The Wild put Tyler Graovac on waivers Wednesday. The team didn't want to risk that move with the big center, but GM Chuck Fletcher made clear before camp that contracts would not determine roster spots and he had to earn the job.
Graovac had a rough game in Colorado on Tuesday night, earning poor marks from coach Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau wasn't any happier at practice Wednesday.
Asked what Graovac needed to do to get into his good graces, the coach's frustration dripped from every word. "It's just important that he competes a little harder,'' Boudreau said. "I mean, he's a guy that’s 6-foot-4, 200 and some pounds. Everyone wants that kind of guy. But the job was there for him, and he just didn’t take it.
"That’s what got me upset at a lot of these guys. The jobs were there to be had, and some guys just didn’t take their opportunity.''
The Wild hopes it can assign Graovac to Iowa at 11 a.m. Thursday without him being claimed by another team. Alex Tuch was also assigned to Iowa, along with fellow forwards Kurtis Gabriel and Jordan Schroeder and defenseman Hunter Warner.
Tuch could be a great player, but the team probably thinks it's a huge jump to go from college to the NHL without time in the minors.
The Wild held a crisp, high-tempo practice for 45 minutes at St. Thomas Ice Arena. Charlie Coyle was on the ice and looked good, skating on a line with Zach Parise and Eric Staal. Ryan Carter did not skate.
As of now, those vying for spots are Joel Eriksson Ek, Zac Dalpe, Christoph Bertschy and Carter at forward; and Mike Reilly, Nate Prosser and Christian Folin on defense. The Wild could either keep eight, send Reilly to Iowa (he doesn't need waivers) or place one of the latter two on waivers, although it would likely prefer not risk losing either now that organizational depth has taken a hit with Victor Bartley's torn left triceps.
The roster's down to 25. The max can be 23.
Goalie Alex Stalock is expected to be placed on waivers in the next few days to get to Iowa, meaning that technically -- barring injury -- the Wild would technically have to make one more cut if it plans to keep the max, whether that be sending a forward to the minors, returning Eriksson Ek to Sweden, releasing Carter from his tryout or keeping seven defensemen, not eight.
Dalpe requires waivers, Bertschy does not. Since the Wild sounds like it's basically deciding between Eriksson Ek playing in the NHL or returning to Farjestad this season, it could keep him longer for at a maximum the nine-game trial where he can play here without burning the first year of his three-year deal.
When asked Wednesday if the Wild might look outside the organization to fill the last couple of roster spots, Boudreau tersely said, ''I have no idea yet.''
Boudreau said he kept Dalpe because of his experience, particularly at filling a fourth-line role. Bertschy, he said, is staying because of his willingness to block shots and do other self-sacrificing work. "He's a young guy that just keeps getting a little bit better each day,'' the coach said. "He's another guy that can play a fourth-line role and give you some minutes.''
Regarding Tuch and Gabriel, Boudreau liked what he saw in camp but wants both to play extensively. "A guy like Tuch, we need him to play 50 games in the American League,'' Boudreau said. "He's going to get better and better. His camp was real good. We just need him to play more, rather than play eight minutes a night [with the Wild]. That wouldn't be in his best interest.
"The same with Gabriel. I guess there's been a huge improvement in the last three years, so he's just got to play and get better.''
The roster as of now (jersey number order):
Forwards (14): Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Ryan Carter, Nino Niederreiter, Zac Dalpe, Jason Pominville, Christoph Bertschy, Joel Eriksson Ek, Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund
Defensemen (8): Mike Reilly, Christian Folin, Marco Scandella, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon.
Goalies (3): Alex Stalock, Darcy Kuemper, Devan Dubnyk.
Lines at Wednesday's practice: Parise-Staal-Coyle; Granlund-Koivu-Stewart; Niederreiter-Haula-Pominville; Zucker-Eriksson Ek/Dalpe-Bertschy
-- Rachel Blount (covering practice Wednesday) contributed to this story