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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Fletcher on re-signing Cullen: "Challenging but not impossible;" Wild depth chart

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 24, 2013 - 10:50 PM
 
The Stanley Cup belongs to Chicago for the second time in four years.
 
Training camp starts Sept. 11. The Blackhawks and Bruins better stop slacking and begin preparation.
 
This will be a busy week in the NHL ‘Tis the season for compliance buyouts now.
 
The rules: They can begin Wednesday (48 hours after the Final). They last until 4 p.m. July 4. Every NHL teams gets two if they so wish that can be used in the next two offseasons. If you buy a player out, you can’t sign them again for a year. There is a second buyout window after arbitration that can be used only if any restricted free agent with arb rights takes his team to arbitration or a team takes its RFA to arbitration.
 
Here is the Niklas Backstrom story from Tuesday’s newspaper. In there, you can read Chuck Fletcher’s thoughts on what could be a busy week ahead.
 
Even with what the Wild GM deemed a cap-friendly contract for Backstrom that pays him an average of $3.42 million per season, the Wild only has $2.8 million of cap space to spend this summer barring trades and buyouts. Remember, the Wild and the Philadelphia Flyers are the two teams in the NHL that will actually have smaller cap ceilings than everybody else’s $64.3 million next year.
 
The Wild’s is roughly $63.9 million due to bonuses achieved by Jonas Brodin that put the Wild over the cap this past season.
 
What’s this mean? The only way the Wild will be able to re-sign Matt Cullen is if it clears a significant amount of cap space. Remember, the Wild hasn’t re-signed potential restricted free agents Cal Clutterbuck, Jared Spurgeon and Justin Falk yet.
 
On Cullen, Fletcher said, “I’ve been upfront with Cully and his agent: It’s challenging, but not impossible to bring him back. But there’s work to do to make it happen and he recognizes that. We have a lot of balls in the air right now.”
 
What’s he mean? He’s got lots of calls to GM’s to see if there are mutual fits to make trades.
 
Cullen will be on KFAN with me Tuesday, so please join.
 
The one name I keep hearing is Clutterbuck. I think Clutterbuck may be willing to sign a one-year deal, but he also has value and teams are calling. One team I hear that has gone after him is Edmonton. Tyler Pitlick’s name has come up in those trade talks.
 
Falk is an interesting one. Does the Wild tender him a qualifying offer? Does the Wild trade him? Zenon Konopka’s name has been bandied about. Tom Gilbert is bigtime on the trading block, and if he is not dealt, I just don’t see how the Wild doesn’t buy him out. If the team can’t buy out Dany Heatley because he is injured, an amnesty buyout for Gilbert would free up $4 million in cap space. A buyout would cost two-thirds of $3 million and he would become a free agent if this were to occur.
 
By the way, to answer a question I’m getting a lot, yes, Fletcher will try to trade into the first round, most likely on draft day. He’s got a history of moving up and down in the draft and will attempt to do so again if players are on the board that it wants.
 
The draft is Sunday in Newark at 2 p.m. All seven rounds are on the same day. As of now, the Wild has eight picks: its own second-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks, in addition to two third-round picks (New Jersey’s and San Jose’s) and the Rangers’ seventh.
 
On Tuesday morning from 9-noon on KFAN, I will be filling in for Paul Allen again.
 
Actor/comedian Erik Stolhanske (Super Troopers, Beerfest, Broken Lizard Group) will be sitting in with me for the whole three hours. He’s a buddy, hilarious, huge Twins, Wild and Vikings fan.
 
Joining will be Vikings defensive lineman Jared Allen, Wild winger/maybe-center-if-Cullen-leaves Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Fox Sports North’s Jamie Hersch and maybe a few special guests.
 
Be sure to tune in and call in. Erik and I will be talking calls throughout the 10 o’clock hour.
 
UPDATED WILD DEPTH CHART
 
Forwards
 
Left wing                         Center                          Right wing
 
Zach Parise ($7.5+M)       Mikko Koivu (6.75M)   Jason Pominville (4.505M)
 
*Jason Zucker ($833,333) *Charlie Coyle (975K)   Devin Setoguchi 3M
 
Cal Clutterbuck (RFA)     Kyle Brodziak (2.83+M) Dany Heatley (7.5M)
 
Mike Rupp (1.5M)           Zenon Konopka (925K) Torrey Mitchell (1.9M)
 
Extra: Jake Dowell (700K)
 
Unrestricted free agents: Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Some vying for spots: *Mikael Granlund, Justin Fontaine, Stephane Veilleux
* Two-way contract; can be sent to the minors without waivers.
 
Defensemen
 
Left Defense                     Right Defense
 
Ryan Suter (7.5+M)          Jonas Brodin (1.4+M)
 
Marco Scandella (1.025M) Jared Spurgeon (RFA)
 
Clayton Stoner (1.05M)   Tom Gilbert (4M)
 
Extras: Nate Prosser (825,000) and Justin Falk (RFA)
Vying for spots: Matt Dumba
Unrestricted free agent: Brett Clark
 
Goalies
 
Niklas Backstrom (3.42M)
 
Josh Harding (1.9M)
 
Vying for spot: Darcy Kuemper
 
Buyout charge
 
Mark Parrish ($927,778)
 
Total cap hit roughly: $61,087,502
Wild’s cap ceiling next year is roughly: $63.9M
Available space roughly: $2,812,498 before potentially re-signing Cullen, Clutterbuck and Spurgeon
 
 
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