Jacques Lemaire


Hockey’s on the Horizon; Catching up w/ Bruno, Burnzie, Steph, etc…

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Training camp is less than two weeks away, and amazingly, two weeks from tomorrow (Tuesday) will be the Wild’s first exhibition game in St. Louis on just the third day of training camp.

Something tells me that first lineup coach Todd Richards uses won’t be a true indication of the Wild’s actual Opening Night lineup. Just a guess. We might see a whole lot of Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser. Heck, the Wild might have to summon Eero Elo from the Finnish wilderness for that Blues tilt.

Yep, hockey’s just around the corner. Went down to watch a bunch of NHLers/Wild players skate this morning in the camp put on by the Octagon player rep agency. The Wild players there this morning included in no particular order Brent Burns, Owen Nolan, John Scott, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Josh Harding and Andrew Brunette. In the coming days, other Wild players expected to skate there include Derek Boogaard (just wasn’t there today), Nick Schultz (in Chicago busy firing the NHLPA Executive Director), Greg Zanon, Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and others.

Other NHLers there this morning include Florida’s Keith Ballard, Tampa Bay’s Mike Lundin, Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski, the Isles’ Tim Jackman, Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien, Pittsburgh’s Wyatt Smith, Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie, Montreal’s Andrew Conboy, Ben Clymer and Erik Rasmussen, among others. Mark Parrish is also skating there, but he was at the doctor today because his wife is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Parrish’s only NHL option right now could be the Islanders, but Parrish might be forced to choose between Europe and retiring.

There were also a bunch of college or high school kids there, including Josh Birkholz (Gophers), Max Gardiner (Minnetonka High, Gophers recruit), Zach Budish (Edina, incoming Gopher), Anders Lee (Edina, Notre Dame recruit), Nick Bjugstad (Blaine, Gophers recruit), Nick Mattson (Indiana, USHL; UND), Travis Boyd (U-17 US team, Gophers recruit), Seth Ambroz (Gophers recruit), Christian Isackson (St.Thomas Academy, Gophers recruit) and Nick Jensen (Green Bay, USHL; St. Cloud State recruit).

Oh!!! And Tampa Bay’s Stephane Veilleux, whose hair color resembles the Gophers’ colors I suppose, was there. I talked with Veilleux for awhile, and he had a fun summer, going to Wimbledon and visiting good chum and former Wild roommate Mikko Koivu in Finland. I’ll write more about Veilleux when the Wild visits Tampa in November, but he wanted me to thank the fans and tell you how much he’ll miss playing here. He said he badly wanted to stay but understands it’s a business.

He confirmed to me what I wrote a few days ago — he turned down a two-year deal from San Jose to take one from Tampa. He said it was an agonizing decision because he said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who used to coach him in Houston, called him two minutes after free agency began. But in the end, Veilleux was told he’d have a chance to play on the second line in Tampa. He feels he owes it to himself to give that a try. He says if you look at his history here, like when he played with Marian Gaborik every training camp during exhibition games, he was able to put up points. But the second the season started, Jacques Lemaire put him back to where the coach felt comfortable with Veilleux — on the checking line.

Veilleux says if he can have the same type of camp he normally had in Minnesota, he feels he can prove to Tampa Bay he can play with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the left side of that No. 2 line. If you look at Tampa’s top-six, there’s a definite left-wing slot open, so we’ll see if Veilleux can pull it off. Of course, one would think former linemate Wes Walz, a Tampa Bay assistant, knows Veilleux better than most anybody, and I’m betting coach Rick Tocchet eventually has Veilleux on that checking line where he’s proven he can be effective.

Here’s a smattering of other little tidbits:

– I shot the breeze with a number of NHLers this morning about NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly getting fired. TSN’s Darren Dreger has done a superb job covering this from the outset and he’s in Chicago, so I direct you to tsn.ca/nhl for his coverage. We’ve been hearing a clamoring of discontent for months, and it became clear this summer that Kelly was in trouble when General Counsel Ian Penny had his contract extended without Kelly’s knowledge. But there’s got to be a lot more to this than Kelly allegedly being chummier with the Commissioner’s office than the players would like. This will all come out I’m sure as the Executive Board — guys like Chris Chelios, Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Ference — and 30 player reps communicate the reasons to the membership. But since Kelly’s dismissal and reasons for it didn’t have to go to vote to all 600 or so players, I can tell you there are some very confused and concerned members.

Regardless, the players I talked to are very concerned about what they were calling the “circus” internally at the NHLPA. I’ll have a lot more on this once my daily hockey coverage begins again, but this really should be something all fans pay attention to because it appears as if the union’s gearing up for a fight with the league in the next CBA negotiations.

– Brent Burns looks like his old self. No signs of concussion or shoulder problems, smiling again, chirping opponents like that stinkin’ Pierre-Marc Bouchard and just being a presence every time he skated this morning.

– Andrew Brunette looked very good this morning, and he’s only four months from reconstructive knee surgery. He certainly had no problem schooling some of the high school kids with a couple sick passes in traffic during one shift. Brunette said physically he feels good, but now it’s just a matter of feeling comfortable on the knee and getting over the mental hurdles of stops and starts and turning. “Just knowing I can do it,” Brunette said.

– As I’m sure most of you know because the Wild’s roster has shown the change for weeks, but goalie Josh Harding is changing his number to No. 37. Trivia question for the comment section: Who’s the only Wild player to ever wear No. 37? You’ve got to have an encyclopedia Wild mind to get this answer.

The winner gets to start paying for Russo’s Rants. Congratulations. :)

What else? What else? Let me go to my twitter real quick; I tweeted while I was in the chair waiting for my oral surgeon because I knew I would forget some things.

Oh, Owen Nolan’s goatee is one thick straight line down to below his chin. If he was walking toward you at night and you didn’t know whom he was, you’d hide your pet poodle because you’d be afraid he’d kick it.

Didn’t you miss me? That … is … it … for … now.

Lots more puck talk to come, but at a later date.

Wild opens 2009-10 season in Columbus; Gaborik, Lemaire play in Minnesota

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

(Update): Restricted free agents Benoit Pouliot, Clayton Stoner, Danny Irmen and Robbie Earl have accepted their one-year qualifying offers.

The 2009-10 NHL schedule was just released.

Some highlights:

– Wild opens on the road for the first time since the 2003-04 season (in Columbus) Oct. 3. Wild opens with six of seven on the road.

– Wild opens at home against the Ducks on Oct. 6.

– Todd Richards returns to San Jose on Oct. 10.

– All in one week, Martin Havlat returns to Chicago on Oct. 26, Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota on Oct. 30 and Chuck Fletcher returns to Pittsburgh on Oct. 31.

– Wild visits Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster and the Lightning on Nov. 12.

– The traditional New Year’s Eve game is against Los Angeles.

– Jacques Lemaire, Brian Rolston and the New Jersey Devils come to Minnesota after New Year’s Jan. 2.

– The Olympic break is Feb. 15-28; Wild’s first game after break is March 3 in Calgary.

– The Wild will play 18 games against the Eastern Conference this season, playing seven games against the Atlantic Division, six against the Southeast Division and five against the Northeast Division. Minnesota will play a home game and road game each against Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Minnesota will also visit Eastern Conference members, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington, while hosting Atlanta, Boston, Florida, New Jersey, the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

– The Wild’s longest homestand is five games: Feb. 4-Feb. 14, against Edmonton, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta and Vancouver. The club has a pair of five-game road trips: Oct. 8-Oct. 17 at Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Edmonton and Vancouver, and also Dec. 5-Dec. 12 at Nashville, Phoenix, Colorado, Calgary and Vancouver.

(Updated) Training camp starts Sept. 12 with physicals, on the ice for the first time Sept. 13; preseason schedule will be released at later date, although you can figure out some games by looking at other team’s released preseason scheds. Wild opens preseason two days after camp starts in St. Louis on Sept. 15; Blues comes here Sept. 24. Columbus plays in Minnesota on Sept. 18; Wild goes there Sept. 21. Chicago comes here Sept. 20; Wild goes there Sept. 25. I hear the Wild plays a preseason game in Philadelphia I believe Sept. 29, but we’ll see that schedule when it’s finalized soon.

– Regular-season single-game tickets go on sale Sept. 12. Preseason tickets go on sale Aug. 22. 
DAY     DATE    OPPONENT        TIME (CT)
OCTOBER – REGULAR SEASON
Sat.    3       @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
TUE.    6       ANAHEIM 8:00 P.M.
Thu.    8       @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Sat.    10      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
Wed.    14      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    16      @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    17      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
WED.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
Fri.    23      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
SAT.    24      CAROLINA        7:00 P.M.
Mon.    26      @ Chicago        7:30 p.m.
WED.    28      NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    30      N.Y. RANGERS    7:00 P.M.
Sat.    31      @ Pittsburgh     6:30 p.m.
       
NOVEMBER
THU.    5       VANCOUVER       7:00 P.M.
SAT.    7       DALLAS  7:00 P.M.
Tue.    10      @ Toronto       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    12      @ Tampa Bay     6:30 p.m.
Fri.    13      @ Washington    6:00 p.m.
Sun.    15      @ Carolina      12:30 p.m.
WED.    18      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    20      N.Y. ISLANDERS  7:00 P.M.
WED.    25      BOSTON  7:00 P.M.
FRI.    27      COLORADO        1:00 P.M.
Sat.    28      @ Colorado       8:00 p.m.
 
DECEMBER
WED.    2       NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    4       ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M.
Sat.    5       @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Mon.    7       @ Phoenix        8:00 p.m.
Wed.    9       @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Fri.    11      @ Calgary       8:00 p.m.
Sat.    12      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
TUE.    15      COLUMBUS        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    17      @ Montreal      6:00 p.m.
Sat.    19      @ Ottawa        6:00 p.m.
MON.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
WED.    23      EDMONTON        6:00 P.M.
SAT.    26      ST. LOUIS       7:00 P.M.
Mon.    28      @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Tue.    29      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
THUR.   31      LOS ANGELES      7:00 P.M.
 
JANUARY
SAT.    2       NEW JERSEY      7:00 P.M.
Tue.    5       @ Chicago       7:30 p.m.
WED.    6       CALGARY 7:00 p.m.
SAT.    9       CHICAGO 7:00 p.m.
MON.    11      PITTSBURGH      7:00 p.m.
WED.    13      VANCOUVER       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    14      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
Sat.    16      @ Phoenix        7:00 p.m.
Mon.    18      @ Dallas         7:00 p.m.
THU.    21      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
SAT.    23      COLUMBUS        8:00 P.M.
WED.    27      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
Thu.    28      @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    30      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
 
FEBRUARY
Tue.    2       @ Dallas         7:30 p.m.
THU.    4       EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
SAT.    6       PHILADELPHIA    7:00 P.M.
WED.    10      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    12      ATLANTA  7:00 P.M.
SUN.    14      VANCOUVER       2:00 P.M.
Feb. 15-28              Olympic Break
 
MARCH
Wed.    3       @ Calgary       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    5       @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
SUN.    7       CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    9       FLORIDA 7:00 P.M.
Thu.     11      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
Fri.    12      @ Buffalo       6:30 p.m.
SUN.    14      ST. LOUIS       5:00 P.M.
TUE.    16      EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    18      @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Fri.    19      @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
SUN.    21      CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    23      SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    25      @ Philadelphia  6:00 p.m.
Fri.    26      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
MON.    29      LOS ANGELES      8:00 P.M.
WED.    31      CHICAGO  7:00 P.M.
       
APRIL
FRI.    2       SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Sun.    4       @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
Mon.    5       @ Edmonton      8:30 p.m.
Thu.    8       @ Calgary       8:30 p.m.
SAT.    10      DALLAS  7:00 P.M.
 
 
CAPS INDICATE HOME GAME
DATES AND TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE

Lemaire to coach Devils

Monday, July 13th, 2009

It’s official. Mario Tremblay comes with him. I can tell you the happiest guy in Jersey today (actually Traverse City, Mich.) is Brian Rolston.

Add: Got in contact with Rolston via text, who will be coached by Lemaire for a third time: “I am extremely happy that Jacques will be coaching me once again. I truly believe he is one of the best hockey coaches in the game.”

Onto Lemaire:

“I never did close the door on coaching. I said my time in Minnesota is over.”

“I had a great time in New Jersey in the 90s. I had some great memories and I hope to get some more.”

Not easy writing all this on blackberry. My laptop’s in the shop. Also, I don’t speak French.

“I never thought I’d be back. The five years I thought I’d cherish the rest of my life. But the situation right now is perfect for me.”

On Parise’s growth and under more restricted system, will he be hindered? “I don’t know what would be put in that’ll stop any player to perform at their best. He’s a kid that works offensively and defensively. … I’m not the coach that will stop any guys to perform and do what they’re good at.”

On Rolston: “He’s a guy that has to be put in the right situation. I’m not saying Brent didn’t do this, but he’s a guy we have to demand a little more. That’s my intention. That’s what we did in Minny and we’ll try to repeat that.”

Lou approached him before the draft.

“It would be a great thing to have a chance to win the Cup. I want to be part of this. If there’s a chance, I’d love to get another one.”

On Tremblay: “He’ll be in charge of the defense. I’ve been nine years with him and I think he’s a great complement of myself. He’s fun for the players. He knows how to deal with them in practices.”

Here is the original blog post June 9 predicting Lemaire would be the guy. http://blogs2.startribune.com/blogs/wildblog/2009/06/09/lemaire-back-to-jersey/

Lemaire to be next Devils coach?

Monday, July 13th, 2009

The Devils have scheduled a “major” conference call for this afternoon.

As you can read here, Tom Gulitti from the Record says all signs point to Jacques Lemaire.

I’ll throw something on here when something becomes official.

I say Martin Skoula’s a Devil by week’s end. :)

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.

(more…)

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.