Much to our digital sports editor’s chagrin, I’ve yet to conduct a live startribune.com chat (I promise, it’s coming), so I figured this was a perfect time for the first Sunday Insider Q&A of the season. Questions were submitted on my blog, Russo’s Rants, at startribune.com/russo.
Waferthin: Who is most likely to be exposed in the expansion draft: Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba?
Russo: Frankly, maybe two of them. Since the Wild would likely choose the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, the Wild would only be able to protect three defensemen, and Ryan Suter has to be one (no-move clause). That means the Wild would only be able to protect two among Scandella, Brodin, Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Christian Folin, Gustav Olofsson and Nate Prosser. I’ll delve more into this in my expansion enterprise pieces running in Wednesday’s Strib.
BrodieManMN: Do you have more detail on what Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and Sabres GM Tim Murray had cooking with Evander Kane?
Russo: I can only say that I’ve been told by multiple sources multiple times that there were trade talks. But you can assume that in order to add $5.25 million in salary (even if salary/cap space were retained), it would have had to be a “hockey trade.”
Qvanminn: What is Bruce Boudreau’s position on the use of skate/foot protection in light of the current injury situation? Why is he not insistent that all players utilize it?
Russo: He’s not allowed. Fletcher has tried for years, and he has convinced all defensemen except Suter to wear something, as well as forwards Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Erik Haula and Zac Dalpe. As Haula’s injury shows, nothing’s foolproof. If you read last Sunday’s Insider, Boudreau, in a comical way, proposed taking all protection away.
Mikeile: Biggest surprises so far?
Russo: I’d say, in order, Devan Dubnyk’s quality play, the drastically improved penalty kill and Folin.
Tribunestar: What are Boudreau’s plans regarding backup goalie? It again appears Darcy Kuemper is unreliable.
Russo: Boudreau says Kuemper’s early struggles won’t alter his plan to start him roughly 25 games. He’ll obviously start this weekend in Philadelphia or Ottawa, but if he’s shelled, we’ll see.
Wildlizzy: Has there been any thought to adding a leadership role to a young player?
Russo: I believe at least Charlie Coyle and Spurgeon are part of the new leadership group, which includes the three captains and at least Eric Staal.
Laknee: Would Mike Yeo have been a safer hire for the Avs than Jared Bednar?
Russo: I don’t know much about Bednar other than he won the Calder Cup last season, but one would have to assume Yeo would have been a front-runner for the Avs job had Patrick Roy stepped down before Yeo accepted the St. Louis Blues associate coach/coach-in-waiting gig.
Karitakko: Ranking last summer’s free-agent class, where would you rank Staal in terms of value? In my opinion, he has been the Wild’s best forward this season.
Russo: At three years at $3.5 million per, that’s solid value. I think it was a three-center class, and the Wild had to get one of them. Frans Nielsen seemed to be destined to go to Detroit before free agency. Fletcher talked to David Backes, but the Wild wasn’t going to — and frankly couldn’t — counter the five-year, $30 million deal he got from Boston.
cbass99: Reasons to keep/get rid of Granlund?
Russo: Keep: Immensely skilled, case in point being the two goals he scored last week. Get rid of: Undersized, case in point how easily checked he was at the end of the Buffalo game. As pending restricted free agents, Granlund and Nino Niederreiter could warrant long-term deals. Can the Wild afford — or even want to afford — both? Remember, Joel Eriksson Ek, Alex Tuch and others need full-time roster spots at some point.
Bradydad: Will Luke Kunin leave Wisconsin next year and join the Wild?
Russo: My gut? Yes.
Mgalaforet: Beyond Eriksson Ek and Tuch, what Wild prospect, either in the minors, college or juniors, is creating the most buzz within the organization?
Russo: The Wild still loves Olofsson and, of course, Tuch. With me, it’s Jordan Greenway, who looks like a monster playing for Boston University. Miami’s Louis Belpedio is heavily regarded, and then the two Russians, Kirill Kaprizov (KHL) and Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL), have had great starts this season.
Cntrygntlmn: Can you explain what you mean by the Wild “saving money against the cap” when they send down players?
Russo: Basically, there’s a $73 million cap ceiling that is calculated daily. So every day you have players on the roster, the less cap space you accrue for the season. The more cap space expended, the less a team can afford when it comes to injury callups or in-season acquisitions.
Stare off: Mikko vs. Scott Stevens. What remains?
Russo: Koivu in a fetal position.
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Thursday: 6 p.m. at Pittsburgh (FSN)
Saturday: 6 p.m. at Philadelphia (FSN+)
Player to watch: Matt Cullen, Penguins
After scoring on his 40th birthday Wednesday, Cullen ranks fifth among Minnesota-born NHLers with 666 points and sixth with 238 goals.
“Sometimes it’s a frustrating team.”
— Wild coach Bruce Boudreau on how he never knows which Wild team will emerge from period to period.