UPDATED: The Wild just agreed to terms with Theodore at 5:40 p.m. Finland time. Same terms as below. Theodore ranks sixth among active goalies in games played and wins, and he is the goalie who stoned the division champion Wild in 2008 by holding Marian Gaborik to no goals. More later.
Good afternoon from Helsinki, where the Wild practiced in a cave today.
The practice rink at Hartwall Areena is three stories underground dug into the rock. Very funny images of players waiting for elevators today to get to practice. I also started putting some video on Twitter, where I'll continue in a little bit. So be sure to go to www.twitter.com/russostrib and follow me there. One funny video's up, and I'll put some more in a bit.
I also put a full array of pictures on www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso, so join that as well. Or "like" that to gain access all season.
First pic: Backstrom and Miettinen wait for elevator
Second pic: Backstrom (back), Miettinen (middle) and Havlat (front) in elevator
Third pic: A horde of players going down for practice
Before we continue, GM Chuck Fletcher has made a contract offer to free-agent goaltender Jose Theodore. He says contrary to reports, Theodore has not agreed to terms yet, although I've got to think it gets done by the end of the day.
Fletcher said he went to bed last night and woke up this morning with only an, "I'll get back to ya," so he was as surprised as anybody to learn this morning that he signed Theodore. He says there's been no confirmation from Theodore's camp at all that he's agreed. Obviously, it's very early in the North America right now, so this very well could change in the next few hours.
Clearly Fletcher wants Theodore and will likely get his man by the end of the day. Here's the story I wrote on Theodore this past Tuesday.
If signed, it'll be a one-year deal contingent on passing a physical. He's start off in Houston and join the team when the Wild returns to the States, meaning, the Wild will likely have three goalies on its roster when it's submitted Wednesday. That means the Wild would have to make two roster cuts here -- one forward, one defenseman likely.
Then when the team returns, Theodore would be up and Anton Khudobin would be sent back to Houston. The deal looks to be for $1.1 million, which is almost Josh Harding's $1.2. That means Harding likely will end up on long-term injury status, which allows the team to spend up to his cap number over the cap. The Wild is getting amazingly close to the $59.4 million cap ceiling. Remember, this is added real money. Harding gets paid regardless, and he's not covered by insurance, meaning owner Craig Leipold is going to be shelling out another $1.1 for Theodore and probably in the neighborhood of $60 million for this roster by the end of the season.
This again makes me think that we'll discover Wednesday that James Sheppard is suspended, not so much to save his $800,000 and change, but because the Wild desperately will need his cap room for further injuries this season and potential additions.
I'll update blog and Twitter as soon as I know if Theodore agrees.
As for practice, Brent Burns (back) didn't practice, but coach Todd Richards expects him to be ready for Monday's exhibition game against Ilves in Tampere, Finland, and at the very least Thursday's opener. Burns spent much of practice watching it with Fletcher.
Guillaume Latendresse, as planned, practiced for 15 minutes at the start and left the ice afterward. He's got a hip flexor and when I asked if he was confident he'd be ready by Thursday's opener, he said, "I don't know."
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Marek Zidlicky (charleyhorse) and Cam Barker (hip flexor) all practiced today.
Weird practice because the offensive and defensive zones are so much smaller than an NHL rink, so players were saying they'd come across the blue line, put their head up and they'd already be on top of the goal.
The Wild currently is on a ferry heading to Sauna Island for a day of fun. They'll practice in the actual Hartwall Areena ice surface in front of a free open practice to the public Sunday.
NHL ice guru Dan Craig (River Falls, Wisc.) was in the house today and he said the ice looks great. Jokerit, the Elite League team that plays in the building and who practiced before the Wild today, has been skating on the NHL surface in the early part of the season. When the Wild and Canes leave, the team will put in the international sheet.
Here are some Jokerit, fellas. Ben Eaves, Mike Eaves' son, is a player and coach, and he was chatting with many of the Wild guys today.
This afternoon, I'm going to go to IFK Helsinki's junior game with some Wild officials and watch them scout. Mikael Granlund's younger brother plays in that game. Tonight, I'll watch Granlund play for IFK Helsinki with some Wild officials, too. I'll shoot some video and do a story on that for likely Tuesday's paper.