Inundated with questions early, I'm offering my first NHL Insider Q&A based on questions off the blog and Facebook.
Jtrulland: Will any of the Wild unrestricted free agents be re-signed during the current season?
A: My guess, no. At some point, spots need to open for prospects Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Johan Larsson, and Matt Cullen's and Pierre-Marc Bouchard's departures would pave that way. With Niklas Backstrom, who turns 35 this month, it depends on performance, price and Josh Harding's play this season.
cs5010: What happens when Jared Spurgeon comes back? Tom Gilbert/Clayton Stoner seems to be clicking.
A: With Jonas Brodin playing so well with Ryan Suter and, as you stated, Gilbert and Stoner showing great chemistry, Spurgeon could be on the third pair initially. The question is who comes out: Justin Falk or Marco Scandella, who could be sent to the minors.
Arick: Does the Wild try to re-sign Pierre-Marc Bouchard?
A: My gut says this is the end of the line for Bouchard. It's hard to believe the Wild can commit another contract after so many concussion problems. Also, it's becoming clear that the Wild must get bigger up front and Bouchard's contract expiring allows an opportunity.
Indy_frank123: Any thoughts about the Wild trading anyone on the present team?
A : Devin Setoguchi is on the trading block. He arrived in great shape, is much more physical but hasn't scored. Still, it's not easy trading a player coming off a career low in goals who makes $3.25 million next year.
Laknee: Would it be better for Mikael Granlund to grind it out and hope for the best or go back to the Aeros for further development?
A: Granlund will be a good player. The skill and smarts are obvious. My concern is he has been overmatched physically and has been a liability defensively in a season when you can't afford it. And, he needs some pine tar on his stick or something. The Wild wants to show patience in allowing him to adjust, but at some point the team may need to consider Houston.
Chicagowild: Do you think Scandella makes the next step to be a consistent top-four defenseman at the NHL level?
A: The Wild wants to know that answer, too. It will be watching him closely because if it's not to be, the key is trading him while he's got value.
dunco442: Gilbert is cruising at a point a game and been solid defensively. What do you see as the reason?
A: Comfort. He came to the Wild last year in the middle of a swoon and after playing in one organization his entire career. He knows the system now, has gotten used to playing at home and looks ready to take on big minutes.
Biddco: Why does the AHL have an age cap of 20? Could Matt Dumba benefit from playing there if he was eligible?
A: Actually, it's a rule with the Canadian Hockey League to keep NHL teams from poaching juniors. It doesn't exist for players coming from Europe, which is why Brodin could play in Houston at age 19. Dumba developing under Brent Sutter in Red Deer is a good thing.
Morimoto: Zucker, Coyle, Larsson ... who will be the best NHLer?
A: My gut says Coyle. He's got the size to become a prototypical power forward. Zucker may be the most exciting to watch with his speed, skill and work ethic, while Larsson may be the most polished. He is very complete.
Latvia2006: If they aren't going to play Matt Kassian, why don't they trade him or put him on waivers?
A: It would be fair to him, so my guess is he will eventually be traded if he keeps sitting.
RUSSO'S SHORT TAKES
Newport Sports, the agency that represents more than 100 NHLers including the Wild's Zach Parise and Cal Clutterbuck, brought virtually the entire staff to St. Louis for last Sunday's Wild-Blues game.
Don Meehan, the head of the agency, said he and fellow agents Pat Morris, Wade Arnott, Mark Guy, Rand Simon and others were there because it was a chance to watch several clients play in one game.
But you can bet the group was also meeting with GM Doug Armstrong about on-the-rise defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who is a restricted free agent.
Speaking of the Blues, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz are thriving there.
Coach Ken Hitchcock has a reputation of not showing much faith in kids, something he says is "hogwash."
"It's like someone writes a story and it grows legs," Hitchcock said. "I'm past the point of even caring. Tarasenko and Schwartz, they're throwbacks, low maintenance, very respectful, high character, quality kids.
"They respect the veteran players, they respect the history of the franchise and game. There's absolutely zero sense of entitlement. They want to go out and learn every day."
There's scuttlebutt Phil Kessel, who has no goals this year, is on the block. First, Brian Burke, who acquired the former Gopher from the Bruins, is no longer the Toronto GM. Second, Kessel can become a free agent in July 2014.
WILD'S WEEK AHEAD
Monday: at Phoenix, 8 p.m. (FSN)
Thursday: vs. Vancouver, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Saturday: vs. Nashville, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch
With everybody waiting for him to get traded, he shut out Colorado on Wednesday. At Xcel, he's usually pulled (3-9-2, 3.56 goals-against average and .873 save percentage).