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

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

Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo are expected to return, but the team faces other big decisions while dealing with limited cap space.

hide

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

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

With the wound still fresh after a quick, painful exit from the postseason, the Wild’s internal evaluation commenced Friday.

The organization began the process of trying to ascertain how things went so south once the calendar turned to April. And it began looking ahead to pertinent offseason questions.

The biggest seems to have been affirmed.

Indications from inside the organization even less than an hour after the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Wild on Thursday night were that both General Manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo were safe.

Wild officials met Friday, and following that sitdown, the team sent word to the local media that Fletcher and Yeo would together be available for end-of-the-season interviews Saturday.

That’s a sign both will be back.

Fifteen minutes after the Wild was tossed from the playoffs, captain Mikko Koivu, who had no points for a team that scored seven goals in five games, said he didn’t believe Yeo should take the brunt of the blame for the team’s playoff exit.

“This series is about us not scoring goals,” Koivu said. “That’s the difference. That’s not coaching. It’s the players on the ice.”

Fletcher’s offseason to-do list is extensive.

The questions include: Who’s next season’s No. 1 goalie? Can the Wild add proven finishers, bigger bodies and more speed to a lineup with limited salary-cap flexibility? Is there a way to improve the blue line? And which players end up moving on this summer?

“There’s always changes,” Zach Parise said as he stared dejectedly into the floor of the United Center visitors’ locker room Thursday night. “You don’t know. That’s the way this thing works.”

With the salary cap decreasing almost $7 million, the Wild has only $9 million to play with. As much as this season proved yet again that the Wild still lacks natural scorers, Priority No. 1 will be to determine next year’s No. 1 goalie.

Injuries hit Backstrom

Niklas Backstrom’s contract expires June 30. Josh Harding’s unpredictable health situation — he was diagnosed this season with multiple sclerosis — makes it impossible to enter next season assuming he will be No. 1. Similarly, the Wild’s not about to appoint young Darcy Kuemper No. 1.

Backstrom is the Wild’s all-time leader in victories (184), shutouts (28) and games (369) and ranks second with a 2.43 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

The problem is he is 35 and injuries the past few years have hit his groin, hips and one of his ankles. He was unable to play this postseason because of a sports hernia.

Backstrom, who tied for the league lead with 24 victories, struggled down the stretch, although he might have been playing hurt. Sports hernias typically occur over time, not because of one harmless-looking reach in warmups.

With the goalie market foggy, Fletcher plans to talk to Backstrom to see what type of term and money the veteran wants.

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.”







 

  • related content

  • Scoggins: Yeo deserves some blame for Wild's failures, but only some

    Friday May 10, 2013

    Mike Yeo did not have nearly as talented a team as advertised.

  • Chart: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher's offseason to-do list

    Saturday May 11, 2013

    Six things for Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to consider this offseason

  • 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.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
UAB 47 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 71 FINAL
Mercer 77
San Jose St 56 FINAL
Washington 78
Washington St 43 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 71
Baylor 71 FINAL
Memphis 47
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close