The Wild has confirmed it's brought back unrestricted free agent Robbie Earl on a one-year, $550,000 deal (105K down in the minors). In an Earl story I wrote from Nashville late in the season, Earl said he wanted to seek a one-way deal in free agency. That didn't happen, so he's accepted a two-way deal back in Minnesota. Earl was the No. 1 callup option this past season, so he probably recognized Minnesota offered the best opportunity to play up here. The Wild has a lot of trust in the speedy winger, who scored six goals last season.
I'm willing to wager an Ovechkin-sized paycheck that even Todd Richards himself is tired of the Todd Richards popup on wild.com.
I can just envision Todd sitting inside his office checking out the Wild's roster, screaming: "Close! $^*(#&%@!!! How do you get this darn thing to CLOSE?????"
I kid the Wild bench boss. The rest of this blog disappeared on me, which of course has me boiling over since I'm on vacation allegedly.
So here we go again, only not as good.
The Wild signed German goalie standout Dennis Endras today. The Wild, just like it did in the college free-agent market at the end of last season, wants to get more involved in the European free-agent market starting June 1 every year. The Wild swung and missed on some guys last month, but it landed Endras today. He was the MVP of the most recent World Championship in his native Germany. He's also the guy that stoned the Americans (Richards was on the bench) in front of 76,000 plus one night.
The Wild hopes he becomes the next Niklas Backstrom. We'll see, although one scout from another team told me at the draft Endras was the next Niklas Backstrom. In fact, Scotty Bowman once told me Antti Niemi was the next Niklas Backstrom.
Everybody's the next Niklas Backstrom. If I had a dime, ...
Backstrom became the current Backstrom in part because of a lot of good fortune and a helluva lot of talent.
Backstrom was the first European free agent in the league (as allowed for the first time in this new CBA). He was on a two-way like Josh Harding (and now Endras), but Harding got hurt in St. Louis during training camp in 2006. The Wild also wanted Harding to get more playing time than what would have been possible as Manny Fernandez's caddy.
So, Backstrom started the season with the Wild, barely played those first six weeks but became the first NHL goalie in history to win his first three games in relief. Then Fernandez injured his knee, coincidentally in St. Louis, and Backstrom became a second-half star and the team's playoff goalie vs. Anaheim. The Wild signed him to a two-year deal in June 2007 and Fernandez was traded a few weeks later.
Can Endras become the next Nik Backstrom? We will see. Endras led the worlds with a 1.15 gaa and .961 SP.
The plan is for Endras to return to Germany this season and come over for the 2011-12 season. Of course, if he proves himself in training camp -- and it does appear as if he is coming to the Wild training camp -- maybe he turns into Josh Harding trade insurance.
But he's definitely not going to Houston.
Said GM Chuck Fletcher in an email: "We will return Endras to Augsburger for another season of development. This will allow all of our non-NHL goalies to maximize playing time. Endras will come over for the 2011-12 season."
If true, the Wild would have to re-sign him for 2011-12.
This now gives the Wild a logjam of goalies, which is always a good thing.
Harding still needs to be re-signed, likely to a one-year deal. As for Harding, this doesn't necessarily signal a guaranteed trade. Remember, it's not like the Wild hasn't been trying to trade Harding. It has, but so far no dice. The problem is there are so many goalies and so few teams that need them. Heck, Marty Turco's unsigned and Evgeni Nabokov today had to sign in Russia. And clearly, Harding has been viewed by others as a young, inconsistent goalie, and one that's coming off hip surgery. So, not a simple trade at this juncture.
He's expected to eventually sign his one-year deal, and if he can't be traded before this season or during it, he'll likely move on next summer.
Anton Khudobin and Matt Hackett are expected to be in Houston. Darcy Kuemper is unsigned as of now. Being signed now as opposed to later will depend on his camp, but Kuemper could return to Red Deer. Recently-drafted Johan Gustafsson is heading back to Sweden next year.
(When I woke up this morning, I definitely didn't think I'd write 600 words on goalies because of the signing of Dennis Endras.
In fact, I better save this blog and not make the same mistake twice.)
As for the development camp July 13-19, the Wild released its roster today. The schedule will be released later in the week once it's determined which day the open scrimmage will be. The plan is to scrimmage July 17 and 18, but only one will be free and open to the public.
The roster includes prospects like former CC teammates Nate Prosser and Chad Rau, Casey Wellman, who will be given every chance to make next year's Wild team as a centerman, defensemen Marco Scandella and Tyler Cuma, Colton Gillies, incoming Gopher Erik Haula and Uwe Krupp's kid, Bjorn
Here's the roster: