Morning from Minnesota, where I'm staking out the Wild.
Free agency begins at 11 a.m. CT. I'm be on XM 211 and Sirius 207 at 10:25 a.m. CT.
I'll be updating this throughout the day and of course when there's news. And of course, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib.
Hopefully you read today's free-agency primer here.
Thomas Vanek is expected to get a short-term (probably three years) offer from the Wild, but the Wild also spent part of yesterday talking more with Jarome Iginla's peeps. My guess is the Wild offer Iginla a two-year deal in the $12 million neighborhood. Just a guess though. Colorado, Detroit, Vancouver and Tampa Bay are also reportedly interested as well as Boston, which wants to re-sign him but has cap issues.
I spoke to Jason Pominville yesterday, and you can see in the article that he had a pretty good scouting report on what Vanek could bring to the Wild and a funny line about Iginla.
Just a reminder, the free-agent crop this year, especially up front, is slim. The next group of scoring wingers (some of whom I listed in the article) all have significant red flags (from injury to inconsistency to, uh, attitude problems, to off-ice problems), so if the Wild misses on Vanek or Iginla, this could be what GM Chuck Fletcher meant when he said Saturday, "There’s certain players you might value more than other players and if you don’t think the player is a perfect fit maybe the best move is just to maybe move on. I don’t think it’s that deep a free-agent class where if we don’t get No. 1 we should just blindly go after No. 2 or 3. Let’s be patient.”
So it'll be interesting to see what happens today. Jason Spezza was just traded to on-the-rise Dallas, meaning the division just got more stacked, especially up the middle. Although, I'll admit I'm not a big Spezza fan. But Seguin-Spezza, in the words of Larry David, "Pretty, pretty, pretty good."
I have not gotten confirmation that Cody McCormick is going to market, although there is only 40 more minutes til free agency begins.
Willie Mitchell is still an option to replace Clayton Stoner. I'm sure there are other options, too. I'd expect Stoner signs early in today's free-agency period. It certainly looks like Stoner's 10 years in the Wild organization is ending today. Good guy, good quote.
Also, as I alluded to in the free-agent primer but now can confirm, the Wild is officially out on Matt Niskanen. The Wild won't make an offer. Niskanen has the opportunity to sign a six- or seven-year deal deal today and the Wild's just not comfortable signing Niskanen to a contract that long. Lightning makes sense. So does Washington.
We'll see if this means the Wild's out on a top defenseman or if it just means it's going in a different direction than Niskanen. I heard the Wild called on Anton Stralman, but he's apparently going to get a five-year deal in the $25 million range.
Remember, every time you sign a player to a long-term deal like that, it means it'll likely take you out of future potentially top free agents and it could box out youngsters ready to make the team in the future. Also, the Wild's nervous signing more players for too, too long because there's an unknown right now what some of these re-signings, especially next summer, are going to cost the Wild.
If some of next year's RFA's suddenly have monster breakout years this year (Granlund, Coyle, Brodin, whoeever), it could cost the Wild big term and money. That's why I'd suspect later this summer or into this season that Fletcher will try to get ahead with some and extend their contracts now.
For those confused why I never talk about pursuing a goalie, please read this article from Friday.
The Wild is expected to sign Guillaume Gelinas, 21, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's best defenseman this past season after scoring 23 goals and 92 points in 67 games for Val-d'Or. He scored another 34 points in 24 playoff games for a team that lost the Memorial Cup to Edmonton. He would start in Iowa next season.