Koivu Bros. in Minnesota?; End of the line for Gaborik, and who can afford him?; Free agents Wild may pursue

Posted on June 30th, 2009 – 8:55 PM
By Michael Russo

Alert: TSN reporting Sedins re-sign in Vancouver. As I wrote below, I felt that would happen, which means now Marian Gaborik will likely be sought after by L.A., New York or Montreal.

First, you can keep track with Wild news all day Wednesday (and in the future) and throughout free agency here on www.startribune.com/russo and my Twitter at twitter.com/russostrib

I’ll also be on KFAN on Wednesday morning at 9:35 a.m.

The door swings open to free agency at 11 a.m.

The last time the Koivu Bros. were teammates on Xcel Energy Center’s ice, it was during the 2004 World Cup. Could that happen again starting next season?

Let’s put it this way: It’ll likely be up to the Koivus, or another way of saying it is, if they want to make it happen, it probably can. By the way, here’s a feature I wrote on them last October.

The Wild’s expected to make an offer, but it’s not just a sure-thing Saku Koivu signs a deal to play with Mikko.

I talked to Mikko very early this morning my time. I got him on his boat in Turku. He did voice some concerns that he and Saku have been discussing in recent days. Saku doesn’t want to step on Mikko’s toes because this is his team now, they’ve talked about what it would be like to handle the other being criticized publicly if that were to happen and they talked about the distractions it could create if every city they went to turned into a series of Koivu Bros. stories.

He admitted it’s not a big problem and that they know that stuff would die down, but those are a few of the “cons” on their pros and cons list. On the “pros” side, the fact that it would be special for Saku, 8 1/2 years older, and Mikko to play together and that their parents would absolutely love it. He said it’s a “dream” of theirs. You can read about this in the paper.

So we will see. The Wild needs a No. 2 center, whether it’s through acquisition, or perhaps Pierre-Marc Bouchard moving over to the left one slot. Nik Antropov, I guess, is somebody to pursue, but I’m not a big fan. After that, not much in UFA market. Fletcher would have gone after Vik Kozlov, but he’s signed in Russia.

The Wild has a number of holes to fill, and if you go out and sign Marian Hossa or the Sedin Twins, that severely handicaps doing much else. That’s why I think Mike Cammalleri (he can play center, too) or Martin Havlat may be the most logical players to pursue, although Cammalleri could be Toronto bound and receive a really inflated contract. 

I hear Havlat, if he gets to 11 a.m. unsigned (and contrary to reports, he was not signed tonight), would have great interest in Minnesota. He’s had lots of injury problems in the past, but as he proved last year, when he’s healthy, he’s a tremendously talented and dominant hockey player. He’s also put up solid playoff numbers.

Because of his history, you might be able to get him in the $5 million range, which means it leaves room to sign maybe Saku Koivu, a Ruslan Fedotenko perhaps (still talking to Pittsburgh) and a couple dmen — Rob Scuderi being one guy I hear would be interested in coming to Minnesota. And considering Fletcher’s history with Scuderi, you can bet there’d be interest from the Wild’s point of view.

Fletcher loves Fedotenko, by the way, who just wins Cups in this league. Havlat and Fedotenko have the same agent, too, in Allan Walsh, so maybe you can kill two birds with one stone.  

As for other dmen, if Scuderi’s a no-go, I’d go after Francois Beauchemin. I know there’s a clamoring for Jordan Leopold because of his history here at the U, but I think Fletcher will be looking for more physical dmen than offensive dmen because the Wild is rich in offensive, mobile dmen and as we all know short on the other type.

Some guys that could fit that are Jaroslav Spacek, Karlis Skrastins, Denis Gauthier, Hal Gill and Mikko’s favorite, Mattias Ohlund. Want a Minnesotan? How ’bout Andrew Alberts?

I think Mike Komisarek is too expensive, and man, he did not impress in the playoffs. I see Scuderi’s door being blown over by the Wild. 

It’s going to be a very interesting free-agent market because there’s only about 10 teams that can legimately take on a huge contract.

Even with today’s Scott Gomez pickup, Montreal has tons of cap room. Vancouver, Toronto, the Rangers, Dallas, the Islanders, L.A., and the Wild have the most flexibility in the league. Also, if the Sedins don’t re-sign in Vancouver, they might really be in for a reality check as far as this package deal goes. Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto were the only teams maybe, and now Montreal is likely out because I think they’ll go after a single star now (i.e. Gaborik or Hossa). That’s why I really feel sanity’s going to prevail and Sedins re-sign in Van.

Speaking of that, Marian Gaborik’s heading to free agency obviously. Chuck Fletcher and Ron Salcer had a lengthy conversation today I’m told and it went nowhere. As I mentioned the other day, Gaborik turned down that $78.5 million deal because of several concerns he had about the direction of the team. Even though most those concerns are alleviated with the departures of Lemaire and Risebrough, it was going to be impossible to sign him this close to free agency and it appears as if Salcer made that clear to Fletcher during their initial conversation a few weeks ago.

I think Montreal, LA, Vancouver and the Rangers (unless it acquires Heatley tonight as is rumored in some circles) plan to pursue Gaborik. If the Rangers trade for Heatley and Vancouver re-signs the Sedins, suddenly Gaborik starts to get squeezed a bit. But I’m starting to think Montreal is going to be hot after him, with the Rangers if they don’t get Heatley tonight (Edmonton’s got the inside track, but as of 9:10, it’s been hung up because Heatley hasn’t waived no-trade yet, I’m told).

Fletcher has tried to trade Gaborik’s rights so far to no avail. The Vancouver Province story of the house did not help because why would anybody trade for his rights if there’s an impression he’s already found a home. And at this late juncture, why would you give a roll of tape when you know that Ron Salcer’s not exactly the easiest guy to negotiate with and free agency’s in 14 hours?

This is going to be an interesting market because like they always do, the top guys should get their term and their money. The middle of the range guys could get squeezed because like I’ve said, there’s a lot of money in the system and only so many teams that can sign guys to big contracts. And if all of a sudden the Kessels of the world and one of the San Jose forwards (Clowe or Marleau) are traded, that means fewer spots elsewhere for other players.

And Fletcher today again made mention that it’s not just free agency where he could fill holes. It could be via the trade route.

Asked about Craig Leipold’s comments the other day about wanting to get some top players here, Fletcher said, “He wants to win. He wants to have a team that is a competing team right from the get-go next year. I think what he’s expressed to me is consistent with what he’s expressed to you guys. He wants to win. But in terms of whether we do things through free agency or trades or however we get there, I don’t know if that’s as important as the fact we get there.”

OK, talk to you throughout Wednesday.

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