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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Thoughts on Mike Rupp trade, what this means for Matt Kassian

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild news, Wild pregame skate, Wild trade news Updated: February 4, 2013 - 2:48 PM
As you know by now, the Wild traded Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri to the New York Rangers for rugged 33-year-old veteran forward Mike Rupp this afternoon.
 
Rupp will meet the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday and practice for the first time Wednesday. He will likely make his Wild debut Thursday against Vancouver wearing No. 27.
 
 
The common theme the last few days around the Wild has been size and specifically the Wild’s lack of it up front. The Wild’s board play has been poor, especially in Friday’s 3-1 loss at Anaheim.
 
So yesterday, the Wild recalled Charlie Coyle to make his NHL debut tonight at Phoenix. Today, it acquires a 6-foot-5, 230-pound versatile forward that will make the bottom-six tougher. He’s also another character guy that’s known as a great teammate.
 
He won a Stanley Cup in 2003 with New Jersey, scoring the Cup-clinching goal against Chuck Fletcher’s Ducks.
 
“I have pretty bad memories of Mike Rupp,” Fletcher cracked. “He wasn’t my favorite player or anybody in Anaheim at that point.”
 
Coach Mike Yeo also coached him in Pittsburgh.
 
“He’s a big guy, he’s won a Stanley Cup and brings a lot of size, experience and grit to our team," Fletcher said. "He’ll bring a presence to our lineup and complement [our skilled players].”
 
Asked if he recognized a size deficiency with the Wild and is trying to rectify that, Fletcher notes that guys like Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk are big, that Zach Parise, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck and Zenon Konopka play big, but he said, “When you go on the road, having size is important, the perception of size is important.”
 
He feels Rupp will be able to contribute in multiple ways. He’s also a media darling.
 
Powe was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers two summers ago and immediately signed to a three-year deal. Fletcher called him a high character player who brought speed and energy to the lineup. He thanked Powe, who was well-liked in the Wild room. He finished second among NHL forwards last year with 91 blocked shots.
 
Still, he was playing a fourth-line role this year, limited minutes, was expendable and frankly his game is limited. As coach Mike Yeo said this morning before the trade, his game hasn’t been sharp this year.
 
Palmieri, to me, is just a non-factor. He held out last summer. He refused to report to Houston initially after being cut from camp. As I wrote a few weeks ago, he was on the outs and had no future in Minnesota. It was just a matter of time before the Wild moved him.
 
In terms of cap hits, Powe had another year left at $1.067 million. Rupp has another year at $1.5 million.
 
Trading 2 for 1 also frees up a contract. The Wild was at the max 50. Now it’s at 49.
 
I haven’t talk with Rupp yet. Powe was on the phone making arrangements when I saw him in the lobby an hour ago.
 
As for Matt Kassian, his future may also be elsewhere at this point. He’s being scratched in his ninth consecutive game tonight. At some point, the Wild either needs to move him or put him on waivers to give him a chance at being claimed elsewhere. He deserves it. He’s a good soldier, a great character guy, etc.
 
But if you need to get grittier on the wall and the Wild’s calling up players and making trades rather than putting Kassian in, it’s clear the writing’s on the wall and the end of his line in Minnesota could be on the horizon.
 
“I’ll sit down with the coaches and see what makes sense,” Fletcher said. “I have to talk to Matt and his representation and see what the coaches think and do what’s right for the team and for Matt going forward.”
 
Asked if he’s got anything else in the works, Fletcher said, “We were looking for some size and this deal presented itself and we jumped on it. We’ll see how players respond. We need a little bit more production from some of our guys. If we want to be a competitive team this year, we’re going to need some diversified scoring, some secondary scoring, so we’ll keep looking for that.”
 
This is all about getting the attention of the team, too.
 
Yeo wants to see how Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund plays on the fourth line tonight with Zenon Konopka, who joked that those two “won the lottery.”
 
“This is kind of a message [to Setoguchi and Granlund] and let’s see how they react,” Yeo said. “We want to see them have a good night.”
 
Yeo said Charlie Coyle coming up without an injury and getting second-line duty should be a message to the team, too.
 
“I haven’t gone in and made a big deal talking about it in front of the group,” Yeo said. “But certainly you would want to read between the lines. We’re committed to winning hockey games and putting the best product on the ice. We’ll do whatever we have to.”

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