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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Ottawa Senators land coveted Stephane Da Costa

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: March 31, 2011 - 11:51 AM

Morning.

I was so late getting into the Todd Richards press scrum because I got the call that Ottawa had signed Stephane Da Costa that he ended his scrum, "No questions from you? Somebody mark down the date!"

That's twice this week that I've been tardy to Richards because I've been on the phone, yet the Star Tribune hasn't T.J. Oshied me yet for a couple games

In the end, the Stephane Da Costa sweepstakes got cut from 20 teams to Ottawa, Minnesota and Florida.

The Senators wound up getting the Merrimack leading scorer on a two-year deal, making the Wild a runner-up, or as a pal of mine likes to call runners-up, the first loser.

The Wild is undoubtedly bummed right now. In an email I got from Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, Da Costa chose the Senators "because we have an obvious opening at center."

The Wild though, that's subject to debate. The Wild has Mikko Koivu, Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen with term left on their deals, although Cullen's been playing wing in a few games lately. It also helped Ottawa's cause that Bobby Butler has succeeded in Ottawa after signing out of New Hampshire.

The perception by some out there is that promises were made to Casey Wellman, yet he's sitting in Houston.

I asked Wellman about that yesterday. Wellman played 12 games after arriving last season but only 15 this year, including Tuesday’s win in St. Louis. He was reassigned this morning because Chuck Kobasew will play tonight against the Oilers.

In Houston, where Wellman has a chance to go on a long playoff run with the Aeros, Wellman’s scored 31 points in 39 games.
 
He’s happy with his development, even though it’s mostly come in Houston over Minnesota.
 
“There were never any promises that I was going to play right away or anything,” Wellman said. “I feel fortunate they let me play last year. They said there’d be opportunity and I’ve been up and down, so obviously there has been a little opportunity.
 
“My goal is to keep working at it, get better and hopefully I can get a steady spot up here.”

Anyway, the Wild tried and couldn't land the big fish. At least they're trying to get these guys. Before last year, I never even paid attention to the college free agents because I didn't have to.

Now we'll see if they go after a few other college free agents (the Mieles, Campers, Fontaines), which I'd suspect they would. But Da Costa was one of the few college free agents projected by everybody to be a top-6 NHL forward.

In other Wild news, Cam Barker won't play again tonight.

Also, goalie Dennis Endras is in Houston right now checking out the city. He'll attend tonight's game against Chicago. The Aeros, by the way, clinched a playoff spot last night.

But Endras is in Houston for a few days because while the Wild will bring him to camp to have a shot at the No. 2 job in Minnesota, they'd like to sell him on Houston in case he doesn't make the team and wants to go down there. Otherwise, Endras would be permitted to return to Germany and play there next season.

The Wild also has Matt Hackett, who's been great, in the fold and should sign Darcy Kuemper, who's had a great year in the Western Hockey League, soon.

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