By Michael Russo
I talked to Brian Rolston early this evening for awhile and here is the story in Thursday’s editions.
He rejected Friday’s most recent offer from the Wild and has not heard back from the team since. Rolston maintained that he wants to stay in Minnesota, but the Wild has to hit his “market value,” which is expected to be substantial regardless of his age in the year of an average free-agent class.
Like I wrote a few months ago, this is probably going to be Rolston’s last contract, so he feels after scoring 30-plus goals three years in a row and being a significant fixture on the team that he should be paid accordingly (i.e. what he’d get as a free agent).
FYI, the story is one-sided, but I tried hard to get a comment from the Wild tonight to no avail. That’s their right; they don’t have to give public play-by-play of their negotiations. I’m just telling you I did try to even out the story.
Negotiations will likely continue, but barring a significant offer Thursday from the Wild, this looks like it’ll last past the draft despite Doug Risebrough’s desire this end before it. Rolston did say he’s not worrying about this. He says the pressure’s on the Wild because he’ll find a job. There is a risk if the Wild waits to the last hour to offer its best contract (many free agents who get hours from free agency find it too enticing to give up the opportunity).
I do want to add that Rolston was extremely respectful of the Wild during our conversation, saying his first desire is still to stay in Minnesota and that they’ve made significant offers.
Rolston did speculate that maybe the Wild won’t even make another offer (again just speculation), but this leads me to my last late-night thought.
The Florida Panthers’ camp is based at my hotel — one of four teams with St. Louis, L.A. and Anaheim — and if you didn’t know, I used to cover them. I know that’s news to you
I’m hearing Olli Jokinen is definitely going to be moved. In other words, that “90 percent” number I mentioned earlier, I believe it’s greater. And remember, I was the first to report to you last year 1) that Tomas Vokoun would be traded and 2) that he was traded to Florida. (and as you’ll see, that Boston was the eventual destination of Manny).
The Panthers have grown tired on Jokinen (acquired in 2000, no playoff appearances). They feel his leadership lacked this past season, they were not happy he went 22 games without a goal at one point (fyi, I didn’t look this up, this was the number told to me by a few people) and that he was a liability defensively.
On the plus side, he’s a heckuva power center.
Minnesota has had trade talks with Florida, I am told, and if there’s a chance it adds a $5 million player, that could affect Rolston.
This still doesn’t seem plausible just from a how-much-are-they-willing-to-part-with category. The Panthers want a higher first-round pick than the Wild’s 24 anyway, and would Risebrough part with a prospect (Benoit Pouliot? I’d guess yes) AND/OR a significant player (maybe a young, chrome-headed, smallish one with a potentially big contract on the horizon? This guess, I waver on.)?
I just don’t know if this is a risk Risebrough is willing to take.
We will see, but the Wild’s centers right now are Mikko Koivu (two-way stud), James Sheppard (young future stud) and Eric Belanger (struggled bigtime in the second half). The Wild needs a top center.
Whether he goes to the Wild or not, it does sound like GM Jacques Martin is working OT at his attempt to get something substantial for Jokinen. I’d think he’d be traded to the West (Calgary? Vancouver? Columbus?), although Bryan Murray — the Ottawa GM — loves the guy and is the guy that brought him to Florida in the first place.
On another subject, here’s the new Kurtis Foster rule, essentially — a reaction to Foster’s broken femur following being crashed into on an icing by the Sharks’ Torrey Mitchell.