Clayton Stoner’s Fourth of July wedding in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, surrounded a critical time in the NHL. The lockout pushed the opening bell of free agency to July 5, so Wild teammates wanted to keep one eye on the transactions.
Center Zenon Konopka had a solution. He brought his trusty iPad out to the pool and continuously refreshed Twitter.
“I had a scooter with a horn on it, so I was flying around the resort,” said Konopka, still hampered by a season-ending broken foot at the time. “Every time I’d pull up to the pool, I’d do [a breaking news jingle] and proclaim some trade or signing.
“I did that for six hours. It was all fun and dandy until around 5:30.”
That’s when Konopka saw that teammate Devin Setoguchi was traded to the Winnipeg Jets. Konopka had just gotten back to his room. He looked out the window, saw Setoguchi still at the pool and “you can figure out pretty quickly he didn’t know.”
Konopka called Setoguchi and his fiancée, Kelly, over and Setoguchi noticed instantly that Konopka was “white as a ghost.” He stunned Setoguchi with the news.
“It is sad when a guy gets traded, but it was good that we were all there together,” said Setoguchi’s pal, Dany Heatley. “[Cal Clutterbuck] was traded a few days before, so it was kind of like a last hurrah.”
Also at the wedding was Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who signed a three-year extension July 4, and former Wild player Benoit Pouliot, who signed with the Rangers.
“Every day something happened to one of us,” Konopka said. “You were looking around and thinking, ‘Who’s left?’ ”
Konopka is looking forward to a second year with Minnesota. The bruiser has the highest faceoff winning percentage among active players since 2005 (.590) but has a lot of competition. NHL vet David Steckel, another faceoff specialist and strong penalty killer, is in camp on a tryout.
“You’ve got to be confident in your skills and what you bring,” Konopka said. “Everything has a way of figuring itself out. I know what I can do, and competition’s good.”
Defensemen dig in
Besides the intriguing battle of young forwards Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Justin Fontaine for spots, it’ll be interesting how the blue line shakes out. The Wild will keep at least seven, maybe eight defensemen.
The depth chart goes Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Keith Ballard, Nate Prosser, Stoner and newcomer Jonathon Blum. But 19-year-old Matt Dumba has a solid shot to make the team out of camp.
“When you have that kind of competition, it pushes everybody to be better,” coach Mike Yeo said.