Good evening from the unfriendly, bumpy sky, where I’m flying back to the Twin Cities for the opening of the free agency bell.
As you can read in my Wednesday article, don’t expect the Wild to make a bunch of noise.
I’m filling in for Paul Allen from 9-noon on Wednesday on KFAN (100.3-FM), and my guests include Wild GM Chuck Fletcher (9:35 a.m.), Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (10:35), Chicago Sun-Times sports writer Mark Lazerus (9:20) on Tuesday’s big Brandon Saad trade and Edmonton Journal Hall of Fame hockey writer Jim Matheson (9:55). There’s a chance Mike Reilly joins, too, around 11:40 and Cities97’s Paul Fletcher may slip into the studio for parts.
Some Wild stuff off the top of my head:
1. As previously reported, the only restricted free agents the Wild didn’t tender qualifying offers to were Curt Gogol and Colton Jobke. Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Christian Folin, Jon Blum, Brett Bulmer and Jared Knight were all qualified. Johan Gustafsson, too, although he’s returning to Sweden to play on Farjestad with Joel Eriksson Ek.
Nothing new in negotiations with Granlund. Both sides said it was close last week, and so far it’s not done.
He’s permitted to talk to other teams, although if any team ever tendered an offer sheet, the Wild would have seven days to match or receive compensation in terms of draft picks. Offer sheets almost never happen in the NHL and in the past 15 years, only Dustin Penner didn’t have his team match (Anaheim let him go to Edmonton). Typically, an offer sheet means you’re negotiating the contract for the other team.
It’s clear both sides are getting frustrated with each other. Fletcher said Saturday it’d get done if his agent got more reasonable. His agent didn’t take the shot too kindly. So we’ll see where this goes. Remember, the deals for unsigned Nino Niederreiter and Darcy Kuemper didn’t get done until right before camp last year, although I’d be stunned if this took that long. Cap space is tight. The Wild has budgeted out precisely how much it’ll cost to accomplish what it wants to accomplish this summer, so right now the Wild’s not willing to budge even though the sides don’t seem far apart.
2. With Erik Haula and Jon Blum qualified, if either filed for arbitration by Sunday’s 4 p.m. deadline, there could be a second buyout window. I talked to agent Jay Grossman today and that window appears moot. He said Backstrom had a serious elbow surgery and the hope is he’ll be cleared by training camp.
Obviously, Backstrom being the No. 3 and occupying a roster spot isn’t ideal for either party, so once he’s cleared, maybe something opens up in terms of a trade. As of now, there’s no easy to be seen solution as buyouts have come and gone now in the first window and Backstrom’s surgery meant he couldn’t be bought out.
3. I should have made one other point in my Dubnyk analysis the other day. The front-loaded contract essentially makes this deal like a four-year deal. I say that because by giving him only $6 million the final two years, if his game goes south, it’d be a cheap $4 million buyout in 2019 spread over two years and cap buyout charge over four years of $1.833 million, $2.833 million, $1 million and $1 million. And by then, the cap will likely have increased significantly with the game’s growth, expansion, the rebound of the Canadian dollar, etc. So again, the six-year term here is not a big deal in my opinion.
4. I talked to Kyle Brodziak’s agent Tuesday and he has talked to five teams heading into Wednesday. While he didn’t rule out a return to the Wild, as you can read in the story, the Wild doesn’t have a ton of money and there are the teams looking for right-shot checking centers.
Big opportunity now for Haula in my opinion. There is an opportunity for him to rebound at even-strength and bite off some ice time if he can earn Mike Yeo’s trust. And as you know, he’s one of the best penalty killers on the team, only on the ice for seven power-play goals against last season.
Chris Stewart will see what’s out there and maybe he circles back to the Wild on a cheapie if the interest isn’t there. I’d think the Wild may have interest in guys like Chris Porter and Gregory Campbell. Ryan Carter is out there to be re-signed, too. On defense, there are guys like Chris Butler and obviously Jordan Leopold and Nate Prosser.
Personally, I still think the Wild needs to figure out a way to get a center and another defenseman, but we will see.
As I’ve written all week, Fletcher and Yeo seem quite comfortable if it returns with the same team. There’s a chance very little will be different, except for the fact Yeo is now the third-youngest coach in the NHL as opposed to the youngest for four straight years.
“I know, I’m a weathered old man now,” Yeo joked.
Talk to ya Wednesday.