With the Wild banged up and looking for more NHL experience, size and speed on the wing, Chris Porter was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers by his kinda sorta hometown team.
Porter lives in Eden Prairie with his wife, Sarah, and newborn son, Kingston. He is in Diane Ness’ Tuesday summer skating group with Zach Parise and Kyle Okposo. He went to Shattuck-St. Mary’s with Parise and they were together at the University of North Dakota during Parise’s second year. Parise was best man at Porter’s wedding and Porter was a groomsman at Parise’s.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Parise said with a big smile seconds after he found out Porter, a Thunder Bay native, would be his new Wild teammate.
Justin Fontaine’s hurt. Jordan Schroeder’s skating but banged up. Brett Bulmer has little NHL experience.
So after talking to Porter when he was a free agent this summer, the Wild decided to bring him in with the season set to open Thursday at Colorado. Similarly, the Wild signed Ryan Carter to a contract on the eve of last season.
This clearly will affect Schroeder or Bulmer off the hop.
“He’s a player who I think can help us and I’m happy for him that he gets to come back here and play,” Parise said of Porter, 31, an energy-winger who played against the Wild last season for St. Louis.
“He’s a big guy, he’s fast, he plays physical, so I think that’s going to fit in well with us and with Carts. He knows what his job is out there. There are no gray areas. He knows what he’s supposed to do. Just as important, he’s a great guy.”
Porter, a former UND captain, had 11 goals and 27 points and 33 penalty minutes in 173 career games over parts of six seasons for the Blues. He was known for being impactful in the playoffs and had two goals and three points in three preseason games for the Flyers.
Coach Mike Yeo was caught off guard when I asked about Porter because the claim became official in the middle of his pregame, post-morning skate scrum. He wanted to wait and talk more about Porter later tonight, but Yeo said, “He’s a guy with NHL experience, he’s a penalty killer, he’s a guy with speed and a guy that can play a physical game. He’s a guy that’s always been on our radar.”
It’s been pretty clear Yeo felt the Wild needed to toughen up up-front.
I just got off the phone with Porter and he was excited. His agent, Matt Oates, talked to the Wild all summer and he had seen the many times this summer (and today’s newspaper and yesterday’s blog) that I wrote he made sense. But Porter thought that ship had sailed when he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flyers.
“It doesn’t quite add up until it actually happens. I’m just as shocked as you are,” Porter said.
“I’m really excited. In the summer, Minnesota was the team I was really interested in signing with. I can’t wait to get started and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”
On what he can bring to the Wild, Porter said, “Playing against them, I think they know the style that I play with – a lot of physicality, I bring a lot of speed, and I think I can help with the PK and just try to bring some energy to the team. I know they have a lot of great pieces there. I just want to try to add to that.”
On reuniting with Parise (here’s a short story I wrote on them in the playoffs last spring), Porter said, “It’s pretty neat. It’s always fun to play with your buddies in the summer, but to be able to play professionally with one of your good friends will be fun. We joked about it in the summer. For it to become a reality, I don’t think it’s sunk in and it might take some time. It should be a great experience.”
Tonight, the Wild plays its final exhibition game against an inexperienced Buffalo Sabres lineup.
Yeo is “anxious to see what we put into this. Sometimes these last exhibition games are almost treated as a formality. I would like to see us treat it a little more seriously than that given we have a little time between now and our season opener.”
The Wild has no games until it opens in Colorado a week from today, so Yeo has a plan for the week. The Wild will practice Friday, take Saturday off, practice Sunday, have an off-ice workout Monday and practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
“If you just practice every day, then things get stale,” Yeo said.
Zac Dalpe was recalled tonight to play for the injured Erik Haula, who is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Marco Scandella is back with the team and will play tonight after being gone since Sunday due to personal reasons. Nate Prosser is scratched tonight.
If the Wild gets out of tonight healthy, I’d think the chances are good Mike Reilly, who won’t play tonight and isn’t in a top-6 D role or on a PP unit, will be assigned to Iowa and Tyson Strachan will be placed on waivers for the purpose of getting to Iowa. We’ll see soon how the Porter pickup affects Schroeder and Bulmer, too.
Talk to you later. I also am co-hosting the Russo-Souhan Show with Jim Souhan today at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid's in St. Paul, so come on down and take part.