UPDATE: The Wild has signed Stoner to a two-year, $2.1 million deal ($1.05 million cap hit)
As I mentioned after the season, the one unrestricted free agent I thought the Wild would definitely look to re-sign is defenseman Clayton Stoner.
I'm hearing through the grapevine that is very close to happening -- maybe as soon as today.
The 6-foot-3, 206-pounder suffered through another injury-plagued season, but coach Mike Yeo loves his physicality, the fact he stands up for any teammate and his reliability. He was a plus-3 in 51 games after being a plus-5 in 57 games last year. As GM Chuck Fletcher has even said before, being a plus player on the Wild the last two seasons is no small feat.
Stoner, 27, has 16 points in 116 games with 170 penalty minutes and 187 hits.
I remember asking Yeo with a few games left in the season if the Wild could afford to re-sign Stoner considering the myriad injuries he's sustained throughout his entire pro career. Yeo said, "Can we afford not to?"
"We would love to see him in the lineup, and durability is important when you're trying to make those decisions, but this is a character guy," Yeo said at the time. "This is a guy that plays for his teammates and is effective when he's on the ice. We'd like to get more games from him, but he's a valuable piece."
No details yet on the contract Stoner will receive.
The Wild is also close to signing goalie Johan Gustafsson, 20, to an entry-level contract. He backstopped Sweden to gold at the world junior championships and will play again next season in Lulea before I guess he comes over to North America in 2013-14. He is a sixth-round pick from 2010 and needed to be signed by June 1, or the Wild would have lost his rights.
My guess is next year, Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper start as a tandem in Houston. Kuemper is coming off shoulder surgery, and even though Hackett is close, you don't rush goalies. My guess is the Wild will either re-sign Josh Harding as Niklas Backstrom's No. 2 or sign a veteran backup.