As I indicated on the May 24 “Chase Lang signed” blog, the Wild has opted not to sign Lang’s fellow 2014 sixth-round pick, Reid Duke.

The Wild had hoped to trade his rights before today’s 4 p.m. deadline for a draft pick, but assistant GM Brent Flahr said the Wild was offered a number of different mid-level players that didn’t make sense.

So, Duke will re-enter this month’s draft in Buffalo.

My guess is interested teams figured why give the Wild a pick for Duke when they can either draft him in the mid to late rounds or invite him to development camp if he’s not re-drafted.

Why not sign Duke?

Flahr said, “Some of our signings, what we have coming into the program, if you look at right wing in Iowa or going forward, you’ve got [Alex] Tuch and [Christoph] Bertschy and [Zack] Mitchell and whether [Kurtis] Gabriel’s up or down, maybe him. We’ve got [Adam] Gilmour, who’s going to play center or right wing. [Marc] Hagel. Even [Sam] Anas, whether he’s center or right wing, we haven’t decided.

“We just didn’t know if there was really an opportunity for him.”

Duke ranked sixth in the WHL playoffs with 24 points in 21 games. He tied for 23rd in the league during the regular season with 33 goals.

At Wild development camps, he looked to have good hands and could really shoot the puck, which is why the Wild drafted him in the first place. But it doesn’t sound like the Wild was happy with his development in certain other areas of the game.

Also, as I mentioned in that Lang blog, the Wild won’t sign 2014 fifth-round pick Tanner Faith. As for the other 2014 draft picks, Alex Tuch and Pavel Jenys are signed, Louis Belpedio is still in college and Kaapo Kahkonen and Pontus Sjalin are still in Europe. So the Wild still owns their rights.

The Wild also didn’t sign former Michigan State defenseman John Draeger, a 2012 third-round pick.

Tonight’s Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final here in Pittsburgh. Speedy Matt Nieto will play for San Jose for the first time since being injured in Game 6 of the second round vs. Nashville. Pittsburgh's Bryan Rust, who has four goals in the past three games, is a gametime decision after being hit in the head in Game 1 by Patrick Marleau. He skated this morning.

If you didn’t see my Matt Cullen feature today, here that is.

Also, in Friday’s paper, I’m planning a piece on former Wild winger Joel Ward. Tons of good stuff should be in that. In Saturday’s paper, my millionth Brent Burns feature. In this one, I’ll revisit why the Wild made the trade and look at his development into becoming a star two-way defenseman.

By the way, I went back and looked at my first big Ward piece with the Star Tribune. It came Dec. 27, 2006, when he played in his hometown of Toronto. In that game, he registered his first and only point with the Wild, an assist on a Kurtis Foster goal off a faceoff.

Here’s that story if you want to refresh your memory (check out the secondary notes):

WILD NOTES // Rookie Ward is thrilled to play in his hometown
Michael Russo; Staff Writer
Publication Date: December 27, 2006  Page: 06C  Section: SPORTS  Edition: METRO  

TORONTO -- Wide-eyed and jittery, Wild forward Joel Ward wasn't sure if he
was more nervous before Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs or
in his NHL debut five games ago against Vancouver.

"This is quite the evening," the 26-year-old Toronto native said
prior to earning his first NHL point with an assist of Kurtis
Foster's goal less than three minutes into the game, a 4-3 Maple
Leafs victory. "It's the best Christmas gift anyone could ask for,
to play in a building like this and to play against a team I've
adored and admired. It's just an unbelievable thrill."

In front of his mother, two older brothers, girlfriend and scores
of other friends and family members, Ward played right wing
alongside Derek Boogaard and Wyatt Smith against the team he has
watched his entire life.

And when you're a lifelong Leafs fan, you're also a lifelong,
suffering Leafs fan. Toronto hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

"Going back to `93, I thought that was our year," said. "With
Dougie Gilmour, it was an unbelievable run. Uhhh! The game against
the Kings was unfortunate. Gilmour got high-sticked by [Wayne]
Gretzky. No call. I still have a couple rough nights sleep over
that one."

To this day, referee Kerry Fraser still gets booed in Toronto
over that missed call in Game 6 of the Campbell Conference finals.
The Kings beat the Maple Leafs in overtime, then came back to
Toronto, where Gretzky had a hat trick to eliminate Toronto in Game
7. Los Angeles wound up losing to Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals.

"I kind of feel what Red Sox fans were going through [for 86
years] before they won [in 2004]," Ward said. "Watching the Leafs,
you hope they win every year. Like any other fan, I love the city
of Toronto. It's my home. I cheer for the Leafs all the time on TV.
Just to step on the ice ... but I hope we get the two points."

Ward also was playing with a heavy heart. His father - Randall,
who immigrated from Barbados - died in 1994, and Ward put the
initials R.W. on his stick.

"He was the believer that knew that I would make it," said Ward,
a University of Prince Edward Island graduate who earned an NHL
contract after coming to Wild training camp on a tryout. "Of all
the doubters, my dad wasn't one of them.

"He was always telling me, always telling his friends that I
would make it to the NHL. I always laughed, but he was serious. I
know he's watching. I know he's really proud. I'm excited to put on
a decent show for him."



- Defenseman Petteri Nummelin (lower back, hip) remained in
Minnesota and won't play tonight in Detroit. The Wild lost center
Mikko Koivu in the final minute of Tuesday's game, but assistant GM
Tom Lynn said Koivu is "fine" for tonight.

- Tuesday was also the first NHL game in Toronto for Ajax,
Ontario, native Brent Burns and the Ottawa-born Foster, who played
junior hockey in nearby Peterborough. The Wild last played at
Toronto in April 2003.

- Wild forward Derek Boogaard was given a 10-minute misconduct in
the second period for warming up during a TV timeout. Earlier in
the week, Boogaard was told by the NHL that he was not permitted to
warm up during stoppages, but he did so anyway in the building that
is attached to the league's Toronto headquarters.

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