According to sources, the Wild plans to recall right wing Christoph Bertschy tomorrow for his NHL debut. He is tied with injured Iowa forward Michael Keranen with a team-high six points in 12 games.
He flashed some skill in that preseason game against the Oilers in Saskatoon. The 21-year-old from Fribourg, Switzerland, scored 14 goals and 30 points in 44 games last season for Bern in the Swiss League.
Zach Parise has been ruled out at least the rest of the homestand (Saturday against Tampa Bay and Tuesday against Winnipeg) with what the Wild is calling a lower-body injury.
On video, it’s a right knee injury. Parise had an MRI this morning and the Wild is awaiting results, but the news initially appears to be relatively good.
“I’m not getting into the timeframe here,” coach Mike Yeo said in front of large contingent of media members today. “I don’t think it’s going to be multiple weeks, I don’t think it’s going to be months. And I’m not a doctor. So we’ll say he’s out the next couple games. We’ve got a big game tomorrow against Tampa Bay, and that’s our focus.”
Yeo did admit that beyond the “couple games” that he’ll miss, they “don’t really have much idea going forward after that. We have to wait to hear here. I can say it’s not going to be something that’s month to month. I shouldn’t guarantee that, but that’s the word that I’ve got so far.
“Hopefully he’s back sooner than later. But like I said, I don’t have a timeframe for you guys. All I can tell you right now is he’s out the next couple games.”
Defenseman Nate Prosser also had an appointment today. He hurt his back last night, but Yeo doesn’t know yet if it’ll be “a one game or longer thing.” Christian Folin, scratched in four straight games, will play for him.
As of right now, the Wild did not recall an extra forward. They’ll wait until after 4 p.m. (salary cap is calculated daily in the NHL, so the cap-strapped Wild saves a day), however the indication after practice is that the announcement will come in the morning.
The Wild is $648,000 from the cap ceiling. The callup will eat that up basically (get to the bottom of this blog because I explain what LTI exception is), but this is a significant situation when the Wild practices one forward short a day before a game because of it. I mean, let’s put it this way: Most teams would want a callup, maybe one who’s about to get his NHL debut (my gut is Christoph Bertschy), to get at least one full practice in with his new team, don't you think?
But the Wild decided not to do that today clearly because it's inches from the cap ceiling.
Yeo didn’t want to touch the subject, saying, practicing with only 11 forwards today “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t [about the cap. … Either way, our focus coming into today was last night’s game was not good enough. That’s all that matters. Last night’s game was not good enough and we have to bounce back. Obviously Zach, Pross, both those guys are hurt and will not play tomorrow. Those are big losses going along with the losses that we already have (Tyler Graovac and Justin Fontaine), but I am only focused on the Tampa Bay game right now.”
Yeo said the Wild needs a renewed focus on defense.
“I think there’s been too many times where one line goes out and the next line goes out and things are going the right way, and [another] line goes out and they take away from our game. And so we have to get back to our identity here as far as the game that we play consistently guy after guy.
“We have to get back to being a real tough team against, and that’s going to be real important. I mean, we’re going to be tested here. Playing against some high skilled teams, we’re missing some skill in the lineup, so certainly we’re going to have to dig in real deep here.”
In practice today, Yeo didn’t touch the productive Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter line. He moved Charlie Coyle from third-line center to second-line right wing with Jason Pominville, who moved to left wing, and Mikael Granlund.
Pominville (no goals in 12 games) and Granlund each have one point in the past nine games, and none at even-strength.
“I don’t have a crystal ball that that’s the way that things are going to go, but that’s something we want to give a shot to,” Yeo said. “Just looking at Granlund and Pominville, we want somebody with straight ahead speed, somebody that can be physical, somebody that can be strong on the puck, and we’ll see how that goes.”
Thomas Vanek skated with Erik Haula and Jordan Schroeder today and Chris Porter skated with Ryan Carter, but Yeo said the callup won’t necessarily just slide onto that fourth line.
“I would say that we are looking at our third line and our fourth line. What you saw from the top two lines today is what you can expect tomorrow,” Yeo said.
Granlund was as perimeter as I’ve ever seen him last night. He didn’t seem to be skating hard and he was a turnover machine. I asked about Granlund, and Yeo lumped him in with his linemate, Pominville.
“The pressure of scoring has gotten to those guys and they’re drifting further away from what their game is,” Yeo said. “They’re a line that creates by doing the right things. They pressure, they work, they win one-on-one battles, they create turnovers, they play the system the right way. They’re successful because they have skill, but they’re successful because they have skill and they do all those things. The message to them is pretty simple: just play the game. If you score, great. If you don’t score, just make sure that at the end of the night you said you played a really good game. And that’s when you end up scoring.”
I asked Granlund about his play, and he said, “I haven’t played my best hockey, and I think our line hasn’t played our best hockey. We all know we can be better. It just starts those simple things, and if we do those really good, we’ll get some goals at some point.”
Without Parise, Yeo said, “Guys have to step up. The quicker that we can get to some kind of semblance of what our lines are going to look like – obviously the ideal situation is we get to something and we keep it there. But if it’s not working, then we’re going to have to try to adjust it and work around. But we have to try to get there quickly because it’s tough if you’re switching the lines every game. But guys just have to step up and it doesn’t have to be the same guys every night. But most important we just have to play our game real well. Obviously we’re missing some key guys, but we still have a lot of real good hockey players in the lineup. Good hockey teams get through stuff like this.”
As I mentioned, the Wild’s about to be at the cap ceiling.
One more injury, and the Wild won’t have the cap space for a callup, so the Wild will have to dip into the LTI (long-term injury/illness) exception most likely.
Some media member call it LTIR like long-term injury relief, but the CBA just calls it LTI exception.
Basically, here’s how it works:
Clubs are not permitted to exceed the upper-limit range of the cap ($71.4 million for the Wild, Less for teams that had an overage from last year or clawback a this year) unless it’s by way of performance bonus cushion or LTI Exception.
In the case of LTI, replacement player(s) may be added but only if player(s) salary and bonuses do not exceed the player(s) on LTI. So, if the Wild use LTI, it can theoretically spent up to the player on LTI’s salary.
Once that unfit to play player(s) are deemed healthy, the club must ensure its total cap number is once again compliant with the $71.4 million ceiling.
A player is eligible for LTI Exception if he misses 10 games AND 24 days. So if Parise is short-term as of now, the likely candidates for LTI Exception are Graovac (six weeks with sports hernia surgery) and Fontaine (sprained MCL).
The Wild invoked LTI Exception only once in team history (Josh Harding a few years ago). It’ll very clearly need to do that again in the next little bit to afford injury callups at a minimum.
Getting a lot of questions about trades, etc. GM Chuck Fletcher is unavailable for comment today. I’ll try to get with him tomorrow. BUT, as you see in the NHL since there have been basically no trades, trades are very tough to make this early in the season and that’s compounded by the fact that Wild doesn’t have many tradeable assets in my opinion and no cap space.