By Michael Russo
UPDATE: According to sources, the Wild has placed Craig Weller and Nathan Smith on waivers. Weller is obviously the notable one. On a one-way contract, if he clears and is reassigned to Houston, the Wild will have to pay his NHL salary of 600K in the minors. The Wild needs the salary-cap room, so this was very much expected.
Russo here before my flight to Philly.
The news is getting better for the Wild, which is slowly getting players back on the ice. Petr Sykora and Kim Johnsson are practicing this morning. The only players not practicing are Benoit Pouliot, who was expected to be sidelined at least a week with a groin, and Derek Boogaard.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard is practicing for a second day in a row. The traveling party hasn’t been determined as of yet.
Remember, rosters must be submitted to the NHL by 2 p.m. Wednesday. It must be 23 names, minus perhaps Derek Boogaard, who will start on injured reserve most likely. However, again, as of now, the Wild is less than $800,000 from the cap ceiling, so there’s a chance the Wild keeps its Opening Night roster to 22, including Boogaard on IR. Doesn’t matter if you’re on IR, in other words. You still count toward the cap.
I hope to have the waiver list in a few minutes, so I’ll let you know if anybody’s on it from the Wild. Remember, to send Craig Weller, Nathan Smith, John Scott or Jaime Sifers to the minors, they’d have to be placed on waivers. Colton Gillies can be sent to the minors without waivers. As of now, Andy Hilbert hasn’t been signed yet.
A bunch of real-life NHLers, not just minor leaguers, should be on it in the next couple days. Tampa placed Adam Hall, Brandon Bochenski and Ryan Craig on waivers today, and released Brett McLean from his tryout.
There is no doubt that Chuck Fletcher is again working the phones. He said last week in Columbus that he planned to start calling all 29 teams to do the typical end-of-camp, where are you strong, where are you weak, here’s what we need, what do you need, call.
By the way, here’s the Kim Johnsson feature from the other day. Couple items that didn’t fit:
–On whether he’s underappreciated bc of the contract making his lack of points glaring: “I don’t think about that at all. It’s nothing I think about. I just want to play and I want to play a lot. I think the more you play, the better you are. You’re going to have your ups and downs if youre tired or sick. I just try to do the same thing every night, be the same player every night. Hopefully I am.”
– In Lemaire’s breakout, the defensemen often stood behind the Wild’s net and made long breakout passes to wingers up at the far blue line. “It was nearly impossible to join the play because you’re so behind the two wingers, who were up there working by themselves basically without the center,” Johnsson said. “This, it’s like five guys all together and the D-men can join and pinch more.”
– It’s amazing to think Johnsson was the last player in the ’94 Draft, and that’s when there were 11 rounds as opposed to seven. The scout responsible from the Rangers’ Christer Rockstrom.
“I talked to him a couple weeks ago, and he just asked me if anybody else had talked. I was like no. And then I got a phone call the day after draft. I didn’t even know when the draft was. And he said, ‘you now belong to rangers.’ I was like, ‘ok. Great.’ Thinking back, that kind of pushed me more to practice more and work out more.”
Johnsson came to NYR camp for the first time in ’97 just to check it out. It was in Burlington, VT, and his d partner was Ulf Samuelsson. “It was a lot of fun. I really liked the style of hockey, the faster pace.”
He went back to Sweden and came back over in ’99 to sign with the Rangers. He never played a minute in the minors.
– ON his play dramatically tailing off last December when he was named captain (Wild was 4-9-1): “I was having a real tough time. I was sick basically three weeks straight and I was feeling awful. I couldn’t really move on the ice at all. I really tried and pushed and it took me awhile to get out of it. I was hit with two different things within five weeks.”
What? “You don’t want to know.”