Alexander Fallstrom


Wild prospect scrimmage starting; Burns coaching one of the teams

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Live from the X, where a number of diehards have made the long trek out to St. Paul.

Prospects are warming up currently, and I hear a surprise is about to happen.

Brent Burns, dressed in Don Cherry garb, plans to coach one of the teams. Nice honeymoon!

Cal Clutterbuck’s coaching the other team. He’s dressed as Cal Clutterbuck.

This thing needs to start. Wild personality Kevin Falness’ Jumbotron features are driving me loco. And you know he rather be golfing.

Chris Snow just called Burns and said “where are you?” He goes, “In the room. Waiting for the scrimmage.”

Snow goes, “It started!!!”

Clutterbuck just ran to the ice. He only missed 10 minutes.

No score still. Darcy Kuemper, on the white team, just absolutely stoned Tyler Cuma from point blank.

Morten Madsen just gave the white team a 1-0 lead with a short side shot past Matt Hackett.

Green tied it. Harri Ilvonen or Kris Foucault got it.

Burns, while literally reading a magazine, didn’t realize there were too many men. Anthony Hamburg scored on a penalty shot. White leads 2-1.

3-1 white. Alex Fallstrom on a breakaway. 4-1 white. Erik Haula on a breakaway.

Burns pulled Hackett for an extra attacker. I don’t think he knows there’s a whole other half.

1,650 people here.

SECOND HALF

5-1 white. Madsen again. Burns’ is getting heckled by the fans. Clutterbuck’s just laughing from the other bench.

5-2. One shift after he and Petr Kalus got into a nasty wrestling match, Gillies scores from way out.

6-2…Hamburg again — the 17-year-old taken in the seventh round.

6-3…Gillies, making his brother Burnzie proud, just scored a beauty breakaway. As Mike Greenlay said, “Gillies schooling the youngsters.” Gillies is 20.

7-3…Carson McMillan from way out.

Burns pulling Hackett down 7-3.

Fridley’s Jarom Palmer just made it 7-4.

Clutterbuck talking smack to Burnzie. Game over. 7-4 White.

Good day.

Wild signs Cuma; 17 Elite League players taken in Draft; Best of the Rest

Friday, July 10th, 2009

(UPDATED)

As I mentioned yesterday, the Wild has signed Tyler Cuma to a three-year, $2.625 million contract plus standard entry-level contract bonuses. If he doesn’t make the team in the fall, the contract slides a year, as does his seven-year free-agent clock.

“We are delighted to have Tyler Cuma as a member of the Minnesota Wild organization,” said Assistant General Manager/Player Personnel Tom Thompson. “He possesses all of the attributes necessary to be a quality defenseman in the modern day NHL. Tyler is an exceptional skater, both forward and backward. He is intelligent, aggressive and poised. From watching him at our summer development camp, it is clear that he has made a complete recovery from last season’s knee surgery.”
 
Cuma, 19 (1/19/90), was the Wild’s first-round pick (No.23 overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He recorded nine points (1-8=9) and 27 penalty minutes in 21 games for the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2008-09. Cuma, who participated in the Team Canada World Junior Selection Camp last season, underwent season-ending knee surgery in February. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Cuma has posted 60 points (8-52=60) and 141 PIM in 143 career games over three seasons in Ottawa. Cuma earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 World Championships collecting four points (1-3=4) in seven games. He was named Ottawa’s Rookie of the Year in 2006-07 after posting 19 points (3-16=19) in 63 matches.

In the meantime, here’s a look at the Best of the Rest. You’ll see guys like Alex Tanguay, Jason Williams and Mike Comrie still available. Wait a little more and somebody might be able to get Tanguay at a bargain price. On the blue line, Martin Skoula (most games of any NHL defensemen his age or younger) and Marc-Andre Bergeron (62 career goals, 14 last year). Think Skoula becomes a Devil if Jacques Lemaire goes there? Did the Devils hire a coach while I’ve been gone???????

Also, I meant to throw this on the blog after the Draft, but I forgot.

A record 17 former players from the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League were chosen in the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft, held June 26-27 in Montreal.

Nick Leddy of Eden Prairie (#16, Minnesota Wild) and Jordan Schroeder of the University of Minnesota (#22, Vancouver) were first-round selections, with the remaining players chosen in subsequent rounds. The NHL draft consists of seven rounds and was conducted over two days.

Edina’s Zack Budish (#41, Nashville) was chosen in the second round, while Ben Hanowski of Little Falls (#63, Pittsburgh), Josh Birkholz of Maple Grove (#67, Florida), Troy Hesketh of Minnetonka (#71, Edmonton), Dan DeLisle of Arden Hills (#89, Chicago) and Mike Lee of Roseau (#91, Phoenix)  were chosen in the third round.

This is the second consecutive NHL draft in which the Elite League reached double-digits in the number of players selected. Last year 10 Elite League alumni were selected, including four in the first two rounds

In addition to their first-round selection of Leddy, the Minnesota Wild reached into the Elite League for two other players, Swedish forward Alexander Fallstrom (#116) and Finnish winger Erik Haula. Both Fallstrom and Haula competed for the Shattuck-St. Mary’s team in the Elite League, the eventual champion of the Bauer National Invitational Tournament which culminates league action.

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Wild signs Tyler Cuma; Why no Gaborik?; Bad week for Koivu; Sunday scrimmage reminder

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

UPDATED FROM 11,323 FEET

Coming to you from 38,000 feet right now (yes, I paid $9.95 to blog this because I really couldn’t pull out blackberry as we were flying down the runway).

The Wild has signed 2008 first-round pick Tyler Cuma to a three-year, $2.625 million entry-level deal. An announcement is expected Friday. The Wild had until June 1, 2010, to sign this prized defenseman.

This doesn’t change the rules — Because of his age, if he doesn’t make the Wild in the fall, he’s got to be returned to Ottawa of the OHL. If that’s the case, his contract slides and the contract won’t start until he turns pro in likely 2010-11.

I still think it’ll be a longshot. Wild has seven defensemen on one-ways, barring a trade, and Cuma barely played any hockey last season at the junior level because of his meniscus injury.

Now that Delta’s got Internet on most its flights, this should be a fun upcoming season for you. Now I can tell you every time we hit turbulence or the guy next to me coughs on me — LIKE RIGHT NOW!

OK, they just served me a chef salad. It was good.

I might as well continue with this blog, eh?

How about Stephane Veilleux and Kurtis Foster signing with Tampa Bay? Both should fit in quite nice, and personally, they’ll be missed in Minnesota by this beat writer. My favorite Veilleux story I wrote is this one (click link). The guy was a true character — on and off the ice.

And Foster is by far one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve ever covered. His return from a broken leg was inspirational, and as you know from when he was playing regularly, he was a go-to quote for the beat writers.

Speaking of which, before my flight, he had a pretty hysterical line. Noting that Veilleux was Mikko Koivu’s linemate, how Foster was one of Mikko’s best friends on the team and how his brother Saku declined the Wild’s contract offers, Foster said, “Pretty tough week for Mikko.”

This plane’s bouncing around the sky right now. Onward.

Remember, if you need a hockey fix, Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m., the Wild prospects will be scrimmaging down at Xcel Energy Center. You can see guys like Cuma, Colton Gillies, Nick Leddy, Petr Kalus, Matt Hackett, Cody Almond, Carson McMillan, Marco Scandella, former Shattuck roomies Alex Fallstrom and Erik Haula and the infamous Eero Elo, who according to google doubles as a Finnish hotel.

Incidentally, I’ll be there to blog, and quite frankly folks, that might be the last you’ll be seeing/hearing from me for some time. I’ve got time off on the horizon, and it’s been a busy offseason. So to ensure my battery’s running when camp starts, I hope you understand that unless there’s big news, my byline will probably be missing for awhile and the blog will be updated by somebody else.

Lastly, I’ve gotten a gazillion (in the dictionary now) emails about why the Wild made no offers to Marian Gaborik when the team portrayed like it would. To this point, GM Chuck Fletcher has declined comment on this subject, but let me tell you, Marian Gaborik was not re-signing here even if Fletcher did the P.R. thing and offered him a contract.

I wish Gaborik well. He’s the second-best scorer I’ve ever covered (Pavel Bure being Numero Uno). Gaborik was just a sensational talent and goal scorer. But he was not re-signing here. He turned down $78.5 million last fall. Every contract he’s ever signed with Minnesota has been a problem. Think Ron Salcer was just going to sign him up here days before he had his pick of teams? It just wasn’t happening, so to me, this is beyond a moot point. If the changes were made last summer, he probably signs on the dotted line. But this close to free agency, it just wasn’t going to happen.

The Wild entered this free-agent period $13 million under the cap with a to-do list of re-signing Gaborik/finding his replacement, adding a No. 2 center, signing two defensemen, re-signing Josh Harding, Benoit Pouliot, Kyle Brodziak and others.

The team wants to be $1.5 million under the cap for injury cushion/in-season trades or waiver pickups. That means it had $11.5 million to spend. Re-sign Gaborik at $7.5 mill, that would have left $4 million to sign two defensemen, a No. 2 center and re-sign the restricted free agents. Basically, re-signing Gaborik probably would’ve meant the team could not have even made a run at Saku Koivu.

So I think the Wild made the conscious decision to pursue Martin Havlat at $5 million so it would have $6.5 million to spend on two defensemen, Saku Koivu and the RFA’s. Unfortunately, Koivu didn’t sign. But that doesn’t change the fact that the team was making a fiscal decision to try to fill as many holes as possible, something that could not have happened if Gaborik was re-signed. Havlat is a nice replacement. The guy is a stud player when healthy, somebody that WILL do things that dazzle on the ice. He’s been basically a point-a-game player since 2002 (look at his numbers in 2006-07 especially).

Again, the caveat with him has been health, but the same can be said for Gaborik, too. As I mentioned last week, there were only two real replacements for Gaborik — Mike Cammalleri and Havlat — because Marian Hossa clearly picked his team and the Sedins were off the board before free agency started.

The Wild got one of them. The Wild could have gotten none of them.

Now, yes, the team didn’t get Koivu, but going out and just signing players for the sake of signing players is a stupid idea. The Wild can’t let itself get hamstrung by bad contracts. Quite frankly, the reason for the lack of flexibility now is because it has a few unmovable contracts.

So Fletcher is trying to be patient, search the trade market and if the right move comes up, he’ll pounce. But maybe that move doesn’t happen to camp, doesn’t happen until midseason, at the trade deadline or next summer.

To use a terrible cliche, Rome wasn’t build in a day. To expect that a new GM can come in and fill every single hole in one summer when the free-agent pool was so thin was unrealistic. Fletcher is trying to build long-term, so again, to sign an Alex Kovalev at 36 years old at $5 million per makes little sense. No doubt Kovalev can still play the game and would be an upgrade.

But you know what usually happens when you make short-sighted decisions like that? Something falls into your lap later in the summer or next season, and you can’t pull the trigger because you signed a 36-year-old at $5 million per. 

I can ramble on and on, but we’re descending and the flight attendant is giving me the stare-down. So like I said to you on July 1, after reading some of these comments lately and fielding some of the emails lately, I am worried for your health.

It ain’t so bad, folks. Calm down, take a deep breath, be patient, maybe listen to a little Cat Stevens to calm the nerves and enjoy your summer.

Wild wants to host NHL Entry Draft; RFA refresher

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Monday morning update: Since I’ll be in the air when the Wild announces which restricted free agents it qualifies to retain their rights, I thought I’d give you an explanation. Essentially, by 4 p.m., teams must tender qualifying offers to restricted free agents. If they don’t, those players become unrestricted free agents when free agency opens Monday and they’re free to sign with any team in the league.

Basically, to retain a players rights today, teams must offer 10-percent raises on players who made $660,000 or less last season, 5 percent raises on players who made $660,000-$1 million and no raise on players who made more than $1 million.

So, for instance, Kyle Brodziak made $497,500, so he’s got to be offered a $49,750 raise (10 percent). Benoit Pouliot’s salary if he had played a full year in the NHL would have been $765,000 (not including bonuses). So he’s got to be offered a 5 percent raise or a contract of $803,250. Josh Harding must be offered a 5 percent raise of $725,000. Dan Fritsche made $875,000, so to qualify him, he’d have to be offered a contract of $918,750 (5 percent raise).

And remember, this is just to keep them. This is before you actually negotiate the contract. If you take a look at the above, you’ll see a very good reason why the Wild might not qualify Fritsche today. He plays the same role as Brodziak might play, yet just to keep him, you’d have to offer him almost $1 million or $371,500 more than Brodziak to perhaps play the same role. If you let Fritsche go, that $918,750 could come in very handy when you’re trying to sign players in free agency.

Again though, we’ll find out for sure today. I was told by a few sources yesterday that Chuck Fletcher was trying to trade Fritsche the last few weeks. Obviously he was unable to, which could be a further clue that he might be let go today. 

Sunday night blog: Good day from Vermont, where I spent part of the day on Lake Champlain. Other than the gnats, it was a good way to decompress from a busy week.

Here are the links from Sunday’s articles:

Here is the Insider on owner Craig Leipold talking about having the money to spend in free agency

Here is the Kyle Brodziak trade story

Here is the notebook on drafting two Shattuck-St. Mary’s roommates and improving the goalie depth of the club

Here is the roster situation

I’ll be flying home Monday, and as I’ve mentioned, there will at least be the news of the restricted free agents. When that comes out and perhaps other news, if I’m in the air, the blog will be updated from the office. So no worries.

Just thought I’d clean out my draft notebook from the weekend:

– Owner Craig Leipold loves the passion and hype and hoopla that comes with the draft, and he told me he’s looking to soon bring one to Minnesota for the Wild to host. Remember, the Nashville Predators — Leipold’s previous team — hosted the 2003 draft.

– GM Chuck Fletcher on free agency: “We’ve had some ideas what we wanted to do in free agency all along if we weren’t able to make trades and we have some things we can do internally too with player shifting to different areas. I think we have some flexibility what can we do. I do believe having cap space is a very valuable commodity. I do believe if we have cap space, at some point we will  be rewarded. I’m not sure we have to fill every hole the first week of July but what will happen will be a product of which way the market goes. If it’s a buyers market, hopefully we do well.”

I did want to make one note on free agency after reading the Insider again today. I know I mentioned a lot of names in there. I wanted to make clear though if the Wild gets a star, that obviously inhibits other things like maybe the top defensemen I mentioned, etc. I don’t want you to think that IF they signed a Hossa or the Sedins, then they can go out AND sign a Beauchemin or a Scuderi.

The higher the price, the less money they can spend in other areas. If you looked at the updated salary chart in the paper, the Wild is roughly $13 million below the cap. However, if Colton Gillies plays in the minors, that frees up $1.04 million of cap space. However, remember, even though the cap is $56.8 million, most teams would want to be at least $2 million below.

As for the Draft……

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Chuck Fletcher on Brodziak trade, draft; Dan Fritsche gone?

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Here is the Chuck Fletcher transcript, and I think I picked up on the end of Dan Fritsche’s Wild career. Right when they traded for Kyle Brodziak, I thought, “That makes Fritsche expendable.” I asked Fletcher if Fritsche will be qualified to retain his rights Monday, and you’ll see his answers below.

Talked to Todd Richards about Brodziak, too, for tomorrow’s paper. Remember, he coached him in Wilkes-Barre. You’ll see all that below and Tommy Thompson on the draft picks.

Chuck Fletcher

On Brodziak? Todd knows him better than I do. We shared a farm team with Edmonton in Wilkes-Barre three seasons ago and Kyle’s one of the leaders on the team and played really well for Todd and since then has had two successful seasons in the NHL. I got to know Kyle a little bit that season, and he’s a good fit for us. He’s a player who can slide up and down your roster. He’s a right-shot, he can take faceoffs, he’s well above average faceoff guy on the right side of the ice, he can also play wing, he can kill penalties, he shoots the puck well. So he brings a lot of versatility to the lineup and I think he’ll allow our coaching staff to give him different looks and move him around and bring some character and effort to the lineup every night.

Right-handed centers valuable? I think it’s very important, but he may be a right winger that takes faceoffs from the right side. That’ll be up to the coaches, but that element was very important. We were looking at other players here and they were left shots. I just felt the overall fit with Kyle was better for the lineup because of a) the familiarity of knowing him as a person and the fact he’s a right shot, the fact he’s second line, third line, fourth line, right wing, left wing, center. There’s a lot of things you can do with a Kyle Brodziak. There’s energy, there’s work ethic and there’s character.

Scoring ability? Clearly, I think he’s a better checker than an offensive player, but he’s a player that has scored goal in his career. He shoots the puck well and he’s a smart player and the way the game’s played now, you can’t just break your players up into offensive players and defensive players. You have to have every line who can contribute offensively and every line that can play away from the puck. The great thing about Kyle is he is versatile and if you put him out there will skilled players, he can shoot the puck when it gets on his stick, yet he is also very responsible.

In the works? Yes, going back almost a month.
Talked to him a lot last two days? No, a lot of things. Today the conversation shifted back to Kyle. We talked about it at different points in the draft.

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Wild trades for Edmonton’s Brodziak; Wild takes top-ranked goalie; Wild still into Heatley; Bouwmeester’s rights traded to Calgary

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

The Wild just traded the 99th and 133rd pick to Edmonton for center Kyle Brodziak and the 161st.  He’s a right-handed center who’s solid in the faceoff circle. Oil, I’m told, thought he’d be a third-line center after the year he had two years ago with Glencross and Stortini the last month-and-a-half, but he played mostly on the fourth line last year.

He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He played for Todd Richards in  Wilkes-Barre.

The Wild just took Matthew Hackett, the top-ranked goalie in the draft, at 77th overall. He plays at Plymouth of the OHL. Hackett is the nephew of former NHLer Jeff Hackett, who was just fired as the Avs’ goalie coach when Tony Granato was fired.

In the fourth round, the Wild took left wing Kris Foucault, a teammate of Carson McMillan’s with the Calgary Hitman at 103 overall.

At 116, the Wild took Shattuck St. Mary’s Alexander Fallstrom, from Sweden. He was senior captain there and a power forward.

At 163, the Wild took Jere Sallinen out of Finland, then at 182ns (first pick of seventh round), the Wild took future Gopher Erik Haula, from Shattuck, who will play next year with the USHL Omaha Lancers.

Good morning back in the Cities. Coming to you from the Draft risers, and I’m reminded by a hilarious line from former Wild assistant GM Tom Lynn last night.

“I’ve been a sportswriter for two days, and I’ve already gained four pounds and can’t roll out of bed in the morning.”

Welcome to our unhealthy lifestyle, Mr. Lynn, who shouldn’t take long to get back on the other side of the barricade.

Here is his blog today on the Hockey News’ web site.

I am told Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will be trying very hard to gain a second-round pick this morning — perhaps again dangling Josh Harding (Edmonton is at 40). He’s also now got a third-round pick and three fourths. Wild also would like to add a goalie today to its depth chart.

I am also told the Wild IS NOT out of the Dany Heatley sweepstakes. Ottawa still wants to trade him by July 1 and if the Senators likely get off their demand of Brent Burns, there’s a possibility.

The day started off with the Florida Panthers trading Jay Bouwmeester’s rights to Calgary for Jordon Leopold’s rights and a third. 

Edina’s Zach Budish went to Nashville at No. 41. At least the Preds didn’t rub the Wild’s nose in it by taking Budish at 41 — the pick they got from Minnesota in Zidlicky trade. Wild wanted to somehow get Budish today.

Little Falls’ Ben Hanowski just went 63rd (second pick in the third round) to Pittsburgh.