The question you have to ask about the fruitless negotiations between the Wild and Marian Gaborik is, how can you root for either side in this one?
Gaborik is hurt again, proving himself fragile, damaging his leverage in negotiations and the Wild's leverage in trade talks. He scored as many goals as me in last year's playoffs. He's asking for the kind of money paid to dominant all-around players, and he isn't one. How do you take his side?
The Wild is getting ready to get rid of another popular player, refusing to pay top dollar for one of the guys who helps fill the X every game night, dooming the franchise to endless rebuilding and an over-reliance on their coach to keep winning games 2-1. How do you take the team's side?
The Wild is right about one thing: The team needs to trade Gaborik when the time is right.
That presumes, though, that Gaborik will be healthy and productive enough before the March 3 trading deadline to incite a bidding war for an injury-prone player asking for big money in a league filled with teams pushing the salary cap.
At this point, a deal with the trading deadline approaching seems to make most sense, but if you follow Minnesota sports, you know that these deals are hardly guaranteed successes.
The Twins tried to incite a bidding war for Johan Santana, and wound up with a raw center fielder and mediocre pitching prospects.
The Twins decided to play out the string with Torii Hunter, to take a shot at the World Series in 2007, and they missed the playoffs and watched Hunter walk away.
Trading Gaborik under these circumstances requires a deft touch that Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough still has to prove he possesses.
So far, The Riser has hidden behind his "build-from-within'' philosophy that allows one of the most financially successful franchises in hockey to pretend it must operate like a pauper. Now he's got to make a franchise-changing decision, a franchise-changing deal, and his palms probably sweat every time he thinks of the name "Doug Gilmour.''
That's the trade for which Risebrough is best known -- sending the dynamic Gilmour from Calgary to Toronto in 1992. It was a 10-player deal, but Gilmour, who went on to score 238 points and play in two conference finals in his first two seasons in Toronto, was the only player you need to remember from the trade that has stuck to Risebrough's reputation like a felony.
We know where this is headed -- Risebrough will trade Gaborik when he's healthy and hot to a contending team, and try to acquire players who can complement the Wild's true core players -- Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns.
This process does raise impertinent questions about our Little Icehouse on the Prairie.
Risebrough has spoken of playing for the Wild, and in the X, as if any hockey player -- Brian Rolston in particular -- should pay admission to get into the home locker room.
If playing for the Wild is so great, why hasn't Gaborik, who gets hurt every other Wednesday, accepted the enormous amount of money on the table to ensure his earning potential in the future?
Maybe because if you're Gaborik, you have an agent and friends who play all over North America and tell you that you can have a pretty good time making $8 million or more a year in LA, or Orange County, or Montreal, or Vancouver, or New York, or Florida.
In fact, if you make $8 million or more a year, you can have fun pretty much anywhere, and many of the hockey cities that would be interested in Gaborik probably would be willing to cut him loose offensively.
One thing is certain: For an organization that has received 97 percent favorable, even obsequious, coverage from our generally favorable, even obsequious, media market, the Wild brain trust has become thin-skinned and whiny about the scrutiny every big-league franchise encounters when dealing with the future of a star player.
Even here, if The Riser pulls a Gilmour with Gabby, he's going to need skin the thickness of a goalie pad.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. email@example.com