Russo's NHL insider: A final reader Q&A

  • Updated: April 20, 2013 - 4:48 PM

As this catch-your-breath, shortened season heads into its last week, here is the final Russo’s Rants/Facebook Wild Q&A:

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The Wild’s Jason Zucker, left, San Jose’s Adam Burish and Matt Cullen battled for the puck. Cullen’s return — one of the questions below — for next season is uncertain.

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Reid Peterson: Which teams do you feel would be the best/worst matchups for the Wild if it makes the playoffs?

A: The Wild is 0-6 since March 30 against San Jose, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago, being outscored 20-4. The common denominator with the first three teams is size. They’re all much bigger than the Wild; the Blackhawks come at you in waves. As for the best, Anaheim is showing signs of cracking lately and the Wild outplayed the Ducks in the final two meetings. The Wild matches up with Vancouver quite well. The Wild could beat Detroit, Columbus or Dallas.

Dan Shrader: Will we see upgrades in the 4-7 D in the offseason?

A: It will be interesting to see the decision-making. Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Clayton Stoner, Tom Gilbert and Nate Prosser are under contract. Jared Spurgeon is a restricted free agent who will get a raise. Justin Falk is also restricted. And Marco Scandella should make the team because he would require waivers to get to AHL Iowa. He has had an injury-filled, inconsistent season and the hope is he gets his game in order for a possible playoff callup. To upgrade, though, there would need to be trades.

John Hedges: When will Coyle be allowed to change his number from 63 to 3?

A: Next season, although Coyle said the other day he is considering keeping 63.

James Hammond: Is Matt Dumba going to play for the Wild next season?

A: Depends entirely on his training camp and how many defensemen are in his way. At 19, since he wouldn’t be allowed to play in Iowa, he would have to really show the brass he warrants a spot.

Jimmyreber: Other than the obvious, who makes the playoff roster?

A: Everybody. The Wild can also have up to three Houston players at a time and interchange them at will. Once Houston is eliminated, everybody can come up.

Duluthfan: How important is it for Minnesota to re-sign Matt Cullen?

A: He is invaluable on and off the ice, and that was proven during his six missed games with a recent injury. The problem is he turns 37 in November. This could be his last contract. If he wants another three-year deal and a raise on his annual $3.5 million, the Wild may have no choice but to let him look elsewhere.

dmp0702: Does Dany Heatley’s injury status affect whether the Wild can use an amnesty buyout?

A: Very unclear right now. You cannot buy out an injured player, so if the Wild wants to go this route and buy out his remaining $5 million salary for two-thirds and rid itself of next year’s $7.5 million cap hit, Heatley would technically need to be medically cleared to play. This will be a big issue this offseason. With the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, if you do the math, buying out Heatley makes sense.

wildfan2130: Will the Wild extend Jason Pominville’s contract this summer?

A: First priority will be to talk to Cullen and free agent Niklas Backstrom. With the uncertainty surrounding Josh Harding’s multiple sclerosis and the fact Darcy Kuemper is inexperienced, the Wild will need a No. 1. There are slim pickings beyond Backstrom on the open market. Next, it will have to see how much it can re-sign Spurgeon and/or Cullen for. Then, it will have to see what happens with Heatley’s contract situation. Then, it will have to look at free agency. After the Wild figures out all of that, it will sit down with Pominville probably later in the summer to see what it would take to extend his contract before his unrestricted year.

Joelbert: Of the pending restricted free agents, who might not be back?

A: I could see the Wild shopping Cal Clutterbuck this summer.

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