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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Mostly quiet in Wildland, but updates on Mike Yeo, Daniel Gunnarsson, etc.

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: May 27, 2014 - 9:25 PM

Hope you had a great Memorial Day Weekend. Miss me?

It feels like a month since the Wild was eliminated and it’s been two weeks. Just figured I’d hop on here to give you an update. Basically, all is quiet right now as much of the staff has headed to Toronto for the NHL draft combine.

GM Chuck Fletcher has mainly been continuing his exit meetings with players and staff and working on staff contracts for scouts and trainers. The Wild is in the midst of a ton of stats and analytics prep for its June 9 organizational meetings.

That’s when the coaches, front office personnel and pro scouts meet to evaluate the past season and prepare for the next season. There, the Wild will discuss which of its unrestricted free agents it should try to re-sign (I still believe defenseman Clayton Stoner and forward Cody McCormick are the likeliest), which unrestricted free agents it is interested in pursuing, which players on the trade market it may be interested in pursuing and which of its players it should dangle on the trade market.

The draft is June 27-28 in Philadelphia, and the draft is typically the second-most active trading period in the NHL (behind the in-season trade deadline). It usually triggers offseason transactions in the NHL, and Fletcher has a history of trades at or surrounding the draft, whether it’s swapping draft picks (like 2009 when he dropped four spots to acquire three picks that became Nick Leddy, Matt Hackett and Erik Haula), acquiring players like Kyle Brodziak and Nino Niederreiter (for Cal Clutterbuck), discarding players like Justin Falk or making blockbusters like the Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first trade (Zack Phillips).

But until after those June 9 meetings, I don’t anticipate much (if any) Wild player news.

So what else is up?

-- OH, Mike Yeo’s contract status. Early last week, Yeo and Fletcher met regarding his contract situation. Yeo (and the rest of the coaching staff) has a contract that expires June 30. Yeo, whose last contract paid him approximately $600,000 in the final year of his deal, is likely looking to double his salary. After the initial meeting, Yeo left for a fishing trip and is scheduled to return Wednesday. The two sides weren’t expected to talk during his trip, so talks should continue once he returns. Like I reported May 15-17, this was bound to take a little time. When Yeo took the job right out of Houston in 2011, there was basically no negotiation. He has since guided the Wild into the playoffs in two consecutive years of a three-year deal and guided the Wild into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003. So, this contract would require an actual negotiation, and frankly, that’s the position the Wild put itself in by not giving Yeo a one-year contract extension last summer. Yeo has the leverage right now, especially since Fletcher made clear in his end-of-the-year presser that “Mike’s the coach of our team.” Not bad for a coach that was in danger of losing his job a couple times this past season. My guess is he eventually signs a three-year, maybe bonus-laden extension worth roughly $1 million per. Until Yeo’s contract is complete, the rest of the coaches have to wait for their situations to be cleared up. Again, contracts don’t expire until June 30, so without permission, they’re not talking to other teams.

-- 2012 non-collegiate draft picks must be signed by Sunday. This affects the Wild with only one player. If the Wild doesn’t sign 2012 fifth-round pick Daniel Gunnarsson by then, the Wild loses his rights and he can reenter the NHL draft. As of now, it doesn’t look like the big defenseman’s too motivated to play in the NHL. He has already re-signed to play in Sweden next season. In the old days, teams would own the rights for all European draft picks for 10 years. Not anymore. It’s two just like North American non-collegiates. Of the 2012 draft picks, Matt Dumba and Raphael Bussieres are signed, John Draeger (Michigan State), Adam Gilmour (Boston College) and Louis Nanne (RPI) are in college and Christoph Bertschy is considered a defected player (there’s no Swiss/NHL agreement right now, so like Russia, teams keep their rights beyond the normal two years).

-- Haula won silver with Finland at the world championships. Zack Mitchell, a free-agent signee earlier this year, lost in the Memorial Cup championship to Edmonton with his Guelph Storm. Mitchell and fellow free-agent pickup Brady Brassart are expected to turn pro with Iowa next season. Same thing with Kurtis Gabriel and Gustav Olofsson. Dumba will be there, too, if he doesn’t make the Wild. Christian Folin has the inside track to make the Wild, especially if Nate Prosser isn’t re-signed or the Wild doesn’t acquire another defenseman. If he doesn’t make the Wild, he too would be Iowa bound. My guess is of the restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents with Iowa, the only player the Wild would be interested in re-signing for sure is goalie John Curry. But those decisions will also be made the week of June 9. The RFA’s down there are Tyler Cuma, Josh Caron and Kris Foucault and the half-dozen UFA’s include guys like Steve Kampfer, Carson McMillan and Kyle Medvec. So yes, this could be the end of the line for Cuma. My gut says the Wild don’t tender the 2008 first-round pick a qualifying offer.

-- The Wild was supposed to pick 20th in the first round, but because the Devils now pick 30th and the Rangers drop because they’re in the conference finals, the Wild will now choose 18th (barring a trade to move up or down).

-- Not done yet, but it’s looking more and more like the Wild will have a brand-new ginormous scoreboard in place by next season. There may be other Xcel Energy Center renovations, too. I’ll tell you what: the locker-room area could use a bit of a makeover. It’s outdated. The Wild doesn’t really even have a movie-theater-like video room that so many teams have or a true practice-only shooting area (like a batting cage) that many teams have.

-- Development camp is July 7-13 July 9-14. The prospects tournament in Traverse City starts Sept. 12. Training camp is expected to start Sept. 18. The exhibition schedule should come out later next month. I believe the Wild plays home-and-homes with Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

-- Registration opens today for the Wild’s Learn to Play Program (5-8 years old). Here’s the link.

-- Dream come true Stanley Cup Final appears in the NHL’s future – New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings. Marian Gaborik, whom I promise you will re-sign with the Kings (so stop asking me about going after him), leads all playoff scorers with 10 goals. He’s five wins from a Cup.

So is Benoit Pouliot!

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