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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Lots of Wild smatterings in Philly

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 26, 2014 - 12:16 PM

Afternoon from Philly. It may always be sunny in Philadelphia, but apparently it’s always as humid as a sauna, too.

I interrupt this World Cup game with a friendly reminder and a Wild blog: I am hosting a live chat on startribune.com/wild at 11 a.m. CT Friday.

Hopefully you caught today’s stories, which included a fun look at Hall of Famer Guy Lapointe, the Wild’s chief amateur scout (new title a few years ago) who has been with the Wild since before the doors opened and is the team’s resident prankster. That link is here.

Also, every time I saw GM Chuck Fletcher yesterday, his phone was tattooed to his ear, even as late as early last night when I was walking past the hotel to head to dinner. As Fletcher has proven, the draft is the time he often likes to make trades, so it wouldn’t shock me if he makes something happen Friday.

The question is it something deemed as minor, like dealing Kyle Brodziak, who something deemed as major, like bringing in significant pieces that may even make him forgo some things in free agency.

As I reported in today’s story here, Fletcher did set up meetings in Philadelphia with Thomas Vanek’s agent, Steve Bartlett, and Matt Niskanen’s agent, Neil Sheehy, who helped deliver Ryan Suter to the Wild in 2012. Remember, it was at the St. Paul Airport where I was hiding in the bushes behind a fence (I wish I was exaggerating) and witnessed Fletcher, Craig Leipold, Mike Yeo, Suter’s financial advisor Tom Sagissor and Sheehy get off of Leipold’s private plane after meeting with Suter in Madison.

Leipold’s plane then gave Sheehy a ride back up to International Falls and about 18 hours later on July 4, Suter and Zach Parise were officially signed on the dotted line.

Well, perhaps Sheehy will soon ink another one of his clients on the Wild.

According to sources, the Wild has significant interest in Niskanen, 27, the right-shot defenseman who had a career year in Pittsburgh. But so do other teams, so it’ll be interesting to see how high and how long the Wild’s willing to go. Remember, you can only allegedly talk in general parameters about a contract but nothing can be binding until Tuesday after 11 a.m. CT. Niskanen is 100 percent going to become a free agent.

As for Vanek, he has made big money, so the question is how much does he want to play in Minnesota. I believe the Wild would love him to sign a contract between one to three years so it can also fill two holes.

As for these meetings with agents, it’ll either have to occur later tonight or before Friday’s draft because Fletcher and Leipold are up in New York because the NHL decided to have the Board of Governors meeting up there as opposed to in Philly. Brilliant! (Speaking of which, I talked to a number of execs this week who think the NHL should go to a baseball winter meetings type concept in the summer where in one city (maybe Vegas) it has the NHL Awards, NHL Draft, free-agency talking period and GM’s and Board of Governors meeting).

The Wild has called on Paul Stastny, but I’m trying to not get your hopes up because so has everybody and I haven’t gotten the impression yet that the Wild can be a serious suitor here. We shall see.

All of this is subject to change because plans can always be altered if Fletcher swings a trade Friday.

Also, going back to what I wrote about a few weeks ago, there’s price points the Wild’s willing to go to for each free agent. If things go beyond where the Wild values a player, it will likely not go beyond the price point because the Wild again has a bunch of key restricted free agents to re-sign this summer and next.

I also reported that the Wild has made contact with Willie Mitchell, the former Wild defenseman who has won two Cups with L.A. This is an indication that the team expects that Clayton Stoner may be departing via free agency. The Wild has made an offer to Stoner. He’s seeing if he can get a better contract as a free agent. That’s his right. Players like Stoner only have so many opportunities to cash in.

Mitchell makes sense. He would fill that same role, his wife is from Minnesota and he would definitely consider returning.

A few weeks ago when talking about Niskanen, I surmised that the Wild may instead go after an older veteran like Dan Boyle for two years because that could bridge the gap between now and the time Matt Dumba or Gustav Olofsson might be ready to jump full-time in the Wild lineup. I thought that was brilliant conjecture!!!

Well, I’m told the Wild, as of last night, had not made contact with Boyle’s camp.

What else? What else?

I wrote a big story on the Wild’s goaltending situation heading into next season for Friday’s paper. Give it a read. Some interesting quotes by Fletcher. Many mock drafts have the Wild taking Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko 18th overall, probably because of the Wild’s unstable goaltending situation. I’m expecting to talk to Demko later on at the prospect availability.

But, it’s not like Demko could solve any perceived short-term issue. He’s going back to BC for a few years at least and then would need to develop in the minors. I also spelled out in Friday’s paper with some examples as to why it’s a risk taking goalies in the first round.

The Wild sounds hesitant to take Demko unless it trades back. More than likely, Fletcher says, the Wild will look for a skilled forward.

I’m rooting for Joshua Ho-Sang because he sounds like a sports writer’s dream. Check out this awesome feature by Steve Simmons on Ho-Sang. Honestly, have you ever read cockier quotes? I love it.

Alex Tuch is somebody else that may be in the Wild’s wheelhouse (google him). Very big forward and the Wild could use some more size up front.

I'll be back later if there's news, of course. I'm also hoping to get with Fletcher after he returns from New York tonight and a few other NHL peeps.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Lots of trade chatter going around the NHL on Evander Kane, Jason Spezza, Ryan Kesler, Nick Leddy, P.A. Parenteau, etc.

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