Las Vegas – Things still were fluid Tuesday night, but there’s a chance pending restricted free agent Erik Haula signs with the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.
If that occurs, the Wild won’t lose defensemen Matt Dumba or Marco Scandella, center Eric Staal or any of its other unprotected players when the expansion team announces its initial roster later in the night.
The Golden Knights have an exclusive window that ends at 9 a.m. Wednesday to talk to and sign any exposed unrestricted and restricted free agents. There have been ongoing talks between Golden Knights GM George McPhee and Haula’s agent Jay Grossman since Sunday, sources say. While contract terms had been discussed explicitly, there was still no finality or signed contract as of early Tuesday evening Vegas time.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie first tweeted the Haula possibility.
If the Golden Knights sign the former two-time University of Minnesota leading scorer, Haula would count as the Wild’s lost player in expansion. The Wild would not receive the usual compensation that comes with a restricted free agent signing elsewhere after July 1.
Also, because the Golden Knights conceivably could just wait until July 1 to sign Haula, one might assume General Manager Chuck Fletcher has agreed to send the Golden Knights an asset, possibly prospect Alex Tuch, to ensure Haula is signed and thus steer the Golden Knights away from taking Dumba, Scandella or Staal.
Sources say Fletcher met with Haula at the end of the season and was straightforward that the Wild had an expansion protection problem. Fletcher also met with Grossman at the combine.
Haula, 26, despite scoring a career-high 15 goals last season, could probably use a fresh start. At times last season, he played on the fourth line and only averaged 13 minutes, 48 seconds a game.
Haula admitted his frustration at times and certainly was angry after the Wild was eliminated in five games to St. Louis, saying at the time, “What is this, five years in a row? I’m sick of it. We’re all sick of it.”
In texts and e-mails, Fletcher and McPhee wouldn’t comment Tuesday on any discussions the two have had. McPhee quipped, “We have to save all the surprises for the show.”
McPhee did say he had consummated a half-dozen trades with NHL teams that will be filed Wednesday morning at the same time Vegas submits its 30-player expansion roster. The Wild indicated when it protected Jason Zucker over Staal and Jonas Brodin over Dumba and Scandella that what the team was trying to accomplish during this process would become clearer Wednesday.
Fletcher always has candidly said he valued his defensemen and didn’t want to lose any of them.
It’s also believed that Fletcher has talked to McPhee about trying to acquire potential exposed players from other teams.
McPhee can’t believe Wednesday is finally here.
“Three days ago we had a whiteboard with no names on it, and now it looks like we’ve got a hockey team,” McPhee said.
Zucker wants credit
Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund will be up for the Selke Trophy and Lady Byng Trophy, respectively, Wednesday night.
“It’s going to be weird that we’ll be at the awards and we can lose a player at the same time,” said Koivu, the Wild’s captain.
“I didn’t understand all the stuff you can do by making trades to keep them from taking players or trying to get a player from another team.”
If either wins an award, Zucker, their linemate, expects to be thanked in the speech.
“I told them, ‘You guys have played together before, and nothing. What changed?’ ” Zucker said.