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Continued: Sunday NHL Insider: Responding to e-mailers in the season's first mailbag

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 9, 2013 - 4:56 PM

 

Megami: Was Justin Fontaine just buried on the depth chart?

Russo: He was a college free agent and he needed to learn the pro game and pay his dues. Fair or not, teams usually focus on their own high draft picks, but Fontaine couldn’t prove anything else in the minors and is showing this year why the minors are so valuable.

mudhen26: At what point do you put Dany Heatley and his cap hit aside and play the best top six or nine forwards?

Russo: I actually think the Wild has stumbled on the proper role at this juncture. As long as the team is healthy and Heatley’s being professional enough to skate on the fourth line, he gets those minutes against forwards that aren’t as defensively sound and gets spot power-play time.

 

Nickinny: If the Wild doesn’t go after Thomas Vanek next summer, who are some defensemen they may pursue?

Russo: They still could use some physicality and a booming shot on the back end, so two that jump out are Dion Phaneuf and Andrei Markov. I don’t feel Phaneuf is the same intimidating player he once was in Calgary and Markov is 34 with knee issues. Two very intriguing names are the Rangers’ Dan Girardi and Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik, and we know there’s a history with Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher with Orpik.

 

icedice34: How’s Jason Zucker’s AHL season going?

Russo: The reports out of Iowa are that Zucker hasn’t played well. He needs to learn the nuances of the pro game, like playing in the defensive zone and reading plays. The Wild wants him to play an extended stretch down there to develop. The same could be said for Erik Haula, although he had a better training camp.

 

Waferthin: What’s the word on Zack Phillips?

Russo: I lump Phillips and Brett Bulmer in the same category. They both need to continue to develop, and Bulmer needs to find a way to stay healthy. Iowa is a good place for both of them right now.

NHL short takes

Pity the Panthers

Nothing ever changes in Florida. It’s like “Groundhog Day.”

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  • In need of some toughness and a big shot on the blue line, the Wild could target Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik, left, in free agency.

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