I sat down with Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund for a feature in Wednesday's paper, and today I met up with Jason Zucker for a future story.
The one interesting part of the Koivu and Granlund sitdown is that both their contracts are in flux for different reasons.
Koivu, entering his 13th season, is about to enter the final year of a seven-year contract and could become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Granlund, entering his sixth season, is a restricted free agent and this summer could be inking a lucrative, long-term contract with the Wild.
I talked to both about the subject and the awkwardness that during Wednesday's NHL Awards Show they both will find out which teammate they're losing to expansion and maybe could hear their in-attendance GM be involved in a trade to keep Vegas from taking defensemen Matt Dumba/Marco Scandella and/or acquire an exposed player from another team.
"It's weird," said Koivu, who didn't realize all the rules permitted so many backdoor dealings.
This morning, Vegas GM George McPhee said he has already consummate a half-dozen trades. As of yesterday, three sources felt the Wild was one of those teams. But one of those sources said he was just hearing that and two sources were upper-management sources from an Eastern Conference team that didn't say how they'd know that for a fact.
The Wild won't comment.
As I wrote when the Wild protected Zucker and Jonas Brodin, things would likely become much clearer Wednesday night what the Wild has been trying to accomplish through this entire process.
The Wild has made clear Fletcher would try to work with McPhee to get him not to select Dumba and/or Scandella in expansion and steer him another direction. As I wrote, the Wild doesn't have a first-round pick in this year's draft, doesn't have a second-round pick in the next two drafts and almost 100 percent would never trade a first-round pick in an ensuing draft without knowing it was a playoff lock (1997-1998, Fletcher was involved with a team that unknowingly traded the No. 1 overall pick in the draft -- Vincent Lecavalier; Fletcher would never chance that again, I don't think).
So the price would be a prospect and maybe another asset to steer Vegas off the Wild's D.
The question is whether protecting, in essence, Dumba and maybe even Scandella, would cost the Wild veteran center Eric Staal in expansion or if it would be Erik Haula or maybe even Gustav Olofsson, whom I've written from sources is liked by Vegas.
In texts and emails today, Fletcher and McPhee wouldn’t comment on any discussions the two have had. But McPhee did say he has consummated a half-dozen trades that will be filed Wednesday morning at the same time Vegas submits its 30-player expansion roster.
Back to Koivu, he knows between expansion, the cost maybe of Granlund and Nino Niederreiter and the upcoming potential trades around the draft and then free agency to follow, the fact he's entering the last year of his deal is probably not on Fletcher's radar yet.
“You have Wednesday, and then Granny and Nino, and all those guys,” Koivu said. “It’s not my time yet, I guess.”
“If I said I haven’t thought about it, I’d be lying,” Koivu continued. “You always think about the future. For myself, it’s not just about me anymore. It’s about my family, my wife and two kids. This would always be my first option, and I’m not just saying that. I love it in Minnesota. The way the people and the organization and the fans and everyone have treated me, it’s home for me, but also with my kids and my wife, they love it there.”
Koivu says he understands there’s many things Fletcher must mull over, including the fact he’s 34 and the Wild has players, now and in the future, it must make sure it can afford and make room for on the roster.
“The cap’s one thing and how’s that changing and who we can keep now,” Koivu said. “It’s not always realistic that they have a chance to offer me anything or, ‘Do they want to keep me? It’s in the team’s hands. If they want me, great. If not, I’ll just prepare for next season like always and make sure we’re ready to go.
“It’s going to be weird that we’ll be at the awards and we can lose a player at the same time. I didn’t understand all the stuff you can do by making trades to keep them from taking players or trying to get a player from another team.”
Koivu did say if he doesn’t sign an extension this summer, he won’t negotiate during the season. That means if he’s unsigned heading into the year, his long-term future with the Wild will be a question.
“I don’t think I would do anything during the season,” Koivu said. “I don’t think it would help my game at all. If not now, it’s going to be at the end of the year.”
As Granlund, he knows his life could be changing significantly very soon.
“It’ll get done at some point,” Granlund said. “I’m not worrying about it. You kind of know life could change. At some point hopefully we get it done Right now it’s about getting ready for next season. Enjoy the game and enjoy your life.”
In the meantime, Koivu and Granlund will be up for the Selke Trophy and Lady Byng Trophy, respectively, Wednesday night. If they win, linemate Jason Zucker expects to be in the speech.
“I told them, ‘You guys have played together before, and nothing. What changed?’” Zucker said.
As for Vegas, McPhee can’t believe Wednesday is finally here.
“Three days ago we had a whiteboard with no names on it, and now it looks like we’ve got a hockey team,” McPhee said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty good team. We’ve got a lot of D, we’ve got really good goaltending, we have a lot of centers and we’ve got scoring on the wings. We should have good speed. So it’s going to be a good team."
A reminder, the Wild's overhauled home jersey (green) will be revealed tonight at 9, as well as slightly changed whites.
Thursday at 2, the NHL schedule is released with home openers coming out Wednesday. The Wild opens on the road ... for a little bit quite frankly ... in an interesting arena that'll be a big deal.