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 Wild has more than $20 million of cap space next summer, plus the cap’s expected to increase. That’s before a Pominville extension that is likely on the horizon.

Unless he’s going to dip into his prospect pool, Fletcher doesn’t have a ton of trading options. Some speculate Heatley and his $7.5 million cap hit are on the block, but Heatley has an annual provision in his contract where he supplies a list of 10 teams to which he won’t accept a trade.

One player the Wild may be interested in is former Gophers star Thomas Vanek. The Buffalo Sabres are shopping him because he is one year from unrestricted free agency. But the Wild can’t currently take on next season’s $7.14 million cap hit. Plus, after already trading Buffalo four assets for Pominville in April, the Wild may as well wait and try to sign Vanek as a free agent next summer.

The Wild likely has the inside shot anyway. He lives here, went to the U and was linemates and buddies in Buffalo with Pominville. Vanek isn’t worrying about his future, his agent, Steve Bartlett, said.

“Despite the rumors that Thomas may be traded, at this point, he’s just taking it day to day,” Bartlett said. “If he’s back with the Sabres, fine, and a year from now he’ll get to decide his ultimate destination.”

Michael Russo • mrusso@startribune.com



 

  • 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

Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45
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 pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close