VANCOUVER – It’s too early to know how former NHL defenseman Steve Montador died Sunday in his Ontario home. A cause of death is unknown pending an autopsy, but police do not suspect foul play.
Montador’s death at age 35 brought back memories of the premature deaths of former Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard and NHLers Rick Rypien and Wade Belak.
“Too many people are dying,” Wild assistant coach Andrew Brunette, who used to call Montador “Mo-Mo” when they were teammates in Chicago. “So many of them. It’s sad. I know [Montador] had concussions and battled some depression and anxiety. And we know what Boogey went through [with concussions and addiction to prescription painkillers].
“It’s something we should and we have to keep an eye on. We’re trying. But I think we can do a better job.”
Jason Pominville, teammates with Montador in Buffalo, remembered him as an “incredible teammate.”
“What a guy, you can’t ask for a better teammate, a better person than him,” Pominville said. “I know he talked about concussions and depression. I heard of him having that coming to us, but I never saw anything like that with us. But 35, dying of natural causes, what can you say?”
Brunette and Pominville both said Montador would always be studying on planes and in the locker room because he was taking online college classes. “He always had something going on, always had ideas,” Pominville said. “He was into all this organic stuff and brought that food to our team. He was just always into good health. He was also heavily into the process of hiring [NHLPA Executive Director] Donald Fehr. He was so smart, so fun. His girl was expecting, too, so this is so sad.”
Zucker fill-in sought
The Wild is actively looking for top-six winger to replace injured Jason Zucker and a defenseman, but the price of most rentals is high. In fact, before Mike Santorelli being traded along with Cody Franson to Nashville, Toronto told most teams Santorelli would cost a second-round draft pick and a prospect.
The Wild was one of the teams that inquired about the forward.
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher is trying to avoid trading his second-round pick in this year’s draft because he has traded three seconds in the past two years. Two years ago, he traded a 2013 first, a 2014 second and two prospects for Pominville and a fourth. Fletcher ultimately acquired a 2014 second back from Winnipeg in the Devin Setoguchi trade, but he ultimately traded that second and next year’s second to Buffalo for Matt Moulson.
Also, don’t expect any playoff bubble teams, including the Wild, to trade their first-round pick. That’s because under the new rules, any non-playoff team can win the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery (expected to be franchise-turner Connor McDavid). Fletcher was part of the Florida Panthers’ regime in 1997 that traded a first to San Jose for Viktor Kozlov. The Panthers collapsed, won the lottery and that subsequently-traded first to Tampa Bay became Vincent Lecavalier.
Yeo sticks to his guns
Wild coach Mike Yeo at least briefly considered playing bruiser Stu Bickel on Monday in Vancouver. That’s because seven nights earlier, the Wild felt the Canucks were running around and headhunting in Minnesota.
Zucker and Ryan Carter were injured and the Canucks took runs at Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon. In the end, Yeo didn’t want to alter a winning lineup.
Yeo felt the Wild would need four lines that could play regular shifts, felt Stephane Veilleux, Erik Haula and Kyle Brodziak (the scratch candidates if Bickel played) were too valuable as penalty killers and “quite frankly, nobody deserves to come out.”
“If they want to run around, then hopefully we can combat that [on the power play],” Yeo said before the game. “But we’ve got to be ready to compete in our own way.”