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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Latendresse agrees to two-year contract; Will Wild nab Cullen?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news, Wild player moves Updated: June 30, 2010 - 11:05 PM

The Wild has re-signed restricted free agent Guillaume Latendresse to a two-year, $5 million contract. The 23-year-old left wing, who scored 27 goals last season and 25 after being traded to the Wild for Benoit Pouliot, will earn $2.4 million next season and $2.6 million the following season.

The contract expires one summer before he's an unrestricted free agent. As I wrote in that Latendresse contract column sometime around March maybe (can't remember), it was my opinion the deal needed to be one, two, four or beyond. No way it could have been three.

This is a good contract. The Wild avoids the risk of a one-year wonder by signing him long-term now and Latendresse has a chance to prove himself the next two years and then cash-in bigtime the year before he's an unrestricted free agent.

Most importantly, you can bet GM Chuck Fletcher really wanted to get the deal done before July 1 to ensure he knew exactly the amount of money he has to play with in free agency or the trade market (and I do have this feeling the Wild's got stuff cooking as far as trade possibilities).

Excluding Josh Harding, who remains unsigned, the Wild’s got $49,302,693 committed to next year’s $59.4 million salary cap. Harding made $1.1 million last season, so I'd suspect a small raise on that. If he chooses arbitration, which is his right, the Wild could only elect a one-year award because teams can't pick two when the player can become an unrestricted free agent in one summer.

And obviously, Harding will probably be signing a one-year deal since he can become a free agent next summer. Don't see him signing long-term knowing Nik Backstrom's got three years left.

That is it for now. I'll give Latendresse a ring Thursday and I'll put up a fresh blog Thursday morning with more thoughts and detail regarding this free-agent advance on my conversations with Matt Cullen, Paul Martin and Olli Jokinen.


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