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Continued: Wild Insider: Don't count on major shakeup at the top

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 11, 2013 - 12:20 AM

Phoenix’s Mike Smith is the lone legit No. 1 goalie set to become a free agent, but he expects a large payday. Roberto Luongo might be bought out by Vancouver, but it’s hard to imagine the Wild would be interested in a goalie who has struggled so mightily at Xcel Energy Center (3.56 GAA, .873 save percentage) that he hasn’t played there since October 2010.

In the trade market, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has one year left on a deal that pays him $6.25 million. That could be too expensive. St. Louis might look to move either Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott, while Anaheim might look to trade Jonas Hiller or Viktor Fasth. There’s also Jonathan Bernier, the Los Angeles Kings backup who has eternally been considered another team’s future No. 1.

One of the best moves by the old Doug Risebrough-Tom Lynn-Tommy Thompson regime was landing Backstrom. In 2006, he was the first European free-agent signee.

Perhaps the Wild would consider that route again. There’s a 23-year-old named Antti Raanta who had a season for the ages in Finland. He backstopped his team, Assat Port, to the SM-liiga title with a 1.45 goals against average and .955 save percentage, which was good for the Jari Kurri Trophy — Finland’s equivalent to the Conn Smythe.

Maybe Raanta is the next Backstrom … or maybe he’s the next Dennis Endras.

Needed: goal scorers

From there, the Wild has to decide whether to re-sign veterans Matt Cullen or Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Bouchard, a 2002 first-round pick, likely played his last game with Minnesota, finishing with the second-most games in franchise history (565) and third-most points (347).

Cullen, 36, would love to come back, but at his age, it will depend solely on money and years.

“For sure, I know that could have been my last game as a Wild player,” Cullen said.

The Wild needs to get bigger and faster. It needs to improve offensively. The question is whether Fletcher will have the cap space to accomplish it.

Teams get two compliance buyouts over the next two offseasons. The Wild might try to use one on Dany Heatley. That would free $7.5 million in cap space. But he had season-ending shoulder surgery and teams can’t buy out injured players.

So that could be an issue. Fletcher might also dive into the trade market. That could include shopping players such as Devin Setoguchi, Cal Clutterbuck, Tom Gilbert, Zenon Konopka and seldom-used Nate Prosser.

There are no easy answers, especially until cap space is freed. The reality is goals still don’t come easy to the Wild, and the Wild is going nowhere until that changes.

“We’ll never stop trying to improve our team from a personnel standpoint,” Yeo said after Thursday’s loss. “You always try to address your weaknesses. But we did improve [offensively]. We have to get better, there’s no question.”







 

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  • Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher (left), Wild coach Mike Yeo

  • After starting 41 of 48 games in the Wild’s abbreviated, accelerated regular season, goalie Niklas Backstrom couldn’t play in the playoffs because of an injury, and the 35-year-old will be a free agent this summer.

  • Matt Cullen would love to return to the Wild, but the 36-year-old native Minnesotan acknowledged he might be playing elsewhere in 2013-14.

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St. Louis - WP: L. Lynn 4 FINAL
Washington - LP: J. Zimmermann 3
Toronto - WP: M. Buehrle 5 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 0
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 2 FINAL
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 5
Baltimore - LP: B. Norris 2 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 4
Minnesota - LP: K. Correia 4 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: B. Chen 5
Cincinnati - LP: T. Cingrani 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: E. Jackson 8
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 3 FINAL
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 4
Milwaukee - WP: J. Henderson 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Grilli 7
Atlanta - WP: E. Santana 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 5
NY Yankees - LP: I. Nova 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 16
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 0 FINAL
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 7
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Quintana 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 6
Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 3
Arizona - LP: M. Bolsinger 6 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: D. Haren 8
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: E. Stults 3
Brooklyn 94 FINAL
Toronto 87
Golden State 109 FINAL
LA Clippers 105
Atlanta 101 FINAL
Indiana 93
Memphis 67 4th Qtr 10:07
Oklahoma City 72
Chicago 3 FINAL(OT)
St. Louis 4
Columbus 4 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 3
Minnesota 1 3rd Prd 16:05
Colorado 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 1 FINAL
Chicago 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Colorado 0
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Columbus 1
Toronto FC 1 FINAL
FC Dallas 2
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Sporting Kansas City 4
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Real Salt Lake 1
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