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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