By Michael Russo
(updated with Fletcher quotes)
Good Tuesday evening. Coming to you live from clear, crisp Vermont, where I will spend the night before heading up to Montreal in the morning.
By the way, very exciting day today. Know what happened on this very day 27 years ago?
Mrs. Joanne Boogaard gave birth to a strapping young lad that would ultimately become one of the NHL’s most intimidating 6-foot-7 and three-quarters-tall enforcers.
I talked with agent Ron Salcer after I landed this afternoon, and he said while the door’s not closed on the Wild with pending free agent Marian Gaborik, July 1 is “very enticing” and it’ll be awfully tough to get Gaborik to relinquish the rare opportunity of getting to speak to 29 other teams.
But Salcer said he’s had one conversation with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher but wouldn’t discuss if an offer’s been made. As I wrote last week, I’m pretty sure the Wild plans to offer Gaborik a five-year deal in the $7 million range. He turned down a 10-year, $78.5 million deal last fall because he didn’t want to commit to 10 years in Minnesota when he wasn’t comfortable with the direction of the team on and off the ice. That’s from well-placed sources.
Everything’s changed since with Jacques Lemaire and Doug Risebrough gone, which actually does intrigue Gaborik. However, with free agency eight days away, if Gaborik decides to stay here, as I’ve said over and over again on here, I would be beyond shocked.
Plus, as you can see at this link, the Vancouver Province’s Jason Botchford is reporting that Gaborik’s bought a house in Vancouver. I’ve talked to Jason and he’s citing unidentified sources but feels like he’s very much confirmed this. I haven’t been able to confirm and Salcer said he has no knowledge.
IF true, IF there’s been contact made with Gaborik and he has some sort of inside information that he’s going to sign with Vancouver that he is comfortable enough to buy a home there, it should be a very interesting couple weeks. Teams are not permitted to contact pending free agents until 11 a.m. CDT July 1. That is tampering — plain and simple.
And if you remember, the Wild accused the Canucks of tampering last year with Pavol Demitra before he signed a two-year, $8 million deal with Vancouver.
It was confirmed that Demitra was in Vancouver looking for homes well in advance of free agency, and his former agent is now the Canucks’ GM, Mike Gillis. The league looked into the situation at the Draft and eventually dropped the Wild’s charge around the time Demitra signed there.
If a team is ever found guilty of tampering, it can be fined lots of mula and draft picks.
Gaborik couldn’t be reached for comment, so I wasn’t able to ask him about the Province’s report.
But Salcer did speak to me.
Asked if Gaborik bought a home in Vancouver, Salcer said, “I have no knowledge of that at all. I know nothing about that. Nothing.”
Asked if he’s had conversations with Gillis, Salcer said, “None.”
Chuck Fletcher wouldn’t comment on the Gaborik situation, other than to say he feels it important to keep everything close to the vest at this point.
“There’s nothing I can comment on with the whole Gaborik situation,” Fletcher said. “I’m just going to work through things and we’ll see how it plays out.”
However, he continues to have trade talks with several teams and is hoping to make a move or two in advance of or at the Draft itself. He continues to be entrenched in Dany Heatley talks, which besides the assets, would cost any team a $4 million signing bonus July 1 and then a $4 million salary during the season.
Ottawa GM Bryan Murray has made clear that if the Sens pay that signing bonus, he’s staying there this season. So something should happen at the Draft.
But Fletcher’s involved in a number of things. He’s still definitely dangling Josh Harding. By the way, Niklas Backstrom’s no-trade doesn’t kick in until July 1, but Fletcher says he’s not entertaining trading him: ”No. I haven’t. I mean, no. Nik’s our goalie. Nik’s our goalie for next year.”
Fletcher’s keeping everything close to the vest.
“There’s always lots and lots of talk and things tend to happen at the Draft itself or a day or two before,” said Fletcher, who arrived in Montreal on Tuesday. “It’s certainly playing to form. You just don’t know. Everybody is talking to everybody, so you never know how serious things are.
“What I’m finding is you talk to a team one week and the next week things may have changed. So there’s things certainly I’m focused on and we’re having lots of conversations.”