The Wild still looks one center short. But on the first day of free agency Saturday, the Wild signed seven players to replenish the lost depth of recent weeks.
Veteran defenseman Kyle Quincey signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract to play on the third pair potentially alongside youngsters Gustav Olofsson or Mike Reilly, who is close to signing a two-year deal. The team also signed six others to two-way contracts to either compete for a roster spot out of training camp or give coach Bruce Boudreau a better pipeline of call-up options from Iowa of the AHL next season.
"This is the best group we've had since I've been here," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said of the added depth. "I think we're in very good shape and Bruce will have a lot of options for depth and competition in camp."
Up front, the Wild signed former Gophers captain and Minnesota Mr. Hockey Kyle Rau, proven minor league scorer Landon Ferraro and Cal O'Reilly, whom Iowa General Manager Brent Flahr called an "elite AHL centerman for years." On the blue line, the Wild signed dynamic former junior star Ryan Murphy and AHL lifer Alex Grant, whom Fletcher drafted in Pittsburgh and Flahr says is "big, strong and shoots the puck a ton."
In goal, the Wild signed former Providence and Boston Bruins goalie Niklas Svedberg, a Swede who spent the past two years playing in Russia, to challenge Alex Stalock for the Wild's backup spot.
Each player will earn $700,000 when they're in the NHL. Ferraro's and O'Reilly's contracts are for two years, the rest one.
Other than Quincey, the Wild signed no others to one-way contracts. The Wild has talked to former Wild center Matt Cullen, coming off consecutive Stanley Cup championships with Pittsburgh, about returning to Minnesota for a 20th NHL season rather than riding off into the sunset. Many thought Saturday morning it was going to happen, but as of Saturday night it had not.
"There's still some guys out there and we're still very comfortable too with Charlie Coyle and [Joel] Eriksson Ek playing center," Fletcher said. "There's time yet to look for solutions. We have some answers internally, but if there's a way to upgrade our team, we'll look at it."
Boudreau still believes something will happen. But most quality free-agent centers — Martin Hanzal (Dallas), Sam Gagner (Vancouver), Nick Bonino (Nashville) and Brian Boyle (New Jersey) — signed elsewhere Saturday. Other Wild free agents to sign Saturday included defenseman Christian Folin and goalie Darcy Kuemper, both with Los Angeles.
As for Quincey, the 31-year-old is joining his sixth NHL team. A mobile 6-2 blue-liner who can play the left or right side, Quincey has 36 goals and 119 points in 568 games with Detroit, Los Angeles, Colorado, New Jersey and Columbus.
"I'm a veteran presence in the room that's going to bring some leadership," said Quincey, who won a Stanley Cup as a Black Ace with the Red Wings in 2008. "I'll bring steady play on the back end, nothing flashy but definitely competitive and make it hard on the other team on a nightly basis."
Taken 12th overall by Carolina in the 2011 draft, Murphy, 24, was an offensive wizard for Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League. But he hasn't lived up to that as a pro (six goals, 37 points in 151 games for Carolina) and has shown warts defensively.
Fletcher called it a "no-risk signing."
"The things he does well, he still does well," Fletcher said. "He can still carry the puck, he can still move it up the ice well, he can shoot it. A lot of times you can lose your confidence in pro hockey. … We'll try to help him get his confidence back."
The Wild tried to claim Ferraro, 25, a fast, competitive, solid two-way forward and the son of former NHL goal scorer Ray Ferraro, off waivers a few years ago.
Rau, 24, the former Eden Prairie star, played 33 games for the Florida Panthers.
"Kyle had a good taste in the NHL last year and he wanted to play with us," Flahr said. "He's still has lots of learning to do, but he's always been a highly competitive player, he's got skill and we just think there's no downside."