By Michael Russo
Couple adds: Will be on KSTP at 6 pm tonight, live chat at 10 am Friday and Doug Risebrough had his second interview for the Panthers GM vacancy here in Montreal today.
Checking in with you again late this afternoon from the beautiful Montreal, although I’ve sort of been holed up in my hotel most of the day other than the hour or so to go hunt down Jacques Lemaire.
As of now, Chuck Fletcher is still trying to make a trade, with the emphasis on the trying. As proof by the crickets throughout the NHL, it’s not easy making a trade right now, not when as a colleague said to me today, there’s about 150 players on the block, of which 100 nobody wants. The problem I am sensing from the numerous execs I’ve talked to is sort of what I alluded either in an article or the blog or the Twitter — I don’t know, it all sort of runs together.
There are lots of teams looking to get rid of really good players, but good players with really big contracts. So those teams automatically want picks and prospects back, which as you know if you’ve been reading the Strib, the Wild isn’t exactly filled to the brim with. So, hence Fletcher’s problem. And hence, the league’s problem. You can’t just acquire a $4 million player in today’s game without giving up some dough.
He’s inquired about nearly 40 players, including Phil Kessel and Dany Heatley. But there are many others that I either don’t know about or don’t want to write because it’s just rumor, so who knows what Fletcher gets done — or quite frankly, if Fletcher gets something done.
I’ve been told Ottawa’s cut its targeted teams down to seven. I’ve been told the Wild is one of them. But I’ve also been told L.A.’s hot after him and would consider giving up winger Alex Frolov, a quality defenseman and the fifth pick, which let’s be honest, the Wild can’t contend with.
Right now, I’m not aware of any Wild trade being done tonight, although as I reminded Fletcher yesterday, the Panthers once made me sprint — OK, walk fast — back to this very hotel at about 10 p.m. one night in 1998 after executing the blockbuster of all blockbusters — Esa Tikkanen for Dwayne Hay.
Have I ever told you the story about Esa Tikkanen screaming at me in the Panthers’ locker room after I lowered the radio because I was trying to interview the low-talking Scott Mellanby? It’s a great story. One day I’ll you.
I keep hearing from everybody he’s still using Josh Harding at the big bait, mostly with Edmonton, St. Louis and Toronto. But again, Harding is restricted free agent, so if Fletcher doesn’t get the deal he wants, there’s no rush in trading him. You can wait until later this summer or even next season. But, he is likely eventually going to be dealt.
So, as for the Draft, …
the Wild currently picks 12th but could move down as Fletcher looks to attain other picks. I really get the impression the Wild values Nick Leddy, Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey, more than Jordan Schroeder. That’s interesting because Schroeder’s ranked by most publications right around where the Wild select, yet Leddy’s in the 20s in most.
But … because he played in high school (Eden Prairie) and because he wasn’t in any international tournaments, that could very well just be because Leddy wasn’t nearly as exposed as Schroeder, who plays at the U and led the U.S. in scoring at the most recent world junior championships.
After Schroeder dominated the round robin play though, Wild assistant GM Tommy Thompson felt he couldn’t “function” in the medal round.
“Dale Hawerchuk wasn’t very good in the world juniors either, so it’s not fatal, but it did happen,” Thompson said. “Nick Leddy might be every bit as good a prospect as he is and somehow he’s way underneath the radar screen.
“He has the potential to be a defenseman who will generate a lot of offense. In my view, he’s a better prospect at his age than [former Gopher] Keith Ballard was.”
Schroeder might be undersized at 5-8, but pound for pound, he’s as strong as they come. Thompson thinks he’ll be a top playmaking winger, not center.
“He’s polite to you, but I know darn well when I look in his eyes, he’s thinking, ‘All you hockey guys are skeptical and I’ll prove it to you,’” Thompson said. “And that’s a very good thing.”
I got to meet the families of both Schroeder and Leddy today. Schroeder said it would be a dream to be drafted by his hometown Wild, but he’s just excited in general.
“I’m trying to soak it all in right now,” Schroeder said. ”It’s hard to do with all the media and all this coverage and everything. It’s going by really fast and I wish I could slow it down.”
He’s here with eight family members, including his father, John, mother, Deb, brother, Zach, and sister, Elly. His brother and sister are both hockey players, his brother at St. Thomas Academy, where he was a state title as a freshman. He’s going into his junior year now and last week led the state in scoring at Don Lucia’s model camp.
His dad, a former pitcher and shortstop at South Dakota State, said if the Wild draft Jordan, he’ll be able to handle the pressure.
“As a parent it would be nice to see him a lot,” John said. ”Jordan is very enthusiastic about going to a program where there’s hockey enthusiasm around town, where fans are into hockey. Obviously it’d be an honor if he was drafted by the Wild. Jordan’s always been able to handle pressure well. He’s very mature.”
John is an original Wild season-ticket holder and his company is a major sponsor of the Wild as well.
If the Wild drops way back, maybe it considers Zach Budish, a terrific Edina power forward who did miss last season with a knee injury. If the Wild stays at 12, Thompson feels these guys will be definitely gone — John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, Brayden Schenn, Evander Kane, Jared Cowen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dmitri Kulikov, Magnus-Paajarvi-Svensson.
After, Thompson says there’s a lot of guys that “excite us,” meaning Schroeder, Leddy, Nazem Kadri (London), Scott Glennie (Brandon), Louis Leblanc (Omaha), Ryan Ellis (Windsor), John Moore (Chicago), Jacob Josefson (Djurgarden), Zach Kassian (Peterborough). They really like a kid named Chris Kreider (Phillips Andover). Yeah, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Who knows?
Lastly, remember to read my notebook Friday to read Jacques Lemaire’s quotes on the Wild’s transition to a more offensive team. He went on a little bit of a rant. Doesn’t buy it one iota. As usual, Lemaire’s quotes are gold.
Speaking of gold, Burns read Steve Yzerman’s comments about him on my previous blog entry and joked, “Makes me want to work out again.”