Jordan Schroeder

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

Friday, July 10th, 2009


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.


Thoughts on Wild taking Eden Prairie’s Nick Leddy; Quotes from Chuck Fletcher, Tommy Thompson, Jordan Schroeder

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Ha. There are always people unhappy. Open my email box now and subject “Wild cave in to Gophers pressure.” Next one: “Wild take wrong Gopher.”

First, I genuinely believe the Wild did not do the P.R. thing here and take the Minnesotan because some alienated Minnesotans wanted them to. That’d be absolutely absurd, and if something like that did happen, everybody should be fired tonight. Thompson did say other Minnesotans are in their “gun sights” Saturday, but it’s only because they’re very, very good…Guys Thompson mentioned are Budish, Mike Lee and Birkholz are available.

First-round picks are too precious, as proven by the steps back the Wild took when it blew its 2004 and 2005 first-rounders.

As I’ve been telling you for a few days, the Wild absolutely love Nick Leddy. They’ve seen him more than any draft-eligible player arguably — Tommy Thompson alone 12 times — and they wanted this dynamic player whom Chuck Fletcher called the typical “new-rules defenseman.”

I knew they valued him more than Jordan Schroeder, who as I think I mentioned yesterday, another team’s scout predicted this because they “already have Pierre-Marc Bouchard.” Unfortunately Schroeder’s size (5-8) clearly hurt as he slipped to 22.

But, there is no doubt, taking Leddy over Schroeder will create years of comparisons of their development and debates, ESPECIALLY now that Schroeder landed with the bitter Vancouver Canucks. Oh my, if Schroeder goes there and develops into a star, …

In hope you enjoyed the Twitters tonight. It was actually fun, although I probably went overboard. But it was kind of cool to break the Pronger story, predict Leddy coming to the Wild and give you play by play of the trade being made. Chuck Fletcher was working hard to trade 16, too, but he wouldn’t take the risk to drop more than five spots and everybody that offered him something was too far. As I mentioned on Twitter, Columbus GM Scott Howson sprinted to Fletcher because the Jackets wanted John Moore, but Fletcher didn’t want to drop 10 spots and risk losing Leddy.

The Jackets got Moore anyway.

Fletcher did say he was offered a player at one point for 12, but the team called back when the guy they wanted was taken. Only one trade was made in the entire league, showing it is awfully difficult making trades in this salary-cap world. A lot of teams are in lots and lots of trouble, although Fletcher hopes to commit highway robbery this summer when these overstuffed teams with cap issues look to dump guys.

Fletcher did achieve one thing. He added a third-rounder and another seventh, giving the Wild eight picks Saturday and nine total — the amount of picks the Wild had the previous two drafts.

Does this change free agency strategy now that the Wild didn’t pick up any NHLers? I’ll write about that Sunday. By the way, Fletcher would not comment on Marian Gaborik’s situation.

You can read more on Leddy in Saturday’s paper. His uncle actually was Todd Richards’ defense partner at Armstrong. I talked to Steve Leddy, whose brother Mike is Steve’s brother, and I’ll put those quotes up tomorrow.

Here’s some quotes:


Wild takes Nick Leddy; And let the picking (and trading?) begin; Sources: Kalus coming back to the Wild

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Wild takes Nick Leddy 16th. They passed on Jordan Schroeder … twice. Fresh blog in a couple hours 

Wild makes trade?; Chris Snow to Central Registry. Wild moves down, trading the 12th to the Islanders for the 16th and 77th they just acquired from Columbus and the 182nd. Wild now has nine picks in the draft.

I have this feeling Nick Leddy will be with the Wild. Just a gut feeling.

Hedman goes 2 to TB, Duchene 3 to COL, Evander Kane 4 to Hotlanta, Brayden Schenn 5 to L.A., … Phoenix on the clock with cheers of HAMILTON, HAMILTON (takes Larsson 6th); Kadri goes 7 as Burkie gets bigtime booed (he loved it); Scott Glennie to Dallas at 8, Jared Cowen 9 to Ottawa, Svensson 10th to Edmonton, Nashville takes Ellis 11th; Isles take de Haan at 12, Kassian to Buffalo at 13, Kulikov to FLA at 14, Holland at 15 to Anaheim

6:51 EDT: Star Tribune sources say Chris Pronger to Philly is “done.” Don’t know who’s going other way yet. Joffrey Lupul’s got to be going back to Anaheim plus other things. TSN’s reporting now it’s for Lupul, Sbisa and two firsts.

John Tavares does go No. 1, which is very funny. Word started to be leaked all around the place that Duchene was going 1, and you know that  came right from the Islanders table. Dater’s probably got half a Tavares feature written by now :)  

“I had no idea,” said Taveras, the London Knights star who used to play with the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck in Oshawa. “I was just like everybody else wondering what the decision would be. It was a great moment and special feeling.”

Here we go, the Islanders are on the clock in nine minutes.

Also, and I’ve been working on this for a few days and I told you it wasn’t earth-shattering, but I am now comfortable reporting that according to multiple sources, prospect Petr Kalus is returning to the Wild. Kalus, 21, quit the Houston Aeros last October after being upset about not making the Wild. He only played 17 games in the Kontinental Hockey League and was miserable.

Kalus, a former Bruin, was acquired in the Manny Fernandez deal set up at the Draft two years ago. He will be at the Wild’s development camp July 6.

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, …


Lemaire with twinkle in eyes; Burns on Yzerman’s radar; Russo on Twitter

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Forgot to put this up from the presser:


To View and Be Included in Star Tribune’s Wild/NHL Twitter Page, here is the link 

Good morning from Montreal. I will be back later, but this will be an extremely quick blog because I have a prospects media luncheon at noon EDT downstairs.

First of all, I’ve joined this century and Twittered up. You can find me on there by searching Michael Russo or user name Russostrib. The link should be this one here.

I just came back from the Team Canada press conference to introduce one heck of a coaching staff for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Head coach will be Mike Babcock, and his assistants will be Jacques Lemaire, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff and Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock. Hitch will be the eye in the sky, Lemaire and Ruff on the bench with Babcock, who has long admired Lemaire. More on that in tomorrow’s paper. Lemaire will coach the special teams.

Lemaire and I had a long private chat about the Wild, and you’ll want to read his interesting comments on the new system in tomorrow’s paper. On whether he’ll coach against next season (aka Jersey): “I don’t know. We’ll know in the future — the near future.”

Sounds as if it’s up to Lou Lamoriello.

I talked with Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman about Brent Burns, who looked like a 2010 shoo-in after Burns dominated the World Championships 13-14 months or so ago. He was named the best defenseman in the tourney. Remember, Burns had a trying season last year with a concussion and playing forward, but Yzerman said he’s very much still in the mix. During a five-hour meeting yesterday, Lemaire gave Burns a full endorsement. The invite list for Canada’s Olympics camp will be out in 10 days or so.

“He’s certainly on our list,” Yzerman said about Burns. ”I know it was a trying year for him. I got the good fortune to watch him at the worlds two years ago and he played very well. He’s definitely a guy that we’re watching. I’ve got to finalize this list and get invites outs in the next 10 days or so and I intend to do that and he’s certainly on that list. He’s a great player, he had a difficult year and I understand that. But it certainly hasn’t hurt him. I don’t think any less of him as a player because of it. I’m hopeful he gets off to a very good start – his size, his speed and his offensive ability, his competitiveness makes him a guy that’s very intriguing for us. It’s just he’s younger, a little less experienced. I was hoping he would have a really great year, but injuries come into it. We’ll deal with that. But I still think very highly of him.”

OK, have to get downstairs. Chatted with Jordan Schroeder and Nick Leddy, and his parents for a while this morning in the lobby. Great kids. Very excited. Leddy, whom the Wild adores, met with them again today.


Thursday morning scuttlebutt; Kessel, Harding chatter

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I was once told never make promises because you can only disappoint, so sorry. I fibbed.

Didn’t mean to though, but here’s your morning excuse. The wireless in the hotel is lousy. This hotel is packed with so much media and nine team’s worth of personnel, I just think the network is jammed with laptops. So yesterday, and again this morning, getting into web sites feels like the ancient days of dial up.

So last night when I tried to blog, the admin to the blog just stood there trying, trying and trying to open, just laughing at me as I pounded the desk. I finally needed to go meet folks and never got a chance to blog. This should make Friday morning’s chat next to impossible, but I’ll figure it out.

Anyways, here’s the main story from today on the three Minnesotans that can go in the first round. As the story states, the Wild likes all three players, but there is a chance it takes none of them if the players aren’t next up on its list when it picks. I’ll write more about these kids and other potential Wild targets in tomorrow’s paper, or if space restrains that, tonight’s blog.

And here’s the notebook on a bit of a trade update and the fact that Boston is at least fielding offers for Phil Kessel, the former Gophers forward and last year’s 36-goal scorer at 21 years of age. 

The deal here is Kessel’s restricted, wants between $4.5 million and $5 million and the Bruins are already at $50 million next year with other things to get done. They’re at around $35 million for the following year with several other players to re-sign or sign, and if you look at the fact Marc Savard’s entering the last year of his contract and next summer they’ll probably have to extend Zdeno Chara, Kessel could be a cap casualty.

Now, they are still trying to sign Kessel, but if they do, they’d likely have to move some other players to squeeze him in. So this is very much up in the air. So I’m told by numerous league sources that GM Peter Chiarelli is at least fielding offers from teams and is considering moving Kessel by the Draft or this summer. I saw Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott (Jason’s brother), about 32 times yesterday, so he’s roaming around and is expected to continue talking with Chiarelli.

But Kessel is four years from unrestricted free agency and again is entering that lofty second contract status, so I can’t imagine Arnott’s going to just do Boston a solid. So, there’s a very real chance he’s dealt, and if so, the Wild has at least shown vast interest, I’m told.

Because Kessel would be traded simply because Boston can’t afford him, the Bruins conversely would not want much money back in a trade. So picks and quality young players is what they’re looking for, so I’m told it would cost Minnesota the 12th pick and at least a top, top young kid. For the Wild, that’d mean Tyler Cuma or James Sheppard, but that does not mean Boston’s necessarily interested and even if the B’s are, it’s unknown what they’re being offered from other teams.

So this gets back to what I’ve been writing for the last couple weeks, and months for that matter – Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have a lot of tradeable assets because of the way things were done here in the past. I cannot make any clearer how much the Wild lacks assets compared to so many other teams in the NHL. I don’t want to keep pounding on the old regime here, but it really is unforgiveable how it didn’t value draft picks and how it just let free agent after free agent walk for squat.

OK, I promise not to mention it again (today at least).

For instance, it certainly appears as if the Wild is about to lose Marian Gaborik for nothing. I ran into a million NHL types yesterday who asked me about Gaborik, and each one said the same thing — losing an asset like that for nothing back is the type of thing that takes years to recover from. And now that the Vancouver Province reported he’s bought a house there — something I still have been unable to confirm, by the way, but the Province stands by the story and its sources — it probably makes trading Gaborik’s rights to anybody next to impossible.

Whether that story is true or not, what team’s going to give up even a skate sharpener for Gaborik’s rights when it’s been reported that it’s a foregone conclusion he signs in Vancouver?

Also, remember, the Wild might be into Kessel now, but if Chiarelli’s waiting until Friday, who knows what Fletcher dips his toes into by then? And right now Fletcher’s in on a lot of different things, from Heatley to countless other things (lots of rumors, but I only report what I know from sources, not what’s just floating around) to talking with Toronto, Edmonton, Colorado, Detroit, St. Louis and Philly about Josh Harding.

(I was told last night that the Blues are very interested in Harding, and few teams are as overstuffed with young assets as the Blues). So it’ll be interesting to see if Fletcher gets something substantial done with so few tradeable pieces to dangle.

I have an interesting story in tomorrow’s paper — again, unless there’s hard news today — about Fletcher giving colorful behind the scenes anecdotes of the orchestration of previous trades he’s taken part in.

Anyways, Internet permitting, I’ll be back this afternoon with more stuff. I really want to attend the Team Canada presser and offer some Jacques Lemaire stuff later, but it’s a half-hour away and the prospects media luncheon is an hour later back here. So I don’t know how that’ll work out.