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.

 

RUSSO’S SHORT TAKES
 
The lowest of Lowe

Oilers President Kevin Lowe’s news conference in Edmonton to announce Craig MacTavish’s promotion to general manager and Steve Tambellini’s firing could have been the biggest PR disaster in Alberta’s capital since the trade of Wayne Gretzky.

In one of the most ill-advised statements ever uttered by team management, Lowe, while getting heavily questioned by Edmonton Journal columnist John MacKinnon, fired back, “We have two types of fans: We have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about. But certainly the people that go to the games and support, we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message.”

Essentially, Lowe said if you don’t come to games, you don’t matter. Fans flipped, forcing him to put up an awkward video apology two days later.

“If I offended anyone, I apologize,” Lowe said from behind his desk.

He also said at the presser that “I think it’s safe to say half the general managers in the National Hockey League would trade their roster for our roster right now.”

Bizarre statement when you just fired the GM that allegedly put that underperforming roster together.

Ruff: ‘It’s a lonely feeling’

One of the biggest free agents this summer could be former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. Every team with a vacancy will look at him. He will coach Canada at the World Championships.
 
“There’s days you feel lost,” Ruff said of not coaching since being fired. “It’s a lonely feeling.”

Holding out for 2015 Winter Classic

Much has been made that the Wild isn’t scheduled to host any of the five additional outdoor games the league plans to put on next season. This actually is a good thing.

The Wild wants the 2015 Winter Classic — the actual Winter Classic — and this could be an indicator that it has a good chance.
 
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
 
Sunday: vs. Calgary, 5 p.m. (FSN)
Tuesday: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Friday: vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m. (FSN+)
Saturday: at Colorado, 6:30 p.m. (FSN)

Player to watch:
Jeff Carter, Los Angeles

Strange season for the Los Angeles Kings sniper. Ranks fourth in the NHL and first in the West with 24 goals but is tied for 384th in the NHL with five assists.

VOICES

« We didn’t deserve anything today. Not even a power play. »
— Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom after a 6-1 loss at San Jose on Thursday when the Wild didn’t earn a power play.
 

 

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