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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#mnwild assistant delay; Modano signs with Wings; Willie Mitchell update

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: August 5, 2010 - 12:46 PM

Quick blog update on a few things:

Wild assistant coaching delay: From many, many, many, many, many sources, Rick Wilson is still the guy the Wild wants. A former University of North Dakota defenseman, Wilson has spent the past 20 years on an NHL bench as an assistant or associate coach with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Why the delay? He has two more years left on his contract with the Lightning as an associate at a price worth $350,000 a year. However, Tampa owes 300 and Dallas owes 50 in each of the next two years, so this is a three-team transaction with Tampa and Dallas having to pay the difference of what the Wild pays. 

 

So it's a bit tricky, and things have to be worked out contractually. I still have to think this gets done in the next day or two.

Who would have thought the Mikko Koivu contract would take a few days and the Rick Wilson contract would take a few weeks? Weird league.

Modano signs with the Red Wings: Obviously you know by now and I threw it in the paper a few days ago when the Detroit Free Press came out with its report, but the Red Wings will have a news conference Friday afternoon to introduce hometown boy Mike Modano on a one-year deal. He gets $1.25 million base salary, and I hear very, very achievable bonuses.

From NHL sources, Modano never met with the Wild, but I do hear the Wild offered some sort of contract or at least talked money with Modano's agent. I don't think it was the biggest effort though. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, if we knew every single player Fletcher's called on, we'd think the Wild's in on every free agent in the league. Fletcher just made a phone call gauging Modano's interest in 1) playing, and 2) playing for the Wild. The only difference here is Modano revealed the Wild called publicly.

But I don't think there was a real good match from either side. This could be Modano's last year in the NHL. Modano wants to win, and I think it's fair to say Detroit offers much more of a sure-thing when it comes to winning and role than the Wild currently does. And from the Wild's perspective, I think it makes much more sense to play a younger player in that position, and if Modano was here, it was going to 1) make it more difficult for a guy like Casey Wellman to make the team, and 2) decrease Wellman's ice time. So I don't see how that helps the Wild in the long-term.

Wellman will be 23 on Oct. 18, so this isn't an 18-year-old trying to make the team. He's much more mature than a kid coming out of junior. He's gotten bigger this summer. He had a fine development camp last month. So the Wild would love to give him every opportunity to make the club as a centerman, and if he gets good experience this year rather than taking a back seat to an older player like Modano, I think that experience proves valuable heading into 2011-12 when a few of these youngsters should be ready to not only crack the lineup, but play more of a larger role.

This is just my opinion obviously. But the fact Fletcher's called around on players like Modano makes you wonder if before the season we'll see another signing. But I don't see that happening in the short while. I think that would be closer to camp if it's even in the cards.

Willie Mitchell update: I hear he's gotten a clean bill of health and has begun taking physicals for a few teams. I think he'll sign soon. The former Wild defenseman, I'm told, actually could sign a contract with performance bonuses because he spent 100 days on injured reserve last year -- including the playoffs. The CBA doesn't spell out whether the 100 days is only during the regular season, so it appears after inquiries from Mitchell and the player interested teams, the league will allow this type of contract. I bet it'll be for a base of $1 or $1.5 million on a one-year deal plus bonuses.

He's not coming to Minnesota. I think Washington and San Jose are definite possibilities. I also hear he met with Vancouver recently, although I don't know how the Canucks can re-sign Mitchell since they're over the cap.

Traverse City roster release: Lastly, the Wild put out its preliminary roster for next  month's prospect tournament in Traverse City the other day. There could be changes before the tourney, but here's an early look:

Wild property forwards: Cody Almond, Joel Broda, Brett Bulmer, Kris Foucault, Dylen McKinlay, Carson McMillan, Jarod Palmer, Chad Rau, Casey Wellman

Wild property defensemen: Tyler Cuma, Bjorn Krupp, Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella

Wild property goalies: Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper

Tryout forwards: J.T. Barnett, Brandon Buck, Alex Emond, Jay Fehr, Tyler Johnson, Matt Mackay

Tryout defensemen: Josh Caron, Colton Jobke, Jared Spurgeon

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