Wild Insider: Roster changes provide opportunity for younger players

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2013 - 11:21 PM

With the departure of several veterans, now is the time for many of the Wild’s younger players.

hide

It will be a different-looking Wild team next season without players such as, from left, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Cullen was the second-line center, and it will be up to someone like Charlie Coyle or Mikael Granlund to take his place.

Photo: David Zalubowski, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Wild made the playoffs for the first time in five years last season.

Gone from that team are forwards Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck, Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard and defensemen Tom Gilbert and Justin Falk.

If the Wild’s going to avoid taking a step back next season, recently acquired 20-year-old winger Nino Niederreiter and second-year forwards Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund will need to contribute significantly.

“The kids are a huge part of our upside and potential, and with that we have to give them a chance to grow,” coach Mike Yeo said Saturday — one day after the Wild lost Cullen and Bouchard to free agency, traded Setoguchi and signed veterans Matt Cooke and Keith Ballard.

“With that also comes mistakes, and certainly there’s pressure to win and we’re going to be expecting to win, but on top of that, we have to understand that the kids can’t be perfect and we have to have some patience to try to help them next year. It’s our job as coaches to develop them.”

Yeo reminded that the Wild has a solid base of veterans returning, from captain Mikko Koivu to leading scorer Zach Parise to last year’s trade-deadline pickup, Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville, to goal scorer Dany Heatley to, of course, Norris Trophy finalist and first-team All-Star Ryan Suter.

Yeo will be expecting a bounceback year from Kyle Brodziak and vows Wild fans will grow to appreciate all the areas the 34-year-old Cooke can contribute.

Many fans freaked Friday night when General Manager Chuck Fletcher signed Cooke, controversial for his long list of questionable hits, to a three-year, $7.5 million deal.

“I’ve got firsthand knowledge of the person and the teammate and the player he is, so we’re real confident that he’s going to come in and be a great fit,” said Yeo, who coached Cooke as an assistant in Pittsburgh.

Yeo continued with a laugh: “I don’t want to say he’s misunderstood, but he’s evolved. He’s a smart guy and as he’s gotten older and the game’s changed, his game has changed with it. He plays a hard but honest game.”

Cooke is a terrific penalty killer. The Wild’s penalty kill ranked 18th last year. Pittsburgh’s ranked 25th, but it was in the top 10 (and top three twice) in Cooke’s first four years there.

“He was a huge key for us when we won the Stanley Cup [in 2009],” Yeo said.

With the Wild leaving just enough cap space for injury call-ups, there’s not a lot left Fletcher can do in free agency.

As of now, the answer to replace the 36-year-old Cullen (1,073 NHL games) as second-line center will be 21-year-olds Coyle or Granlund (combined 64 games).

“We’ll see if they’re ready for it,” Fletcher said. “Granlund’s a talented, young player and we feel he’ll be a good NHL player in time. Whether that happens right away or not will be up to him. Charlie Coyle’s a player that proved to all of us that he can play in the NHL last year.”

A center for much of his career, Coyle played right wing on the Wild last season. But in exit meetings in May, Coyle was told to prepare for a potential position change. He says he’s ready for it.

Fletcher says he is confident with the Wild’s forward depth, loving the mix of veterans and kids. Talking about all his prospects, Fletcher said, “I’ll put our young players up against anybody,” adding, “I’m just telling you, the calls I’m getting, I could trade every one of those kids today.”

With Fletcher, you always feel he’s got a splash in the works. If so, it’s probably next summer — not this one.

  • THE NEW AND THE OLD

    General Manager Chuck Fletcher was busy in the past week reshaping the Wild roster for 2013-14:

    Additions

    Keith Ballard, D, 30, from Vancouver

    Matt Cooke, F, 34, from Pittsburgh

    Nino Niederreiter, F, 20, from N.Y. Islanders

    Subtractions

    Pierre-Marc Bouchard, F, 29, to N.Y. Islanders

    Cal Clutterbuck, F, 25, to N.Y. Islanders

    Matt Cullen, F, 36, to Nashville

    Justin Falk, D, 24, to N.Y. Rangers

    Tom Gilbert, D, 30, free agent

    Devin Setoguchi, F, 26, to Winnipeg

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
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: Does a Stadium Series outdoor Wild game get you excited?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close