The Wild has signed veteran center David Steckel to a pro tryout, multiple sources say. Steckel, 31, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound native of Milwaukee and former Ohio State standout, has long been one of the NHL's best in the faceoff circle.
The 2001 first-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings has played eight seasons for Anaheim, New Jersey, Toronto and Washington. The left-shot pivot won 57.1 percent of his draws last season for Anaheim.
Two years ago, he ranked sixth in the NHL (58 percent), in 2010-11 he led the NHL by winning 62.3 percent of his draws, he ranked second in 2009-10 (59.2 percent), fifth in 2008-09 (57.9 percent) and seventh in 2007-08 (56.3 percent).
He's a big body, responsible defensively, is a solid penalty killer, works hard and gritty. I just talked with Steckel by phone and he said, "those are my strong assets and that's what I stick to."
He has scored 33 goals and 79 points in 419 games.
"I’m excited that Minnesota’s giving me an opportunity to at least try out," said Steckel, who like many free agents had trouble finding jobs this summer due to the salary cap decreasing by almost $6 million. "It’s been a wild ride this summer and I’m really looking forward to coming into camp and trying to make an impression."
A pro tryout doesn't bind Steckel to Minnesota. He will remain an unrestricted free agent throughout training camp and can sign with any team. If he doesn't latch on to Minnesota or get a job elsewhere, my guess is he is signed to an NHL or AHL contract and is willing to play in Des Moines.
"I'd like to think I can still play in the NHL," Steckel said.
Up the middle right now for the Wild, the depth chart goes Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle/Mikael Granlund/Erik Haula battling for No. 2 center, Kyle Brodziak, Zenon Konopka, Jake Dowell. The question is whether Steckel can unseat any of those players. Steckel is likely battling for third- or fourth-line center, which could move Brodziak up to No. 2 if Steckel earns a spot and maybe Coyle/Granlund back to the wing. What's cool about this training camp is very few things are set in stone. As Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher have said, line combinations and even positions for players are completely up in the air, which should make for plenty of fun storylines in camp.
Here's a great feature on Steckel opening up about fertility struggles last week by the Washington Post.
Training camp begins Wednesday with the first on-ice session Thursday. The team has a corporate golf outing today.
Here is a Q and A with coach Mike Yeo from yesterday.
The Wild will announce its 36-man training camp roster later this morning (roster will grow after final Traverse City game today; Wild prospects are 0-1-2). On Saturday, there will be an open practice at the X at 9:30 a.m. and on Sunday, there will be an open scrimmage at 11 a.m. Gate 1 opens 15 minutes before each session and it's free.
Single-game tickets go on sale Saturday at the X at 9 a.m. (noon other locations).