James Sheppard


Wild pursuing Tanguay; Correction on cap number; Third jersey teaser

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Wish me luck.

In 90 minutes, my wisdom teeth are going to be ripped out of their sockets with a pair of rusty pliers. At least, that’s how my dream portrayed the scene before I woke up in a cold sweat. :)

I’m hoping it won’t be that violent or painful.

As you read in this morning’s paper here, the Wild is trying to sign free agent Alex Tanguay. One correction from today’s story: I wrote the roster’s 23 players have a cap hit of $51,611,827 for 23 players excluding Colton Gillies.

Wrong.

This is why the Miami Herald’s David J. Neal always tells me, “Mike, you shouldn’t be doing math.”

Actually, the error occurred because for some reason I entered Kyle Brodziak twice in my excel file. I just re-did it and 23 players including Gillies comes out to $51,503,494 (includes Mark Parrish’s buyout). Obviously this figure is unofficial, also includes James Sheppard’s potential entry-level bonuses and could change depending on who makes the team.

As of now, the roster I’m using to determine this is:

14 Forwards: Martin Havlat, Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Owen Nolan, Antti Miettinen, Eric Belanger, James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot, Derek Boogaard, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, Craig Weller, Colton Gillies.

7 Defensemen: Brent Burns, Kim Johnsson, Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Shane Hnidy, John Scott

2 Goalies: Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding

Back to Tanguay, what my little math gaffe doesn’t change is the fact that GM Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have unlimited cap space to spend on Tanguay. Fletcher decided to be patient all summer hoping that a bargain would fall into his lap. Maybe this is it.

Because of Tanguay’s shoulder injury last season and the fact that his production slipped the past two seasons, his stock fell this summer and he’s been left looking for work. Reading between the lines of what agent Ritch Winter said yesterday, it sounds as if Tanguay may sign a one-year deal so he can go to a team, try to have a “career year” and reestablish his market for a big payday next summer.

Minnesota and Tampa Bay seem to be two teams hot after him, and I was told a few weeks back, Tanguay would love to play in Tampa. But there’s no doubt he’s strongly considering Minnesota.

As I’ve said on here since mid-July, it’s of my opinion the Wild is a scorer short still.

However, the big question: Is Tanguay the right guy to fill that role?

The answer from a fan’s point of view depends on how much more patient are you willing to be. Tanguay is the best left on the open market, and I’m saying this because from everything I’m hearing, Nikolai Zherdev’s mind is at $4 million or Russia.

If you’re willing to be more patient, there should eventually be a trade to be made deep into training camp or in the early part of the season.

If you’re unwilling to be more patient, well, Tanguay’s a gifted playmaker. Problem is he’s a gifted playmaker, not a gifted scorer. As good as he is setting up guys, his history says quite clearly that he’s allergic to shooting the puck and isn’t the grittiest tool in the shed. And the Wild already has a gifted playmaker and perimeter forward in Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

So, to be effective, Tanguay would basically have to play with a guy like Marty Havlat on the top line.

Just remember though: If Tanguay’s the guy the Wild signs, the Wild will be sandwiched close to the cap, meaning that’s the move folks. If there’s any future big trade, it would likely have to come at the trade deadline rather than earlier.

Fletcher has shown some interest in Zherdev, but I think he’s concerned about Zherdev’s motivation to play in Russia. He’s shown interest in Petr Sykora after having him in Anaheim and Pittsburgh. But Sykora, as good a scorer as he is, isn’t the best skater in the world. Contrary to the rumor mongers out there, the Wild has zero interest in Mike Comrie.

Fletcher said if the Wild can’t sign Tanguay, he’ll likely go into camp and maybe the season with this team, discover who emerges and then re-adjust from there as the trade market unfolds.

Benoit Pouliot will be given his sixth last chance. He certainly seems determined to emerge. He stuck around most of the summer and from all reports I’ve been given is working his butt off in the gym. He’s got a great chance of making the team because he requires waivers to be sent to the minors, meaning 29 teams could claim him for zippo if he doesn’t make the team. Fletcher is also hopeful Sheppard makes one giant offensive step this season. As I’ve mentioned, Gillies can be sent to the minors without waivers, but he’s also looking good this summer.

Also, it seems almost guaranteed, Fletcher said, that backup goalie Josh Harding will be on the team when the season starts.

I’d talk more extensively about all of this, but I’ll save it for training camp. Be a little more patient, and the Wild will be in the paper again daily.

Lastly, I’ve gotten all these emails for third jersey sneak previews. This is why you should follow me at twitter.com/russostrib. If you did, you would have gotten some hints about a month ago.

I’d describe it as a pretty traditional front. Green. MINNESOTA WILD in sort of a cursive writing. And I think that “M” in Minnesota will be an “M” you’ll start seeing on a ton of Wild merchandise. :)

Anyways, I’m not officially back to work yet. Unless there’s news, the blog will continue to be dormant until early next month. But you’ll be getting multi-daily blog updates and tweets and articles and Facebook updates and webcasts and …. soon enough.

Ducks sign Saku Koivu, turns down better term, money from the Wild

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

UPDATE: Kurtis Foster has signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.

UPDATE: Got to ask Saku a few questions on his presser. Quotes below, but as you’ll see, short of the Wild trading Mikko Koivu, the Wild had no shot in the end. Saku decided he just didn’t feel comfortable playing with his brother.

As you probably saw on the previous blog or my Twitter, Saku Koivu has indeed signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks — proof positive there’s nothing the Wild could have done to sweeten that pot. 

If somebody doesn’t want to play here, he doesn’t; there’s no use chasing your own tail and throwing money and term if there are other factors at play. He could’ve gotten a better deal in Minny — sources say the deal would have been in the $4 million annual range on a two-year deal, in the $3-million-plus range on a three-year deal.

As I warned you before last weekend, the Wild started to get the impression things were heading south with negotiations with Koivu. To me, this contract with Anaheim shows two things — 1) he wants to play with buddy Teemu Selanne and only signed for one year because Selanne claims this time he will really retire in one year; 2) there were serious concerns amongst the Koivu Bros. about playing together.

Now you know why I wrote that July 1 column saying the Koivu’s parents wanted them to play together, but “if only it were that simple.”

Where does this leave the Wild? Exactly where GM Chuck Fletcher said he’d be the other day with Koivu did not sign (here’s the link). He’ll continue to look at the trade route for a No. 2 center, and if that can’t be done before the season, the internal options remain James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot or Eric Belanger — or moving Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the middle.

I briefly talked to Bouchard today, but I was driving at the time. I hope to speak to him on the record later this afternoon, but he was a natural center before the NHL and I think he’s willing to give it a try again in training camp.

The Wild will not look at the free-agent route now at No. 2 center. Contrary to Internet rumors, the Wild IS NOT signing Mike Comrie, I’ve been told.

As you saw in the blog below, columnist Jim Souhan sat down with Marian Gaborik this morning for a one-on-one. That’ll be in tomorrow’s paper, as well as a Koivu/maybe Bouchard story. Also, the Wild will announce later it’s signed Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser to two-way contracts. Both have played some NHL games but are likely Houston-bound.

Update: Here are quotes from Saku on Minny:

On not signing in Minnesota: “We spoke to Minnesota a few times. All the talks went very well, but it was more personal reasons. I didn’t feel comfortable. I kind of felt that Minnesota’s Mikko’s place at this point. I wanted him to have his own privacy in a way and make his own name and career. And I just felt there were too many risks for us as brothers and as family members to join on the same team and kind of compete for the same ice time. And I felt we’re better off playing somewhere else.”Did Mikko understand this because it seems like he was intrigued by being teammates: “I think Mikko was really excited about the possibility for us playing on the same team and I can’t deny, if you really think about the possibilities and only the positive side, it would have been a pretty exciting thing. But I looked at it in, I guess, a more negative way and I was thinking, ‘what if this happens or what if things won’t work out?’ And right now, we have such a great relationship and I was too afraid to challenge that. You never know what is going to happen. For me, this was a safer option and I felt myself, I felt more comfortable.

“When I spoke to Mikko today, he understood totally. I guess I looked at things as more of an older brother and I wanted to protect him in a way and I felt there were too many risks for me to sign there.”

But isn’t it riskier taking a one-year than the multi-years the Wild offered? “I felt that the fit for the team in Anaheim and for myself, it was perfect for a one-year deal. We’re going from one extreme coming from Montreal to a very different lifestyle, different weather and hockey not being as big as it is in Montreal. At this point in my career, being an older player and with my family, I felt I wanted to have control for our future. Obviously I’m hoping and I’m confident things will work out and hopefully I play many years in Anaheim. I felt it was an easier decision for me to take it a year at a time at this point and see how everything works out, how we like it there. And then if everything works out well, then we can spend many years hopefully to come. “

SIFERS, FRASER BIOS FROM PRESS RELEASE

Fraser, 23 (11/17/85), played one game with the New York Islanders in 2008-09, making his NHL debut April 4 versus Tampa Bay. Fraser posted 21 points (7-14=21) and 30 penalty minutes (PIM) in 66 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League (AHL). The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Sarnia, Ont., played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Brampton Battalion and Sarnia Sting. He was originally signed by the Islanders on Feb. 22, 2007.

Sifers, 26 (1/18/83), recorded two assists and 18 PIM in 23 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008-09 season. He also posted 20 points (4-16=20) and 47 PIM in 43 games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound native of Stratford, Conn., played collegiately at the University of Vermont, where he was an ECAC Second All-Star Team selection in 2005. Sifers was signed as a free agent by Toronto on July 20, 2006.

Friday morning check-in; July 12 development camp scrimmage open to public

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Real quick hello.

I’ll be heading to the Martin Havlat presser at the arena this early afternoon. It’ll be more of an informal meet-and-greet in the locker room mostly for the TV cameras, radio mikes and newspaper photogs because the print media’s already gotten him and the electronic media hasn’t been able to.

Nothing new right now on Saku Koivu or Ruslan Fedotenko.

As mentioned in the earlier post, Koivu to Minny not looking good right now. Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anything more the Wild can do to sweeten the pot. As I wrote on the blog, I think, June 30 or July 1, the Wild was going to make an offer and if the Koivus wanted to make it happen, they could.

But as Mikko expressed in my story July 1, there are significant concerns there between the two brothers about playing together, and I think that is very, very real. This is Mikko’s team now, and these are two proud guys. If Saku isn’t the same player a year or two into the contract and he’s being taken to task, I think there is very real concern there how that would weigh on both of them.

And like Mikko alluded, as much as it would be a dream for them to play together this is likely Saku’s last contract. He’s looking for the best deal and best fit for his family — he’s got two young children.

So as of now, it’s not looking good. Maybe it changes, but from what I hear, the Wild’s not optimistic.

If the Wild can’t sign Koivu, it’ll likely look at the trade market or go into camp with the same centers. And quite frankly, that is the absolute correct move.

In a cap system, you can’t make mistakes and it makes zero sense to go out and sign one of the remaining centers to a long-term deal if he can’t fit the No. 2 role. That’s what the Wild needs. Dominic Moore, Manny Malhotra, Todd Marchant, these guys are real good centers. But they’re No. 3′s. The Wild already has James Sheppard, Eric Belanger and Kyle Brodziak. Those guys can handle the No. 3 and 4 roles as well as any of the guys available.

And yes, Sheppard or P-M Bouchard or even Benoit Pouliot could very well wind up at the No. 2 spot. Fletcher will undoubtedly try to acquire a No. 2 center, but this might very well have to be the solution because there’s few other options. It is not easy to acquire centers in the NHL. Look at last summer, the Wild tried for centers and just like this year, it was an awful free-agent class. It missed out on the couple available, and let’s be honest, one was Brendan Morrison and the team lucked out he chose Anaheim.

Just like last year’s class, there were only two centers even worth going after — Koivu and Nik Antropov (and that pains me to say because as I mentioned the other day, I’m not a big Antropov guy).

To me, you only sign a Mike Comrie or Jason Williams later in the summer if you can get them as bargains or you can’t make a trade. Waiting sometimes is the right move.

Same thing for wingers. There is no use overspending on a winger now when maybe you can get somebody in a trade or there’s a better free-agent crop next summer.

The Wild cannot give out bad contracts, not when you have to ensure you’ll have the money to re-sign Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns — relatively — soon.

The Wild has targeted a few guys, but if it misses, it’ll wait. It did tender an offer to Ruslan Fedotenko, and he’s expected to make a decision today. A number of teams are interested.

Lastly, the Wild starts its development camp Tuesday. Below is the roster. On Sunday, July 12, if you want a hockey fix, the prospects will be scrimmaging at the X from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Gate 1 at the X opens at noon.

54 Cody Almond  6-2     200     Left    7/24/89 Calgary, Alberta        Kelowna WHL     70      33      33      66      105     EN/07
68 Eero Elo     6-3     189     Right   4/26/90 Rauma, Finland  Lukko Rauma     Fin. Jr.         3       0       0       0       0       EN/08
47 Alexander Fallstrom6-2       195     Right   9/15/90 Gothenburg, Sweden      Shattuck St. Mary’s     H.S.    52      40      47      87      52      EN/09
56 Kristopher Foucault6-1       202     Left    12/12/90        Calgary, Alberta        Kootenay/Calgary        WHL     26      9       8       17      16      EN/08
18 Colton Gillies       6-4     196     Left    2/12/89 Surrey, British Columbia        Minnesota       NHL     45      2       5       7       18      EN/07
49 Anthony Hamburg      6-1     185     Right   8/30/91 Houston, Texas  Dallas Stars AAA        H.S.    70      29      70      99      76      EN/09
60 Erik Haula   6-0     170     Left    3/23/91 Pori, Finland   Shattuck St. Mary’s     H.S.    53      26      58      84      46      EN/09
51 Chris Hickey 6-3     185     Right   9/2/88  St. Paul, Minnesota     Wisconsin       WCHA    8       1       0       1       4       EN/06  
23 Petr Kalus   6-1     201     Left    6/29/87 Ostrava, Czechoslovakia Balashikha       KHL     17      0       2       2       106     TRD/07
57 Matt Kassian 6-4     247     Left    10/28/86        Edmonton, Alberta       Houston AHL     56      1       2       3       130     EN/05
53 Brian Kaufman        6-4     205     Left    2/25/84 Shoreview, Minnesota    Miami University        CCHA    41      10      12      22      12      FA/09
63 Morten Madsen        6-2     191     Left    1/16/87 Rodovre, Denmark        Houston AHL     56      6       16      22      33      EN/05  
65 Carson McMillan      6-2     200     Right   9/10/88 Brandon, Manitoba       Calgary WHL     68      31      41      72      93      EN/07
72 Jarod Palmer 6-0     200     Right   2/10/86 Fridley, Minnesota      Miami University        CCHA    41      8       19      27      34      INVITEE
58 Jere Sallinen        6-0     183     Left    10/26/90        Espoo, Finland  Blues Espoo     Fin. Jr.        9       1       2       3       31      EN/09
 
# DEFENSEMEN     HT      WT      SHOOTS  BORN    BIRTHPLACE      2008-09 TEAM    LGE     GP      G       A       PTS     PIM     ACQ
61 Tyler Cuma   6-1     189     Left    1/19/90 Toronto, Ontario        Ottawa  OHL     21      1       8       9       27      EN/08
73 Justin Falk  6-5     213     Left    10/11/88        Snowflake, Manitoba     Houston AHL     65      0       3       3       44      EN/07
71 Harri Ilvonen        6-2     187     Left    11/3/88 Helsinki, Finland       LeKi Lempaala   Finland 21      4       3       7       8       EN/07
48 Nick Leddy   5-11½    185     Left    3/20/91 Edina, Minnesota        Eden Prairie    H.S.    31      12      33      45      26      EN/09   
52 Sean Lorenz  6-1     198     Right   3/10/90 Littleton, Colorado     Notre Dame      CCHA    39      0       3       3       18      EN/08
59 Kyle Medvec  6-6     205     Left    6/16/88 Westminster, Colorado   Vermont HE      36      2       10      12      40      EN/06
74 Maxim Noreau 5-11    192     Right   5/14/87 Montreal, Quebec        Houston AHL     77      14      25      39      49      FA/08
64 Marco Scandella      6-3     206     Left    2/23/90 Montreal, Quebec        Val d’Or        QMJHL   58      10      27      37      64      EN/08
62 J.P. Testwuide       6-0     210     Left    11/5/84 Vail, Colorado  Denver University       WCHA    36      3       10      13      110     INVITEE
 
# GOALTENDERS    HT      WT      CATCHES BORN    BIRTHPLACE      2008-09 TEAM    LGE     GPI     W-L-OT  SO      GAA     SV%     ACQ
50 Matthew Hackett      6-2     170     Left    3/7/90  London, Ontario Plymouth        OHL     55      34-15-3 2       3.04    .913    EN/09  
70 Darcy Kuemper        6-4     195     Left    5/5/90  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Red Deer        WHL     55      21-25-8 3       2.96    .898    EN/09

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.

Saku Koivu update; Gaborik conference call comments

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Good afternoon. I know you all are anxious, but right now, the Wild is continuing to try to sign Saku Koivu.

I hear from sources that the hang-up could be term, and Saku Koivu’s desire for a fourth year. But this isn’t coming from his side or the Wild; it’s coming from another team who originally inquired about Koivu, so I should make clear to you that as of now, I haven’t reported it out to 100 percent certainty.

But this is the scuttlebutt out there right now.

One team that does make sense for Koivu is Anaheim because of his very close friendship with Teemu Selanne. But here’s the thing there: Selanne’s essentially on year-to-year contracts, so Koivu going there just for him makes little sense because Selanne could retire in a year or two. But the Ducks definitely need a No. 2 center and there’s not a lot left other than Mike Comrie, Jason Williams , Radek Bonk and Chad LaRose (and those are pushing the No. 2 center role).

I can tell you this via sources: Chuck Fletcher did call Mikko Koivu yesterday to ask his thoughts about playing with Saku, and Mikko gave Chuck the A-OK to pursue his brother. If you read my story in yesterday’s paper, you can see some of Mikko’s quotes to me from Tuesday. Just a late add, in that story, you can see Mikko say we’ll know more by the end of the week. Mikko said his brother would really take his time with his family to determine the best fit. Saku’s a smart guy, so it’s not a shock that he’s taking time to also think this through.

So we will see as the day continues. Wild is definitely still kicking tires on Ruslan Fedotenko, I’m told.

I’ve got a lot more thoughts on where the Wild plans to go from here, but before I throw that out there, let’s see how the day continues because a lot really depends on if they can sign Koivu. If they can’t, do you sign one of those other centers or do you maybe just go into camp and try Bouchard or Pouliot or Sheppard at the No. 2 spot or maybe there’s a potential trade down the pike this offseason? 

Also, I got on the tail end of the Marian Gaborik conference call with the Rangers writers. Here are some snippets (Glen Sather sent one his European scouts to Gaborik’s home in Slovakia with a recruiting video, which helped greatly):

Turning point in career? “Of course. I’ve only experienced playing in the NHL for one team, and it was for nine years in Minnesota. I had a great time there. Obviously this is a big change and a big opportunity. Life brings a lot of changes, and this is one of them. It’s starting to hit me now that I’m becoming a Ranger. It’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to this. Definitely, the page has turned yesterday and I’m starting a new hockey life pretty much.”

On whether the Wild could have kept him? “Well obviously they could, but I haven’t received any offers in their new era there, so that’s the way it is.”

Will it be difficult to conceive that you won’t be here anymore? “It is what it is. I’ve moved on and now I’m a Ranger. I had a lot of great times. There are a lot of great memories. I have to thank the fans, from the coaching staff to all the players I played with. It was a great experience. Now I’m a Ranger. That’s what it is right now. I’m excited for a new opportunity.”

Did you do any investigations on what it was like to play in New York? “I’ve spoken to a lot of guys that played there. Chris Drury called me right before the market opened. I’ve talked to Martin Rucinsky, who used to play for the Rangers. I’ve talked to Marcel Hossa, and … Aaron Voros, obviously. They’ve got nothing but all the good things to say about New York. It’s a first-class organization and obviously to play in the Garden, everybody was impressed and everybody loved it. I’m looking forward to this. I’m excited.”

On health and whether teams were concerned about this? “It’s understandable some teams were concerned or worried, but I think I proven the last 11 games (10 goals, 8 assists), I had a pretty good run out there. We missed the playoffs by I think one or two points and that’s the way it goes. It was the first time for me to hit free agency. It was kind of adrenaline pumping through my veins, so it was exciting. I’m glad it’s behind me and I’m glad I’m with the Rangers now.”

On five-goal game and whether he’s spoken to Lundqvist? “(laughs) I haven’t spoken to him, but I’m sure we’re going to talk soon. That night was just unbelievable. He’s a great goaltender, but I guess when you’re in the zone and everything you touch is in, that happens sometimes. Hopefully I can have that kind of game in a Rangers uniform.”

Lastly, Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Rob Rossi emailed me and said Rob Scuderi has agreed to terms with the L.A. Kings. Wild, I was told this morning, backed out of this when it saw his term, salary demands and the fact it could get Greg Zanon at the quality $1.9 million price. 

OK, I’ll be back later hopefully with some news.

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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