Training camp on the horizon; Gaborik thoughts; single-game tickets on sale Saturday

Posted on September 15th, 2008 – 9:43 AM
By Michael Russo

Any must-sees for yours truly while I’m in Grand Forks? If you have any ideas, leave comments below for things to do.

Wild will be skating at UND Saturday THRU Sept. 23. If you live in Grand Forks, nearby Grand Forks or want to make a road trip to Grand Forks, the Wild’s practice Sunday will be open to the public and free. It’ll start at 10 a.m. Fans can enter at the Ralph’s main entrance starting at 9:30 a.m.

ADDITION: Also, single-game Wild tickets go on sale Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at the Xcel’s box office and noon at all Ticketmaster locations. Wild will serve hot dogs Friday night for all fans camping out and pastries Saturday morning. Fans who buy tickets can also take part in a free open skate at the arena from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., so bring your boots.

The Wild prospects are 1-0-1 in Traverse City. They lost in a shootout Saturday to Columbus and beat St. Louis 3-2 yesterday. That game will be replayed on NHL Network, I think, a 7 p.m. CT tonight.

Maxim Noreau, Ryan Graham and Morten Madsen scored. Sorry if I spoiled it for you.

You’ll be happy to know if the Wild prospects explode this season, you have me to thank — and me only :)

Assistant GM Tommy Thompson used my article before the Draft as a source of motivation for the prospects during their Thursday meeting down at Wild headquarters. Talking about the Wild’s minor-league system, he told the prospects “the Star Tribune writer says the cupboard’s bare.”

I just looked it up. I actually wrote before June’s Draft, “That is why the 2008 draft is so important. The Wild ranked No. 19 in the Hockey News’ most recent Future Watch. While the farm system cupboard isn’t bare, it’s certainly not stacked behind Gillies.”

I’d stand by that wholeheartedly.

Nothing new on Marian Gaborik. As I wrote in Saturday’s paper, they both have their positions they’re sticking to right now.

– Gaborik wants to be paid as if he were a free agent.

– The Wild believes paying Gaborik north of $8.5 mill is more than reasonable. It allows him long-term security and allows the team the flexibility to help get Gaborik a supporting cast, which he wants.

The Wild wants to pay him in line with the extensions being given out now. And most guys who sign extensions sign for less than they’d get as a UFA.

Remember though, Vincent Lecavalier’s AAV might be $7.727, but that’s bogus because of the last three years of his deal bringing down the average dramatically. He’s essentially making $10 mill in the seven years after this season. Eric Staal’s average is $8.25 mill. Stastically, he’s more accomplished than Gaborik, and he led the league in playoff scoring the year Carolina won the Cup.

Tom Lynn says Staal’s contract ”is another contract relevant to these negotiations.” But the big difference? Staal was to be a restricted free agent, not unrestricted, which is a huge difference in the mind of Gaborik’s camp.

No doubt negotiations are at a delicate juncture. I’ve gotten a lot of emails that have said, “just trade him,” “he’s not Malkin, Crosby, Ovechkin, even Staal, so how do you pay him X. … ”

It’s not as simple as that though. Every team is in a different situation, and from a pure scorer standpoint, Gaborik is the Wild’s only bona fide sniper and noone else is on the horizon. Just imagine life without him.

Dany Heatley for Marian Hossa trades don’t happen everyday in the NHL. Stars aligned a few years back and Atlanta and Ottawa was able to make a star for star trade.

That likely won’t happen here if Gaborik is dealt. Sure, the Wild could likely get a strong package of players/picks back, but you’re not going to get fair value back — at least for the short-term.

Gaborik will have his choice to play most anyplace he wants next season, and he knows that. To get him to forgo that opportunity, the Wild will have to pay him, and probably overpay him. Go to NHLnumbers.com. Most teams can afford to pay Gaborik $9-10 million on a long-term deal next summer.

So that’s what needs to be weighed.

But if Gaborik’s not going to sign, the Wild will have no choice.

– Also, a correction. I wrote Saturday that the Wild offered Brian Rolston $4.5 mill for three years. It was actually $4.5, $4.5, $4 million, a deal he probably would have signed if they had offered it aroun midseason.

He got $20.25 million for four years with Jersey.

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