Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Matt Kassian agrees to terms; Wild on Justin Schultz's short list?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 28, 2012 - 7:49 PM

Matt Kassian, a member of the Wild organization since he was drafted in the second round in 2005, will not become an unrestricted free agent Sunday.

While he hasn't signed yet, Kassian has agreed to terms on the first one-way contract of his career. It's a two-year pact worth $550,000 the first year, $600,000 the second year.

That gives the left-wing enforcer an inside shot at making the team because most teams usually loathe paying guys NHL salaries in the minors. Plus, he'd be a candidate to being claimed off waivers if he doesn't make the team, so Kassian's in a good position to spend next season in the NHL.

Kassian, 25, scored two goals and had 55 penalty minutes in 24 games last season. He led the team with seven fighting majors.

Here is the fun feature I wrote on Kassian in December

Here is Kassian's web site with some fun blogs from the recent Wild Road Tour

Kassian is the second unrestricted free agent to re-sign. Stephane Veilleux signed a two-way deal Sunday.

The Wild wants to get tougher next season, and it wouldn't surprise me if they inquire about a few other gritty free agents starting Sunday.

Guillaume Latendresse, Nick Johnson, Erik Christensen, Kurtis Foster, Mike Lundin, Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters, Jeff Taffe, Jon DiSalvatore and Jeff Penner are so far set to become free agents. Of those guys, the only ones I can see the Wild going back to next month would be Ortmeyer, Peters and DiSalvatore, but remember, with so many prospects turning pro, a lot of them will be in Houston and you can only have 50 pro contracts.

In other news, as I've reported, the Wild expressed strong interest in University of Wisconsin free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz, who has refused to sign with Anaheim, the team that drafted him in 2008. TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted that he's hearing the Wild's on Schultz's short list of six (Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Rangers and Ottawa).

I haven't been told this. The only thing I know is the Wild hasn't been told like other teams they're out of it.

While other teams are reportedly in Toronto waiting to meet face-to-face with Schultz, as of now, that is not the case for the Wild. GM Chuck Fletcher remains in Hilton Head at the AHL Meetings and his plan is to fly back to Minnesota tomorrow.

So still, don't get your hopes up ... yet for the 22-year-old highly-coveted blue-liner. More than two-dozen teams expressed interest in Schultz. I still think Schultz signs north of the border and with a team that promises him a spot next season. Fletcher has always told me in the past he would never promise a prospect a spot on the team, so we'll see what happens.

Remember, I will have a live online chat on startribune.com Friday at noon. Please join in. This is your chance to ask free-agent, offseason-based questions. I've gotten a bunch on Twitter the past few days. You can always follow me there, too, at www.twitter.com/russostrib.


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