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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Posts about Vikings draft

Wild drafts Gustav Olofsson with first pick

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 30, 2013 - 8:51 PM

The Wild, four hours after the start of the draft, has finally selected a player.

With the 46th pick, the Wild drafted Swedish defenseman Gustav Olofsson, a 6-foot-3 blue-liner who scored 23 points for Green Bay of the USHL last year. He is Colorado College bound, although his WHL rights are owned by Portland.

Olofsson moved to the U.S. in first grade because of his dad's job -- auditor. Now they've stayed because of hockey. He has two younger brothers -- including Fredrik, who is following in his footsteps -- Green Bay, then CC. Has lived a lot of places, but mostly grew up in San Jose, Calif., and Broomfield, Colo. No accent. Loves Jonas Brodin. Very excited to wear a Wild uni. Big Broncos fan.

"My nerves kind of dropped. Unbelievably excited," he said.

Assistanr GM Brent Flahr: "Gustav is a big mobile defenseman that really jumped up our draft rankings. He's an intelligent player with quality natural instincts for the game. We feel like his game will continue to improve as he gets stronger and gains experience."

McKeen's scouting report: Steadily improved throughout his first season in Green Bay, his
efforts recognized with a berth on the USHL All-Rookie Team .. a
native of Boras, Sweden who played youth hockey in Denver since
moving to North America with his family in 2009 .. committed
to attend Colorado College along with younger brother Fredrick,
a `96-born forward also drafted by the Gamblers .. SCOUTING
REPORT .. a poised, big-bodied rearguard .. mobile, all-axis skater
powered by excellent feet and a smooth, sturdy stride .. effortless in
turns and pivots and lateral movements .. plays a responsible and
conservative game - guided by solid awareness and hockey sense ..
astute in his positioning - always alert and surveying the landscape
.. not blessed with flashy skills, yet is an accurate passer and
steady puckmover .. manages the puck well - takes the simple play
- and gradually improved his decision making during the season ..
will benefit from adding power to a decent point shot which he has
demonstrated an ability to make space for - and a knack for getting
through traffic to the net .. not afraid to initiate contact with his
expansive body and wingspan .. his impact as a physical presence
should increase as he builds muscle mass onto his spacious frame
.. a solid prospect with versatility and tools at his disposal - and
plenty of development potential.

The Wild has, so far, a third, fourth, fifth, sixth and two sevenths to go.

The Wild took Kurtis Gabriel, a right wing, from Owen Sound 80th overall. Big, tough, gritty

The Wild took Dylan Labbe, a defenseman from Shawinigan, 107th overall

The Wild took Carson Soucy, a 6-4 defenseman from Irma, Alberta 137th overall. Minnesota-Duluth bound.

In the sixth round, it took Grand Rapids High School star Avery Peterson. He was a Hockey Day Minnesota stud and had 23 goals and 54 points in 23 games last year. He's going to Sioux City (USHL) next year.

Brent Flahr:

Gabriel: big imposing winger that brings a physical element every night. He's a late bloomer that really improved this season.

Labbe: a smart puck moving dman that plays in all situations. Needs to get stronger but we feel he has a quality upside.

Soucy: a 6-4 dman with good mobility and does a good job of moving the puck. Will be attending UMD in the fall.

Peterson - a good sized two way center that skates well and has been a productive player at the high school and USHL levels.

2 sevenths to go

Wild trades Justin Falk to the Rangers; Wild needs defensemen

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 30, 2013 - 12:45 PM

On a day where there is expected to be a flurry of activity, the Wild started things off  with a minor move -- dealing defenseman Justin Falk to the New York Rangers for a 2014 sixth-round pick and the rights to pesky right wing Benn Ferriero.

The Rangers had to trade an expiring contract, so we will see what the future holds for Ferriero. The Wild could be just doing the Rangers a favor.

Ferriero, a decent depth player the past few years for the Rangers and Sharks, is a restricted free agent. The Wild hasn't talked to his representatives, so we'll see if he ends up being a depth player for the Wild.

Ferriero, 26, has one assist in four games for the Rangers last year. He had 30 points in 57 games for AHL Connecticut and Wilkes-Barre.

In 96 career games for San Jose and the Rangers, Ferriero has scored 14 goals and 23 points. Two of those goals have come against Minnesota.

Falk was a restricted free agent that the Wild had yet to tender a qualifying offer. But he's an NHL defenseman, so the Wild knew it could at least get a pick for him. This also gives Falk new scenery and a chance to become an everyday player.

The 6-foot-5 2007 fourth-rounder had 15 points in 108 games for the Wild. He was in and out of the lineup this past season and Falk said his agent and the Wild kept him up to date the last few days that a trade may be on the horizon.

“I’m excited about the new opportunity here,” Falk said. “It’s a new chapter that I’m looking forward to. I’m thankful of the opportunity Minnesota gave me to get into the league. This is a new opportunity to continue to develop. That’s my main concern. I felt I didn’t quite develop the way that I would have liked this last year. I want to continue to build my career, and this is a new start in New York.”

The Wild's blue line now looks like this:

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon (unsigned)

Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert

Nate Prosser

Scandella spent most of last season in the minors. Gilbert may be traded or bought out. Prosser couldn't get much playing time.

So one thing we know: The Wild will be in the market for a defenseman or two this summer.

I've been reporting that the asking price for Cal Clutterbuck today has been a second and a prospect. I hear one concept the Wild has explored the past few days is getting a defenseman back in a trade for Clutterbuck.

One team that has shown a lot of interest the past few days is Pittsburgh. The Wild has had interest in the past in Simon Despres, but the one guy I keep hearing is Virginia, Minn., native Matt Niskanan.

The draft starts at 2. As of now, the Wild has eight picks -- the first coming at No. 46. The Wild continues to try to trade into the first round.

Jonas Brodin makes All-Rookie Team; More on Cal Clutterbuck's future

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 29, 2013 - 12:20 PM

Sunday's 2 p.m. CT NHL draft is fast approaching (NBC Sports Network from 2-7 p.m.; NHL Network after 7 p.m.), and the Wild continues to shop Cal Clutterbuck and Tom Gilbert, especially.

Typically, deals like this come down on the draft floor or just before the draft because the Wild is looking for either a first-round pick in the Clutterbuck deal (teams are hesitant to give up firsts right now because this draft is so deep) or a second so it could potentially use two seconds to try to move into the first round.

And often times when picks are involved, the teams involved want to make certain first the player they want to take is still sitting there. For instance, in 2006 when the Wild acquired Pavol Demitra for a first and Patrick O'Sullivan, the L.A. Kings didn't agree to the deal until they were certain Trevor Lewis would still be there.

As you saw in today's story,  it is looking increasingly likely that Clutterbuck will be traded this weekend. He has value, he is a restricted free agent and the Wild's cap space is limited. The Wild is looking for a second and prospect, but perhaps the price can go up if there's a bidding war for Clutterbuck.

I do hear that GM Chuck Fletcher would prefer to trade Clutterbuck to the East. As I reported the other day, Fletcher had lunch Thursday with Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis. Boston may make sense, too. In the West, as I reported last week, I hear Edmonton has shown significant interest. But I'd be lying if I said I know all the teams involved.

Again, Gilbert's future is almost certainly elsewhere. If he's not traded, the Wild will likely buy him out and create an extra $4 million of cap space. It'll also be interesting to see if the Wild moves guys like Devin Setoguchi or Kyle Brodziak or Torrey Mitchell. It's listening to offers at least.

As I've reported, with Jake Dowell likely going to be the fourth-line center next season and Mike Rupp also in the fold, Zenon Konopka is also on the block. Fletcher said recently that the Wild have a few guys who play the same role.

I've gotten lots of emails and tweets asking if the Wild's going after this guy and this guy and this guy and, uh, Vinny Lecavalier, in free agency. Again, unless the Wild frees up cap space, the answer to virtually everything right now is, "No." If space is freed, then we'll see then. Remember, if Clutterbuck is traded for a non-roster player and pick, that doesn't add to the Wild's roughly $3.6 million in cap space.

That cap space doesn't include unsigned restricted guys Clutterbuck, Jared Spurgeon and Justin Falk or unrestricted center Matt Cullen.

In other Wild news:

Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, who finished fourth in the Calder Trophy race, was named to the All-Rookie team Saturday. He became the first Wild player in history to be honored with an All-NHL nomination.

Ryan Suter is a likely contender for First or Second-Team All-Star. That may come out tomorrow.
 
Last season, Brodin, the youngest defenseman in the NHL at age 20, drafted 10th overall in 2011, led all rookies in total ice time (1,044:35) and average time on ice (23:12 per game), becoming just the eighth rookie skater in league history to average more than 23 minutes a game.
 
Brodin, who scored 11 points in 45 games, led rookie defensemen with 18 takeaways and was fourth among all rookies with 60 blocked shots.
 
Other members of the All-Rookie team are St. Louis goalie Jake Allen, Edmonton defenseman Justin Schultz, Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher, Florida forward Jonathan Huberdeau and Chicago forward Brandon Saad.
 
--Also, the Wild has yet to extend a qualifying offer to potential restricted free agent Justin Falk, his agent confirmed to me. The Wild, which has been shopping Falk, has until Tuesday to decide if it wants to retain the defenseman’s rights.
 
If Falk isn’t qualified, he would become unrestricted when free agency opens Friday. I did get an email sent to me regarding a comment on one of the stories where a reader thought Falk was unrestricted already. He is indeed restricted.
 
More later if news breaks.

John Torchetti lands KHL job, leaving Iowa Wild with a coaching vacancy

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 24, 2013 - 4:41 PM
 
 
The Wild’s AHL affiliate moves from Houston to Des Moines next season and will have to be under the guidance of a new coach.
 
John Torchetti, the veteran benchboss who won a Stanley Cup as a Chicago Blackhawks assistant in 2010, will become the new head coach of CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. He signed a three-year deal.
 
"[Sergei] Fedorov is the GM and he's been great," Torchetti said. "He came over and talked to me and called me a lot. It's something new for me and will be a good challenge. They want to win and I'm looking forward to having a chance to win, too."
  
The Wild exercised Torchetti’s option for next season, but he had an out clause. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Torchetti was offered a “huge deal” to leave.
 
“We need a new head coach in Des Moines,” Fletcher said. “I’m hoping this week we can bump into a few people while in New York [for the draft]. Maybe we can talk to two or three people and the following week bring people in.
 
“I don’t want it to extend forever. It’s an opportunity. It’s going to be a pretty young team there, so the primary focus will be development.”
 
Iowa next season will have a number of young players turning pro, including Johan Gustafsson, Raphael Bussieres, Tyler Graovac and Erik Haula.
 
One candidate could be Kurt Kleinendorst. The Grand Rapids, Minn., native was runner-up to Mike Yeo when the Wild hired him three years ago and is close with Iowa Wild GM Jim Mill. Kleinendorst recently resigned from the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
 
Kleinendorst coached Binghamton to a Calder Cup championship three years ago over, ahem, Yeo’s Houston Aeros.
 
Torchetti's Houston Aeros went 75-51-26 in two seasons, making the playoffs in both years.
 
 

Kings goalie Bernier traded to Maple Leafs

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 23, 2013 - 12:27 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs, expected to be very active in the free-agent market, got the ball rolling today when they acquired goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings for former University of North Dakota standout Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens and a conditional second-round pick.

The Wild, as reported here Saturday, were in the mix for Bernier with the Maple Leafs and Flyers. The Kings were looking for a top prospect from the Wild and at least Darcy Kuemper, sources say.

The Wild continues to talk contract with Niklas Backstrom. He can become a free agent July 5, but the Wild has also been investigating trade options. Remember, salary-cap space is limited as of now. The Wild technically has about $6 million available to spend this summer (that's before potentially re-signing Backstrom, Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon), so it's clear the Wild will need to make some trades or execute some buyouts in order to free up more flexibility.

For more on that, see this report.

Things should start to heat up as next Sunday's draft in Newark approaches. GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr are available to talk about the draft Monday.

By the way, I will be filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN Monday and Tuesday from 9-noon.

Actor/comedian/Super Trooper Erik Stolhanske will be sitting in with me Tuesday, which will be a hoot.

On these days, I'll have Kevin Falness joining from the Wild Road Tour, likely Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, Matt Cullen, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, Vikings sackster Jared Allen, Star Tribune baseball writer Lavelle E. Neal the Third, Fox Sports North's Jamie Hersch and Ben Clymer and some other surprises as well.

 

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