By Michael Russo
Wish me luck.
In 90 minutes, my wisdom teeth are going to be ripped out of their sockets with a pair of rusty pliers. At least, that’s how my dream portrayed the scene before I woke up in a cold sweat.
I’m hoping it won’t be that violent or painful.
As you read in this morning’s paper here, the Wild is trying to sign free agent Alex Tanguay. One correction from today’s story: I wrote the roster’s 23 players have a cap hit of $51,611,827 for 23 players excluding Colton Gillies.
This is why the Miami Herald’s David J. Neal always tells me, “Mike, you shouldn’t be doing math.”
Actually, the error occurred because for some reason I entered Kyle Brodziak twice in my excel file. I just re-did it and 23 players including Gillies comes out to $51,503,494 (includes Mark Parrish’s buyout). Obviously this figure is unofficial, also includes James Sheppard’s potential entry-level bonuses and could change depending on who makes the team.
As of now, the roster I’m using to determine this is:
14 Forwards: Martin Havlat, Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Owen Nolan, Antti Miettinen, Eric Belanger, James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot, Derek Boogaard, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, Craig Weller, Colton Gillies.
7 Defensemen: Brent Burns, Kim Johnsson, Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Shane Hnidy, John Scott
2 Goalies: Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding
Back to Tanguay, what my little math gaffe doesn’t change is the fact that GM Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have unlimited cap space to spend on Tanguay. Fletcher decided to be patient all summer hoping that a bargain would fall into his lap. Maybe this is it.
Because of Tanguay’s shoulder injury last season and the fact that his production slipped the past two seasons, his stock fell this summer and he’s been left looking for work. Reading between the lines of what agent Ritch Winter said yesterday, it sounds as if Tanguay may sign a one-year deal so he can go to a team, try to have a “career year” and reestablish his market for a big payday next summer.
Minnesota and Tampa Bay seem to be two teams hot after him, and I was told a few weeks back, Tanguay would love to play in Tampa. But there’s no doubt he’s strongly considering Minnesota.
As I’ve said on here since mid-July, it’s of my opinion the Wild is a scorer short still.
However, the big question: Is Tanguay the right guy to fill that role?
The answer from a fan’s point of view depends on how much more patient are you willing to be. Tanguay is the best left on the open market, and I’m saying this because from everything I’m hearing, Nikolai Zherdev’s mind is at $4 million or Russia.
If you’re willing to be more patient, there should eventually be a trade to be made deep into training camp or in the early part of the season.
If you’re unwilling to be more patient, well, Tanguay’s a gifted playmaker. Problem is he’s a gifted playmaker, not a gifted scorer. As good as he is setting up guys, his history says quite clearly that he’s allergic to shooting the puck and isn’t the grittiest tool in the shed. And the Wild already has a gifted playmaker and perimeter forward in Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
So, to be effective, Tanguay would basically have to play with a guy like Marty Havlat on the top line.
Just remember though: If Tanguay’s the guy the Wild signs, the Wild will be sandwiched close to the cap, meaning that’s the move folks. If there’s any future big trade, it would likely have to come at the trade deadline rather than earlier.
Fletcher has shown some interest in Zherdev, but I think he’s concerned about Zherdev’s motivation to play in Russia. He’s shown interest in Petr Sykora after having him in Anaheim and Pittsburgh. But Sykora, as good a scorer as he is, isn’t the best skater in the world. Contrary to the rumor mongers out there, the Wild has zero interest in Mike Comrie.
Fletcher said if the Wild can’t sign Tanguay, he’ll likely go into camp and maybe the season with this team, discover who emerges and then re-adjust from there as the trade market unfolds.
Benoit Pouliot will be given his sixth last chance. He certainly seems determined to emerge. He stuck around most of the summer and from all reports I’ve been given is working his butt off in the gym. He’s got a great chance of making the team because he requires waivers to be sent to the minors, meaning 29 teams could claim him for zippo if he doesn’t make the team. Fletcher is also hopeful Sheppard makes one giant offensive step this season. As I’ve mentioned, Gillies can be sent to the minors without waivers, but he’s also looking good this summer.
Also, it seems almost guaranteed, Fletcher said, that backup goalie Josh Harding will be on the team when the season starts.
I’d talk more extensively about all of this, but I’ll save it for training camp. Be a little more patient, and the Wild will be in the paper again daily.
Lastly, I’ve gotten all these emails for third jersey sneak previews. This is why you should follow me at twitter.com/russostrib. If you did, you would have gotten some hints about a month ago.
I’d describe it as a pretty traditional front. Green. MINNESOTA WILD in sort of a cursive writing. And I think that “M” in Minnesota will be an “M” you’ll start seeing on a ton of Wild merchandise.
Anyways, I’m not officially back to work yet. Unless there’s news, the blog will continue to be dormant until early next month. But you’ll be getting multi-daily blog updates and tweets and articles and Facebook updates and webcasts and …. soon enough.