The Wild made its first in-season acquisition of the 2015-16 season this morning by claiming veteran center Jarret Stoll off waivers from the New York Rangers.
Stoll, expected to arrive tomorrow, could made his Wild debut Thursday against those very same Rangers.
"Cash on delivery," General Manager Chuck Fletcher joked when I asked if the Wild planned to mail Stoll's $3,375 waiver fee to the Rangers (that's the customary practice) or just hand it to them Thursday.
Stoll, 33, who won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings, has scored 141 goals and 382 points in 821 games over parts of 13 seasons with the Oilers, Kings and Rangers. He's long been a two-way center who can win draws (.589 this year, .552 in his career, which ranks sixth among active players with at least 400 games since 2003-04) and should help the Wild on the penalty kill. It's been clear the Wild has missed a right-shot center on the PK since losing Kyle Brodziak.
He has played 93 career playoff games, which now is tops on the Wild in terms of postseason experience.
"We’re a team that’s trying to find a way to get over the hump," Fletcher said. "We’re a good, competitive team now and we'd still like to get to another level. Hopefully a player like Jarret with his pedigree and experience and the intangibles that he brings will help us get there."
We'll see if this also gives Mike Yeo the option of moving Charlie Coyle back to wing. Fletcher said he could play fourth-line center or allow Coyle to move to the wing. It'll be up to Yeo.
Fletcher basically said the Wild has made a lot of recalls, and frankly, Fletcher indicated that those recalls showed him that it needed veteran depth after losing Brodziak and Chris Stewart this past offseason. He said veterans usually cost third- and fourth-round picks at the trade deadline, so this was a chance to get a player it coveted for a waiver fee.
This gives the Wild depth, allows Tyler Graovac to play and get his game back in Iowa. The old question, "Who will be the odd guy out?" to me is meaningless. While somebody will have to come out initially, that's only because the Wild is healthy. Injuries will happen again, and the Wild just went through a stage where it had several injuries and was playing minor-leaguers like Christoph Bertschy, Kurtis Gabriel and Brett Bulmer, who are not full-time NHLers. So Stoll's pickup adds NHL depth.
Fletcher said the Wild talked with Stoll last summer when he ultimately chose the Rangers.
"So when we got a second chance at it, we just grabbed him," Fletcher said. "Very good penalty killer, top faceoff guy, a guy that excels on the right side of the ice, which still has not been our strength in faceoffs, shoots the puck really well. He’s a guy that’s put up points in his career, but I think at this point we’re at least to start looking at him to come in and play more of a checking, PK, late-game defensive type of role."
Stoll, boyfriend of TV personality Erin Andrews, was arrested last April in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand during a Kings outing for felony cocaine possession. That charge was eventually dismissed and he pled guilty to two lesser misdemeanors. He received community service.
Fletcher said the Wild investigated Stoll and did its due diligence this past summer.
"We spent a lot of time speaking with many, many people," Fletcher said. "Clearly he made a mistake. … He’s made his comments to that effect. We’re very comfortable with where Jarret’s at right now as a player and as a person. The reports we get is that he’s an unbelievable leader, I think he was very respected in that Los Angeles dressing room and one of the true leaders of that team."
He signed a one-year deal with the Rangers worth $800,000 after being reinstated by the NHL this past offseason.
Fletcher joked they're probably like $600 under the cap now. They'll obviously send Tyson Strachan back to Iowa as long as it gets out of tonight's game healthy on D. Fletcher said they have enough room for one callup.
The Wild, which has shut out three opponents in the past five games, is riding a seven-game point streak (4-0-3) into tonight's game against Vancouver. The Sedin Twins and Radim Vrbata have long been Wild killers.
It’s the Wild’s longest such run since Jan. 20-Feb. 14, 2014 (8-0-2). The Wild has allowed five goals in the past six games, three goals in the past 18 regulation periods.
Darcy Kuemper in net. Please go to startribune.com/wild for today's article on Kuemper/Dubnyk/Niederreiter and go to startribune.com/sports for my feature on Arizona State hockey.
The next Russo-Souhan Show is Thursday at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub. Kenny Albert will be our special guest, so come on by. All of our podcasts are on malepatternpodcasts.com.
Lastly, the next Star Tribune Fans Night Out is Dec. 22. The package includes a pregame Chalk Talk with myself and Wes Walz and a lower-bowl ticket to the Wild-Canadiens game. Here is the link for more information.