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Wild signs D Shane Hnidy; Bouchard looking more and more like No. 2 center; Boogey-Havlat to fight for No. 24?; Coaching staff set

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

(updated) 

How excited is “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy to be a member of the Minnesota Wild this afternoon? He’s in the bush of Northern Manitoba fishing. I called his home number, got his wife and she told me he was out of town until Sunday and virtually unreachable. 

Next thing I know, I get a phone call two minutes later with about 17 numbers on the caller I.D.

It was Hnidy calling me from a satellite phone.

Hnidy, who lives eight hours north of here, feels like he just signed with his hometown team. He’s known throughout the league as a character, heart-and-soul, sandpaper guy. Hard hits, gets into a handul of fights a year.

Here’s a YouTube clip worth watching simply for the comical Jack Edwards absolutely losing his mind

So as expected, the Wild got its Nos. 4/5 and 6 with “hard” type defensemen (Greg Zanon and Hnidy) to complement the mobile, offensive types in the top-four.

This rounds out the top-seven. Barring a trade, the blue line will be Burns, Johnsson, Schultz, Zidlicky, Zanon, Hnidy, Scott.

Hnidy signed a one-year, $750,000 contract. He spent the last two years in Boston. In 477 NHL games, he has 14 goals, 57 points, is a plus-22 and 565 penalty minutes.

Also, it is looking more and more like Pierre-Marc Bouchard could be given the biggest look as the team’s No. 2 center. That, of course, is only if the Wild can’t sign Saku Koivu or can’t make a trade.

Chuck Fletcher again said today that Koivu is the only center-ice option minus a trade in free agency, and the team just continues to wait as he makes a decision. It’s up to him now, and like I said on the previous post, the team thinks he’s not signing here.

Todd Richards talked extensively today about how if the Wild doesn’t make another center pickup, he feels Bouchard “can be that guy.”

Winger Ruslan Fedotenko signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal to remain in Pittsburgh. He clearly just didn’t want to leave because I know for the fact the Wild and a number of other teams offered him multi-year deals.

Now, the Wild probably just waits until later in the summer to maybe sign another free agent or work on trades. Fletcher basically said today that Koivu is the one guy they’re still waiting on. I don’t sense a lot of interest in Alex Tanguay or Ales Kotalik. Again, you don’t build a team to sign players just for the sake of signing players. You build teams with the right guys, and to get stuck with a huge Tanguay contract when there could be better options before the season, into the season or even next summer, it just makes no sense.

So, if Koivu doesn’t sign here (and as mentioned on previous blog, it’s not looking good), I wouldn’t expect much news for a little while.

Marty Havlat was introduced to the media today. I bet my life last night to a couple buddles that Marian Gaborik already offered to sell his condo to Martin Havlat. I live!!!!!!!!!!

Also, Havlat’s first conversation was going to be with Derek Boogaard to see what he could do to entice No. 24 to leave his body. Boogaard had a good line to me, … which you can read in the paper :)

Update: Boogaard won; Havlat will wear 14

Development camp next week. Tyler Cuma was in, looked great and said his knee feels great.

Also, Mike Ramsey, Dave Barr (old Colorado assistant), Matt Shaw and Bob Mason will make up next year’s coaching staff. Add: Strength coach Kirk Olson did not have his contract renewed.

Here’s a funny one for you, which explains a major typo in today’s paper. Wild can never sign or play Brian Boucher. When I write Boucher in my MS word, it automatically changes it to Bouchard.

Another thing that’s been on my mind the last few days? Wonder how Gaborik’s groins will react to by far the worst ice in the NHL — Madison Square Garden?

Add: Wild minor-leaguer Corey Locke signed with the Rangers.

All this and much more in Saturday’s paper.

Source: Saku deal appears to be going south; Best of the Rest

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

ALERT: Source: Ruslan Fedotenko to make decision Friday because Pittsburgh, which has an offer on the table, needs an answer. Wild and other teams in the fold.

As for Koivu, a number of teams interested. Anaheim is definitely involved, as is NJ and NYR, among others.

Last night, the Wild thought Saku Koivu would be signed, sealed and delivered by this morning.

Now, it appears as if it’s going nowhere, according to sources.

Agent Don Baizley said no decision is imminent and he’d reserve comment until “the situation is resolved.”

Koivu is expected to take some time and weigh his options, but he’s got a bunch of scenarios and many teams coming at him hard, and like I said, it appears the deal with the Wild is going south. 

New  Jersey is one team hot after Koivu, as well as the New York Rangers, who now that they traded Scott Gomez, really doesn’t have a center to get the puck to Marian Gaborik. Anaheim likes him, too.

The Wild wants Koivu, 34, desperately. It needs a No. 2 center, but GM Chuck Fletcher says at this point the “ball’s in his court.”

If the Wild can’t land Koivu, it likely won’t sign any of the other free-agent centers. Look at the guys below. Fletcher said it makes no sense to grab maybe a 40-point-max guy to play on the second line and then possibly inhibit an ability to grab a better player at a later date via trade. The only other top center on the market was Nik Antropov, and he signed with Atlanta at $4 million per.

So if he can’t make a trade — and he did talk trade today — he said he’s comfortable going into camp with Mikko Koivu, James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot, Eric Belanger and Kyle Brodziak. And remember, Todd Richards plans on experimenting with Pierre-Marc Bouchard at center in camp.

This again is if it can’t land Saku Koivu or make a trade. But Saku looks bad right now, I’m hearing.

Fletcher said waiting for Koivu is not hindering his ability to do anything else.

“They probably have several conversations going and we have several conversations going. You’re always looking and you never want to close the door on other avenues. We’re not handcuffed. We’re able to move in different directions if something came up that is the right deal.” 

Other things from the Fletcher conference call today:

– He has targeted a few other players, but if he can’t get them, he’s willing to be patient because it’s bound to become a buyer’s market.

– He’d like to acquire at least one more “quality forward” and a defenseman. The defenseman could be a one-way contract or a “bunch of two-way contracts.”

– On Havlat: “Looking at what Marty did this past season would be a good indication of what he can do when he’s healthy. … He produced a lot offensively. He’s a smart player too defensively. He’s underrated in that regard, he can kill penalties, he’s a responsible player and makes solid decisions with and without the puck. He’s been a player with a track record of success in the playoffs. … There were certainly three or four offensive players who would have fit the bill well. But Marty’s 28 years old, an explosive skater with tremendous offensive skills. He can score goals, he can make plays, he can play the power play, he can kill penalties. I truly believe his best years are still ahead of him. It made an awful lot of sense.”

– Fletcher talked a lot about Havlat’s injury history and whether he had concerns. He admitted that’s a risk, but there’s a risk in everything, he said. You can read more of that in the paper Friday or on www.startribune.com/wild tonight.

– Quality free agents still on the market:

Wingers: Alex Tanguay, Alexei Kovalev, Ruslan Fedotenko Ales Kotalik, Mikael Samuelsson, Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier, Miroslav Satan, Maxim Afinogenov, Petr Sykora, Taylor Pyatt, Stephane Veilleux.

Centers: Saku Koivu, Mike Comrie, Robert Lang, Todd Marchant, Jason Williams, P.J. Axelsson, Radek Bonk, Manny Malhotra, Dominic Moore.

Defensemen: Francois Beauchemin, Derek Morris, Kurtis Foster, Martin Skoula, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Nick Boynton, Phillipe Boucher, Greg de Vries, Christian Backman, Denis Gauthier, Dmitri Kalinin, Paul Mara, Francis Bouillon, Andrew Alberts, Dennis Seidenberg.

It’s Official: Wild signs Havlat; Wild hard at work on Koivu

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

UPDATE: Star Tribune sources say the Wild is working on Saku Koivu as we speak. Still could be done tonight. Also, Havlat just gave me a ring. Quotes up later.

——————————————————- 

As reported by the Star Tribune earlier this evening, the Wild has signed Martin Havlat to a six-year, $30 million deal.

“We are excited to add the speed and scoring of Martin Havlat to our lineup,” said Fletcher. “He is a terrific two-way player.”
 
Havlat, 28 (4/19/81), led the Chicago Blackhawks with a career-high 77 points (29-48=77) while skating in a career-high 81 games in the 2008-09 season. He ranked ninth in the NHL in plus-minus (plus-29). Havlat added 15 points (5-10=15) in 16 Stanley Cup playoff games as the Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference finals. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound native of Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, has recorded 396 points (169-227=396), a plus-87 rating, 53 power play goals and 31 game-winning goals in 470 NHL games in eight seasons with Ottawa and Chicago. Havlat participated in the NHL All-Star Game in the 2006-07 season, when he led Chicago in goals (25), assists (32) and points (57) despite appearing in just 56 games. He was a member of the NHL’s All-Rookie team in 2000-01 and played for the Czech Republic at the 2002 Olympics.
 
 Havlat was Ottawa’s first-round pick (No. 26 overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.

In some tweets just now, Havlat said, “Excited to be in Minny where I was welcomed and appreciated by management. The real story about what happened in Chicago to come out.”

“Thanks to all Hawks fans for your love and support over the last 3 years. Will never forget your generousity and the great playoff run!”

“Hossa is a good friend and I am happy for him.”

“There’s something to be said for loyalty and honor.”

Yikes! Just a hunch, but Russo thinks Havlat’s not pleased with the Blackhawks letting him go and signing Hossa.

Star Tribune Sources: Wild close to signing Havlat, working hard on Koivu

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

UPDATED WITH CONTRACT TERMS 

According to multiple NHL sources, the Wild is close to signing dynamic free-agent winger Martin Havlat. I’ve confirmed through sources it will be a six-year, $30 million deal. The $30 million will be the richest in franchise history, the term will be tied with Nick Schultz for the longest.

Havlat, 28, scored a career-high 77 points last season with Chicago in 81 games. It’s unclear as to whether this gets done tonight or in the wee hours of the morning, but I have been told by impeccable sources that Havlat has cut his list to one team — and that’s Minnesota.

According to sources, the Wild also continues to be in negotiations with free-agent center Saku Koivu, although it’s unclear how close that is. Because of the time in Finland, it could go into tomorrow.

The Wild and Havlat’s agent have been working on this contract for hours.

Gaborik era officially over in Minnesota

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

(updated: Gaborik unavailable tonight. Jumped on Glen Sather conference call, quotes below) 

 TSN is reporting Marian Gaborik has signed a five-year deal with the New York Rangers worth $5.75 million per.

If healthy, absolute bargain for one of the game’s great scorers, one who lit up the Rangers two seasons ago for five goals. Put this in perspective. He made $7.5 million last year with the Wild (17 games played), and averaged $6.33 million the past three years.

MAJOR CORRECTION: TSN NOW REPORTS $7.5 MILLION PER…MAKES A LOT MORE SENSE

I think my source was dead-on of Salcer’s 10 year, $75 million asking price, eh? Same contract, just cut in half.

I’d still give Slats Exec of the Year. Gets Higgins and McDonagh for Gomez, and now Gaborik. Like I said, it all depends on Gaborik’s health, but Gaborik is confident the two hip surgeries solves his years of abdominal problems.

Brian Gionta’s signed with Montreal…

Martin Havlat, Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Nik Antropov, Saku Koivu left. Ales Kotalik probably on the tier right after that (four 20-goal seasons) and Mikael Samuelsson. Ruslan Fedotenko, I put, in a different category because he’s got skill, but not as big a finisher but a proven winner.

But there’s a lot of pressure to get Havlat done if you’re the Wild now.

Sather on Gaborik:

“[Heatley] didn’t fall apart. It was a complicated scenario that we were dealing with. We needed to have more than one ball in the air. I had a pretty good idea he was interested in coming to New York. It took us a very long time to get a deal done, and I’m very happy to get him signed. … We accepted the deal on our terms.”

“Gaborik was the guy we had targeted from the beginning.”

“He scored 13 goals in 17 games. His health was fine. We don’t expect he’ll have any problems.”

“He had a point a game under Jacques Lemaire. It’ll be very interesting to see what he can do under a John Tortorella system. We’re going to have an up-tempo, speed game, and this guy fits the bill to a T.”

Wild signs D Zanon; Gaborik, Havlat best still available

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

I thought this was up, but now I see it isn’t.

The Wild has signed Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon to a three-year, $5.8 million deal. Zanon, formerly of Nebraska-Omaha.

The 29-year-old played all 82 games last season and was third with 237 blocked shots. Good fit as a fifth-sixth D. Wild still needs another D — and I’d say, a scorer and No. 2 center. :)

Zanon’s wife is from Hastings. He said he’s learned the defensive game from Todd Richards when he coached him in Milwaukee.

I’m told from inside the Wild that Chuck Fletcher is still working on a number of things. I know for a fact from outside the Wild that he is still very much in on Martin Havlat.

And as far as Marian Gaborik, I am told by an NHL source that agent Ron Salcer was calling teams seeking a 10-year, $75 million deal. 

Gaborik turned down $78.5 million deal from the Wild last fall. Marian Hossa just signed a 12-year deal worth $5.2 million a season.

I think the market’s changed.