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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No Parise, Suter decisions tonight; Wild signs Torry Mitchell, Zenon Konopka

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news, Wild player moves Updated: July 1, 2012 - 5:06 PM


The Wild, entrenched in its pursuit against many others for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, was aggressive right off the bat, loading up with speed and power on the third and fourth lines by signing Ottawa Senators center Zenon Konopka to a two-year deal worth $925,000 per and San Jose Sharks center/right wing Torrey Mitchell to a three-year deal worth $1.9 million per.

As for Parise, he called off all in-person pitches and only talked to teams by phone, I'm told.  I don't know what to make of that, but according to Pierre McGuire on TSN, Pittsburgh is the frontrunner, which wouldn't be a shock. And McGuire is bigtime buddies with Pens GM Ray Shero.

I am told a decision will come tomorrow. Parise will think about things tonight and they'll reconvene tomorrow for the decision.

"He has narrowed the list of teams to a small select group," said agent Wade Arnott.

There is no doubt the Wild has offered astronomical contracts for both. But so did half the league, with Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia and Carolina making runs at both Parise and Suter. Crosby was part of Pittsburgh's recruiting.

As for Suter, agent Neil Sheehy's phone blew up and he called each team methodically one by one. Suter did not meet with teams today. Sheehy emailed me and said there's no truth to the rumor he's decided on Detroit and they have a lot to consider.

Decision won't be tonight.

So stay tuned.

Coach Mike Yeo badly wants to get tougher and faster. Signing Konopka and Mitchell does that at least.

Konopka, 31, was tied for fourth last year with 18 fights, has 92 in his career and is a great faceoff guy (career .588). This regime has long liked him. He has 27 points in 250 career games.

He said he takes a lot of pride in faceoffs and compounding that into penalty killing, which is his MO. You don't get too many fighters in the NHL that can play a regular shift.

But toughness is his bread and butter.

"Koivu is a superstar that maybe doesn’t get enough respect around the league and he should," Konopka said. "Heatley is a world-class player and we have to make sure those guys are taken care of and they feel very comfortable and nice. If they want to sit down at center ice and read the paper, they should be able to do that without anyone touching them."

Koivu does love reading the paper!

Mitchell, 27, is fast and hounds the puck, Dany Heatley says.

"First thing is his speed," Heatley said from his home in Kelowna. "He's one of the top guys in the league, that’s how fast he is. Real good team guy, a guy that’s going to kill penalties for us, hound the puck. He’s real tough to play against because of his speed and his tenacity. He’s got some ability to produce a little bit offensively if he’s in the right spot. He put up real good numbers in college [Vermont]."

Yes, Mitchell is the player who hit Kurtis Foster from behind on the ice four years ago resulting in a broken femur.

"Not a good situation to be involved in," Mitchell said. "I'm glad he's recovered and the little trauma I had from it, I’m recovered. It was tough. It was my rookie year and I’m a pretty honest player and to get tangled up in that situation was not something I wanted to be a part of. It was difficult. We have a good relationship now."

Mitchell had 19 points in 76 games last year and has 73 points in 280 games. He is buddies with Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley. He lived with Setoguchi for three years when they played for the Sharks, but they won't live together here because that'd be "awkward." Mitchell is getting married in two weeks.

Mitchell also broke his leg three years ago ironically, missed all of 2008-09 and has played wing since. He says he's super pumped.

Heatley, by the way, said his knee feels great and has gotten into a good workout routine.

I still have not talked to the Wild, but I will say this, as I mentioned on the previous blog, there's only so much cap space and so many bodies. Signing two NHLers for your third and fourth line now could mean trading some guys later this summer. It also means the Wild is clearly not going to push their kids right onto the team.

So far, Guillaume Latendresse got a one-year deal worth $1.2 million and bonuses in Ottawa. Mike Lundin signed for one year worth $1.15 million in Ottawa, too.


Konopka, 31 (1/2/81), tallied five points (3-2=5) and ranked third in the NHL with 193 penalty minutes (PIM) for the Ottawa Senators in 2011-12. He also won 58.9% of his faceoffs (232 of 394), ranking fifth in the NHL amongst players with 250 or more faceoffs. Konopka added two assists in six playoff games with the Senators. Since 2009-10, he ranks first in the NHL in PIM (765) and fourth in faceoff percentage (59.0%). The 6-foot, 209-pound native of Niagara on the Lake, Ont., skated in all 82 games with the New York Islanders in 2010-11 and led the NHL with 307 PIM and won 620 of 1075 faceoffs taken (57.7%). Konopka also led the NHL with 265 PIM in 2009-10. He has skated in 250 career NHL games with Anaheim, Columbus, Tampa Bay, the Islanders and Ottawa, totaling 27 points (11-16=27), 877 PIM and has won 58.8% of faceoffs. Konopka was a member of the Ottawa 67’s Memorial Cup-winning team in 1999.

Mitchell, 27 (1/30/85), notched 19 points (9-10=19) in 76 games with the San Jose Sharks in the 2011-12 campaign and added one assist in five playoff contests. He has skated in 280 NHL games in four seasons with the Sharks, totaling 73 points (30-43=73) and 152 PIM. Mitchell has seen action in 55 playoff games with San Jose, accruing 11 points (2-9=11) over five post-seasons. He recorded 105 points (35-70=105) and 154 PIM in 115 contests during three seasons at the University of Vermont (2004-07) and served as co-captain in his junior campaign. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Greenfield Park, Que., was San Jose’s fourth-round pick (No. 126 overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.


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