Dany Heatley


Let the Frenzy Begin…

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

4:30 p.m. update: Sportsnet is reporting Mike Cammalleri has signed a five-year, $6 million deal with the Canadiens. If true, Marian Gaborik and Martin Havlat are the two best forwards left on the board, followed by the next wrung of Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Brian Gionta, Saku Koivu and Nik Antropov.

Is I’ve alluded to the past week, I’ve long suspected Martin Havlat would be the guy the Wild would target. Now of the upper-echelon guys, he’s the only one left other than Gaborik.

Plenty of Dmen still available, including Francois Beauchemin, Rob Scuderi and Mike Komisarek.

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Ladies and gents, patience, patience. This is how it works. Very few agents sign their guy to the first team that calls (minus Mattias Ohlund, apparently). Agents build a list, accept offers, go to their clients, go over the offers, go over the pros and cons of each team, where the player fits and then goes back to the teams and usually works one against each other.

They create bidding wars. This takes time, especially when the pool is so thin and the same teams are going after the same players.

There’s a reason why Marian Hossa is the only one of the elite forwards to sign so far.

Just because the Wild hasn’t signed anybody yet doesn’t mean they won’t the rest of the day or in subsequent days (Wild signed Johnsson, Parrish and Carney at about 8 p.m. on July 1, 2006). Last year’s news was early because I got wind very early that the Wild traded for Marek Zidlicky.

But as for free agents, usually in the afternoons of July 1, it’s hard to get a ton of info because both sides — the agent and the team — are busy chatting with each other. So that’s why it’s so quiet. That’s why I tried to do as much reporting as possible before July 1. In today’s paper, I informed you of the players I either know or think the Wild’s pursuing. I know on Havlat, Fedotenko, Saku Koivu and Scuderi.

We’ll see if they get any of those guys done.

Also, just an fyi, I’m not convinced Koivu will decide on his team today. Mikko made it sound to me like Saku will take his offers and go over them very carefully with his family.

Also, on Gaborik, I hear the Rangers are very interested but don’t want to pull the trigger with Heatley still up in the air. That’s surprising, however, because why give up a bunch of assets when you can simply sign Gaborik?

Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Rob Rossi hears Minnesota, Dallas and the Rangers are on Rob Scuderi’s list. I heard yesterday Wild was “high” on the list.

TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting Marian Hossa is close to signing in Chicago. If true, Hawks may need to hire some mathematicians from MIT to get Kane and Toews done next summer. Unless he’s signing another one-year deal.

TSN’s reporting Hossa to Chicago is done. If Marian Hossa gets a $5.2 million cap hit, good luck Gaborik.

Edmonton’s lost Dwayne Roloson. They’ve almost definitely got to sign Nikolai Khabibulin or go back to the Wild and trade for Josh Harding. Oilers still very interested in Harding, a source says, but still looking at free-agent route with Scott Clemmensen.

Free agency starts at 11. A half-hour before, TSN reported that Daniel and Henrik Sedin agreed to duplicate five-year, $6.1 million deals with the Canucks.

This makes a thin free-agent pool thinner.

Vancouver still has the salary-cap room to go after Marian Gaborik perhaps, although the Canucks are aiming to sign Roberto Luongo to an $8 million-a-year extension that would go on the books starting in 2010-11. With the cap coming down, it would seem Gaborik would have to look elsewhere.

The teams that could be looking at him today are Montreal, the Rangers and Los Angeles.

Martin Havlat and Ruslan Fedotenko — two players the Wild’s expected to pursue — to the free-agent market, their agent says.

Team Canada to make Olympic camp roster announcement on July 2.

Seven years for Mattias Ohlund in Tampa Bay. Oh my. Guess teams are giving term.

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

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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.

Nearly 24 hours from free agency; Wild depth chart as of now; USA Olympic orientation camp roster; Mill named assistant to the GM

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I’ll be back on later this evening with a more in-depth free-agent primer, but I figured I’d jump on and say hello now.

I know there are all these Vincent Lecavalier rumors to Minnesota floating around the blogosphere, but I can tell you that yesterday morning, as good a source as you can possibly have from one of the two teams told me that “Vinny’s staying — 100 percent,” meaning he will not be traded before his July 1 no-trade kicks in.

I suppose if some deal knocked the Lightning’s socks off in the next 24 hours, that could change. But let’s be honest — it’s very doubtful the Wild has those assets to suddenly make the Lightning change its mind.

Essentially, as I mentioned on the blog last week, one owner wants to move Lecavalier; one does not. And both owners have veto power of any trade, so it would take a major philosophical altercation by that one owner today to put Lecavalier in another zip code.

Also, Lecavalier’s cap hit might be $7.7+ million in the next 11 years, but he makes $10 million in real dollars in the next seven. I just don’t see the Wild being willing take on that type of commitment in this economy.

It will be interesting to see if there are trades tomorrow. Remember, you can go 5 percent over the cap starting July 1 until training camp, so as often is the case, trades are agreed to at the draft and executed on July 1 (Manny Fernandez to Bruins, Marek Zidlicky to Wild, although that had to wait simply because that’s when Zidlicky’s no-trade expired).

The Senators have to trade Dany Heatley by midnight if they’re going to escape paying him that $4 million bonus.

Also talked to two sources yesterday — one exec, one agent — and both said they’d be shocked if Josh Harding isn’t traded in the near future. He’s got arbitration rights, and the agent thought he’d be owed a fairly significant raise just because of his goals against and save percentage last season.

Here’s a look at the depth chart as it currently sits assuming all the UFA’s go to free agency, so have some fun today, check out the free agent lists and you fill in the holes:

LW                              C                                RW

———                Koivu                          Bouchard

Brunette                Sheppard                   Nolan

Miettinen              Belanger                    Clutterbuck

Boogaard              Brodziak                     Weller

Potential candidates: Pouliot, Gillies, Irmen, Kalus

***I see the Wild pursuing a center, which would bump down the center spots and maybe put Brodziak on the right side and Weller in the press box; If they don’t sign a No. 2 center, maybe Bouchard or Pouliot gets that chance, which opens up a top-two line RW spot.

LD                         RD 

Johnsson              Burns

Schultz                  Zidlicky

Scott                      ———-

*** I see the Wild bringing in two NHL defensemen, meaning Scott could be the extra.

Goalies

Backstrom

Harding

***Harding is trade bait, and then the Wild would sign a cheaper backup goalie, and they grow on trees.

Kudos to editor/sportswriter Mark Wollemann for stepping in for me yesterday. The day off was very much appreciated.

Update: Negotiations are ongoing right now with Chicago and Pittsburgh regarding Martin Havlat and Ruslan Fedotenko, but if they are not re-signed, the Wild may pursue.

Update: USA Hockey announced the roster for August’s Olympic orientation camp. Here is the release.

The roster includes several Minnesotans or players with Minnesota ties: Tom Gilbert, Erik Johnson, Paul Martin, David Backes, Dustin Byfuglien, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie and Zach Parise. 

Update: Wild at least having talks still with Stephane Veilleux.

Update: Wild has hired Jim Mill (not Nill) assistant to the GM and GM of the Aeros.

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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.

Good morning, … Chat with me at 10 a.m.

Friday, June 26th, 2009

lnh.jpg

In nine hours, after lots and lots of buildup, the LNH Draft (French) begins.

I’ll be hosting a live chat on startribune.com (Internet permitting because it’s sloooooooooooooooowww) at 10 a.m. today, so get your Draft, trade, new regime, free agency questions ready. Free agency is right around the corner after the weekend.

Right now, crickets as far as trades. I made the rounds around town last night, bumping into scores of NHL types and getting to hang out with guys like Dale Hunter (hysterical dude) and others I’ll keep nameless. Hey, I kept it off Twitter, I might as well keep it off here. :)

I did bump into Chuck Fletcher and Todd Richards on the street last night, and you can bet they were talking trade. As I think I’ve mentioned on here, and will in a more in-depth story I’m sure during training camp, Fletcher wants to have a wide-open working relationship with Richards.

So he will discuss every trade with Richards to make certain the player will be somebody Richards will be comfortable with, will give ice time to and will be able to excel in his system. So there will be no, “Who?” from the coach if they trade for say, Dominic Moore. And conversely, if a player is not working out for Richards, Fletcher will have an open door. He doesn’t want quality players wasting away on the fourth line or sitting in the press box so the asset value dies.

Now, will anything happen today? We will see. There hasn’t been a single NHL trade yet for all the reasons I’ve mentioned the last couple days and in today’s paper. As Fletcher’s said a couple times, “there’s too much money in the system right now. I mean, the cap’s not going up 20 percent again. There are some teams in bad shape right now.”

I also heard last night Ottawa’s getting a little nervous that’ll be unable to deal Dany Heatley today. Lots of teams have done character references, and the latest trade demand has really caused lots of potential trade partners to back off in their interest. It’s not just his salary, it’s not just the assets you’d give up. It’s definitely him, some off-ice issues and the fact that when the going gets tough, he demands to get going.

Tampa Bay is another interesting situation to watch today. There is still immense friction there involving the fact that one owner wants to trade Vincent Lecavalier and the other doesn’t. His no-trade kicks in July 1 and Montreal, wanting to make a major splash because it’s hosting the Draft, is willing to overpay for him. As somebody said to me, this is the “perfect storm” to move him for huge assets and rid the 11-year contract off the books.

Also, if you read the rumor sights, it’s been reported for weeks that the Wild was hot after Tomas Kaberle for Marek Zidlicky and Josh Harding. I’ve never written that because as I’ve told you before, I don’t like throwing stuff out there unless I personally report it out or confirm it or refute it through sources. It’s a good thing I didn’t throw that against the wall and pray it stuck because I confirmed the Wild is not in the Tomas Kaberle talks. Obviously, things could change I suppose, but I believe the people that told me this, and they’d know.

I do have some other little interesting tidbits I picked up on the Wild last night, and I’ll throw them in tomorrow’s paper or on the blog later once I do a little more reporting. Nothing earth-shattering, but just some potential stuff on the horizon.

OK, I’ll be back on for the chat at 10.

So, who does the Wild Draft (Schroeder, Leddy, somebody else?); Trade chatter

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Couple adds: Will be on KSTP at 6 pm tonight, live chat at 10 am Friday and Doug Risebrough had his second interview for the Panthers GM vacancy here in Montreal today.

Checking in with you again late this afternoon from the beautiful Montreal, although I’ve sort of been holed up in my hotel most of the day other than the hour or so to go hunt down Jacques Lemaire.

As of now, Chuck Fletcher is still trying to make a trade, with the emphasis on the trying. As proof by the crickets throughout the NHL, it’s not easy making a trade right now, not when as a colleague said to me today, there’s about 150 players on the block, of which 100 nobody wants. The problem I am sensing from the numerous execs I’ve talked to is sort of what I alluded either in an article or the blog or the Twitter — I don’t know, it all sort of runs together.

There are lots of teams looking to get rid of really good players, but good players with really big contracts. So those teams automatically want picks and prospects back, which as you know if you’ve been reading the Strib, the Wild isn’t exactly filled to the brim with. So, hence Fletcher’s problem. And hence, the league’s problem. You can’t just acquire a $4 million player in today’s game without giving up some dough.

He’s inquired about nearly 40 players, including Phil Kessel and Dany Heatley. But there are many others that I either don’t know about or don’t want to write because it’s just rumor, so who knows what Fletcher gets done — or quite frankly, if Fletcher gets something done.

I’ve been told Ottawa’s cut its targeted teams down to seven. I’ve been told the Wild is one of them. But I’ve also been told L.A.’s hot after him and would consider giving up winger Alex Frolov, a quality defenseman and the fifth pick, which let’s be honest, the Wild can’t contend with.

Right now, I’m not aware of any Wild trade being done tonight, although as I reminded Fletcher yesterday, the Panthers once made me sprint — OK, walk fast — back to this very hotel at about 10 p.m. one night in 1998 after executing the blockbuster of all blockbusters — Esa Tikkanen for Dwayne Hay.

Have I ever told you the story about Esa Tikkanen screaming at me in the Panthers’ locker room after I lowered the radio because I was trying to interview the low-talking Scott Mellanby? It’s a great story. One day I’ll you.

I keep hearing from everybody he’s still using Josh Harding at the big bait, mostly with Edmonton, St. Louis and Toronto. But again, Harding is restricted free agent, so if Fletcher doesn’t get the deal he wants, there’s no rush in trading him. You can wait until later this summer or even next season. But, he is likely eventually going to be dealt.

So, as for the Draft, …

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