By Michael Russo
Very early Monday morning (insomnia) bonjour:
If you get bored at work Monday, go to YouTube and look up the many Owen Nolan clips. I’m sure your employers won’t mind. They read Russo’s Rants, too.
Here are four. This was the first All-Star Game I ever covered as an NHL writer in 1997, the infamous one when Nolan had a hat trick and “called his shot.” In hindsight, now I realize why I’ve always enjoyed watching Nolan play so much. I was 22 years old covering this All-Star Game, so it probably got engrained in me.
– Here’s the ceremony from before Owen Nolan’s 1,000th game last October against San Jose. Has some cool highlights, some good U2 music. This was definitely a spine-tingling ceremony, I can tell you for a fact. Coincidentally, I was there. The Wild was Calgary’s next home opponent and I flew up a few days early to work on a Flames feature. I just remember it was weird being in the press box with no laptop and no deadline to stress over. Flames went on to play one of the flattest games I’ve ever seen. Wild went on to blow a 3-0 lead two days later
– Here’s another, some nastiness between Owen Nolan and Calgary’s Robyn Regehr. When Calgary signed Nolan last year, this ongoing battle between the two was the first thing I thought of. The two have had clashes for years dating to Nolan’s days in San Jose. I know they became pals in Calgary this past season because I asked Regehr about this last season. I can’t remember if I ever used the stuff, but it was going to be a notebook or column item on what it’s like to have ongoing feuds and then become teammates. Does this feud reignite? It will be worth watching this upcoming season in Minny-Calgary games.
There’s also some Nolan clips against the Wild up there, including this one where Nolan teaches young Aaron Voros a bit of a lesson.
On another subject, I hear the Wild’s highly-anticipated Tomas Mojzis pickup is signed, sealed and delivered, and soon to be announced.
Wild has signed veteran Owen Nolan to a two-year, $5.5 million deal.
I’d say that was the fastest article I’ve ever written, but the 10 minutes I wrote on Tyler Cuma at the Draft beats this by a mile. Here’s some stuff, and there will be more in the paper.
If you watched all eight Flames-Wild games last season, you know Nolan can still play the game. Is he going to pop in 44 goals like the golden years? Not a chance. Is he going to play a mean brand of hockey, fly in on the forecheck and park himself if front of the net? No doubt.
The key here was the second year to the contract. Calgary didn’t seem like it wanted to give that to Nolan as the two sides talked in the past few days. So the Wild gave up the second year and he signed.
That second year is big because the 35-year-old rule clicks in, and let’s be honest, Nolan plays with reckless abandon and as he showed in 2004-05 during the lockout and the subsequent 2005-06, severe injuries do find him.
But he should make an impact.
Just got him by phone in San Jose and he says he’s 100 percent healthy, although he was bothered by a neck stinger all of last season.
“I’m very passionate when I play,” said Nolan, who has scored 381 goals (139 on the power play) and 807 points and amassed 1,727 penalty minutes in 1,068 games. “I’ve played the game hard for several years, and I’ll play that way ‘til I’m done. The numbers may not be the same as they used to be, but my desire to play and my desire to win are still the same.
“The way I’ve played the game since I was very young is an aggressive style. I love the hitting side of the game. Goals are fun, but I love the physical play. It’s the Irish blood coming out of me.”
The Belfast-born Nolan, taken No. 1 overall by Quebec in 1990, looked to me like the old Owen Nolan last year. Mean and nasty.
“I think he’ll be a great example for our young players on how to play the game,” Risebrough said. “He’s a warrior, a respected veteran. He’s a guy that uses his size and determination to get to the net, and in his case, he pushes people to get there.
“He doesn’t make it easy on people.”
He can play both wing positions and can slide in and take draws, too.
“It’s a young team, and I think this will be a natural role for me right now,” said Nolan, the former San Jose Sharks captain. “This time in my career, I come with a lot of knowledge and as long as there are young guys willing to listen, I can teach quite a bit.”
As of this past weekend, it’s believed the Wild had an offer in on free-agent Brendan Morrison. Doesn’t seem like that’s still on the table as the Wild is suddenly extremely close to the cap without the raises to Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Stephane Veilleux.
Risebrough said Sunday night, “I think I’m close to done. We have 23 guys now. You add it all up [with raises to restricted free agents Bouchard and Veilleux], we’re close to the [$56.7 million salary] cap.”
Wild Depth Chart
Here’s a look at the Wild’s depth chart for next season as it stands today. The Wild has 23 of a possible 23 players (22, really, because Kurtis Foster will start on IR). In parentheses is the players’ 2008-09 salary, then their hit against the salary cap, which is the average per year salary of their entire contract:
Andrew Brunette ($2.5 million, $2.33 million)
Mark Parrish ($2.85 million, $2.65 million)
Owen Nolan ($2.75 million, $2.75 million)
Stephane Veilleux ($601,370, $601,370)*
Derek Boogaard ($850,000, $875,000)
Mikko Koivu ($3.3 million, $3.25 million)
James Sheppard ($765,000, $1.4 million)**
Eric Belanger ($1.75 million, $1.75 million)
Benoit Pouliot ($850,000, $1.7 million)**
Marian Gaborik ($7.5 million, $6.33 million)
Pierre-Marc Bouchard ($2.6 million, $2.6 million)*
Antti Miettinen ($2 million, $2.33 million)
Craig Weller ($600,000, $600,000)
Brent Burns ($3 million, $3.55 million)
Kim Johnsson ($5.25 million, $4.85 million)
Nick Schultz ($3.2 million, $3.6 million)
Marek Zidlicky (3.5 million, $3.35 million)
Martin Skoula ($1.9 million, $1.8 million)
Marc-Andre Bergeron ($1.653 million, $1.653 million)
Erik Reitz ($500,000, $500,000)
Kurtis Foster ($1.025 million, $1.025 million)
Niklas Backstrom ($3.1 million, $3.1 million)
Josh Harding ($750,000, $725,000)
$52,794,370 in salary; $53,326,036 against $56.7 million cap
RW Cal Clutterbuck
LW-RW Colton Gillies
*This salary and cap hit is the price of the qualifying offer tendered to retain Bouchard and Veilleux. Those figures will increase.
** Cap includes potential performance bonuses.
– MICHAEL RUSSO