Here we go for another Russo’s Rants Q and A. Questions were submitted on my blog (startribune.com/russo) and Facebook page (facebook.com/startribunemikerusso):
tyesands42: Why hasn’t Tyler Graovac been called up? He seems to be forgotten about at this point.
Russo: The biggest reason is the Wild’s centers have been healthy all season. Graovac was competing for Erik Haula’s spot earlier in the year, Graovac got hurt right out of camp and Haula has taken off. It took Graovac a long time to get going in Iowa, and in the meantime, they trust Jarret Stoll in a fourth-line role to win draws and bring veteran leadership.
Oglethorpe2: The expansion draft makes it obvious the Wild needs to trade at least one defenseman so they can get something of value in return. Which D will they retain?
Russo: Not necessarily. If you have to expose 25 percent of your payroll (more than $18 million) and players with no-move clauses end up having to be protected (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Devan Dubnyk), the Wild may have to expose Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon just to get to the minimum dollars. We will see. The rules haven’t been finalized. You can also make deals with the new expansion team(s) to try to sway them from taking a player you want to keep.
M_P_A_: Do you see any changes to the assistant coaches during the offseason?
Russo: I do. I believe most are in the final year of their contracts.
gopherfan67: Can the Wild avoid cap recapture penalties if Parise/Suter want to retire before end of contract?
lmao1: Edmonton has a ton of centers, especially if they land the top pick again. Any chance they’d be willing to trade Leon Draisaitl?
Russo: I think he’d be difficult to get, but Connor McDavid may be the only untouchable.
lmao1: If the Wild buy out Pommer, what sort of cap hit does he have in the future? Same with Thomas Vanek?
Russo: If it buys out Vanek — the more likely of the two — the cap charges would be $1.5 million and $2.5 million the next two years. Pominville would command cap charges (topping off at $4.6 million in 2017-18) and payments the next six years. Seems unbelievably costly and painful.
Slickvb: Is there really anything that can be done with the power play?
Russo: It’s trending upward, ranks 10th in the NHL and just scored in 13 straight road games. But the No. 1 unit can be plodding and predictable and have trouble getting into the zone.
Wannabeapixie: Why in the world did the Flames acquire Niklas Backstrom?
Russo: Jonas Hiller has been awful, Karri Ramo got hurt and they weren’t going to re-sign David Jones. With no goalies signed past this season, they were willing to give Backstrom a look to get some games. Moneywise, the trade was basically a wash.
ryans_land: How damaging do the Suter and Parise contracts look in the future?
Russo: With both on the other side of 30 with nine years left on their deals, there’s little doubt late in their careers this will become a serious issue unless the salary cap skyrockets. They eat up 22 percent of this year’s cap.
Jabuyer: True or false: Vanek never gets scratched if he is on pace to score 40 goals; so the lack of D is a misnomer.
Russo: What’s a misnomer is Vanek being on pace for 40 goals, so I don’t get your point. If his production came close to offsetting the lack of effort and turnovers, of course he wouldn’t be scratched.
Orangeapple: Why does it seem Jason Zucker is the whipping boy for both Wild coaches? Is Zucker a part of the long-term plan or was he just a flash in the pan?
Russo: His speed and offensive skill shouldn’t give him permission to cheat or ignore defensive responsibilities. I think he still can be a great player, but now that it has been two coaches, he probably needs to look in the mirror. If he’s not traded this summer, I can see him getting a bridge deal and potentially being exposed in the expansion draft.
Yathinkso: Chuck Fletcher … gone or one more year?
Russo: I still think he’s back as of now.
Scharbermn: What would it take for Torch to get the head coach spot long-term?
Russo: Beat Chicago, for one. I think minus a run to the conference finals or something, the Wild conducts a coaching search with Torch in the mix.
notsid2: Will the Wild ever get beyond a team that always starts hot to begin the season before going into the tank and then trying hard to barely make the playoffs?
Russo: That’s the gazillion-dollar question and something the brass must figure out this offseason. They need to take an honest appraisal of this roster and figure out why this keeps happening because as entertaining as these races are down the stretch, this team was not supposed to fight to eke into the playoffs and play the conference’s top seed.
GLUVIKES: Which draft picks do the Wild sign THIS year?
Russo: Alex Tuch is my guess.
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Chicago. Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. Ottawa. Friday: 6:30 p.m. at Detroit
All games on FSN
Player to watch: Artemi Panarin, Blackhawks
The super-skilled Russian might be running away in the Calder Trophy race.
“I’m not happy that I haven’t got Vanek to play at the level that I think he can play at.” — Wild coach John Torchetti, during Thomas Vanek’s three-game benching.