Kim Johnsson

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

Friday, July 3rd, 2009


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

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

It was Hnidy calling me from a satellite phone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Boogaard won; Havlat will wear 14

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

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

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

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

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

All this and much more in Saturday’s paper.

Day One Flashback: Havlat, Zanon in; Koivu likely next; Maybe Fedotenko, another defenseman

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Want to see Martin Havlat? Go to YouTube and watch some of his goals. Start with this 

A Russo’s Rants record — my sixth blog of the day and only the blog Gods know how many times I added or tweaked a line inside the other five blogs.

Here are the articles:

Martin Havlat/Greg Zanon/Potential near Saku Koivu signing article is right here

Column I wrote on Marian Gaborik’s departure is here

Gaborik timeline with the Wild, as put together by editor Mark Wollemann, is here

I promised you: BE PATIENT!

Did many of you listen? Nope, not judging by the completely out of control angst and anger and hysteria inside the below blogs today. I was honestly getting worried that some of you were about to send yourselves to the hospital or worse.

These things take time, and let’s be honest here, the Wild had a productive day.

This is the reality: When you consider the Sedin Twins didn’t hit free agency and Marian Gaborik was out of play for Minnesota, there were only three elite free agents left for 30 teams to pursue — Marian Hossa, Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat. 

Hossa signed for 12 years in Chicago and seemed to target the Hawks, so the Wild didn’t have a shot like seemingly 28 other teams. Cammalleri chose to go to Montreal. I just spent five days in Montreal; hard to blame the guy.

And the Wild — yes, the Minnesota Wild — landed the third — Havlat – and at a pretty quality price at $5 million per (4, 5, 5, 5, 5 and 6 actually) because it allows the team to do other things. I think I laid out in Wednesday’s Insider fairly well that Havlat was the most logical for the Wild to go after and that sources said he wanted to come here.

And like I laid out for you in the same column, I promise you, the Wild is not done. The team expects a decision from Saku Koivu in the morning, sources say, and if Koivu does go elsewhere, the Wild will decide how to proceed and spend that money elsewhere. But I’d be surprised at this point if Koivu doesn’t sign.

The Wild is still in on Ruslan Fedotenko, sources say, and it still must acquire a defenseman. Could Rob Scuderi or Francois Beachemin still be the guy? Depends largely on whether Koivu signs, and if so, what’s the price? If he does sign, I’d think those guys would be too expensive unless the Wild dumps some salary in a trade. And with Burns, Johnsson, Zidlicky, Schultz and Zanon signed, Wild may be seeking more of a 5 or 6 than another $3 or $4 million defenseman.

Could that be a Jordan Leopold, an Andrew Alberts? Not sure, but if you scour the free-agent lists, there are still some quality 5′s and 6′s out there. Maybe a Skrastins. 

Greg Zanon could amount to being a real solid signing, but just because it was released first, it seemed some fans lost their skulls like the Wild went home for the day or something. I don’t know Zanon well personally, but I’ve watched this guy play a lot and he’s a shot-blocking maniac. In fact, sometimes he gets a little too giddy at launching his body in front of pucks.

I talked to Havlat tonight on the phone, which I appreciated, because he was tired and wasn’t calling any other reporters back. As you could tell by his tweets in the blog below, he left Chicago a bitter guy. I talked to him about it extensively, but as far as what I’m able to write, he’d prefer to look forward. He’s very excited about signing here and is confident his injury woes are behind him.

As for his quotes, you can check out the article here.

Again, how good will this signing be? Largely depends on his health because in the past, he’s been every bit an injury risk as Gaborik. But if he’s healthy, Havlat’s a dynamic, dominant player at times. His contract has a no-move clause the first five years; last year is a no-move and limited no-trade.

OK, it was a fun day. I know earlier on there wasn’t a lot of news being flowed to you by me, which probably was frustrating to you, but that’s how it is on free agency day — well, when you’re not being sent emails directly from the NHL like the TV networks.

Agents and teams are busy during the day, and then later on when things quiet down, reporters like me can get to the news.

That’s why you knew about Havlat on here well before anywhere else, as well as Koivu. Self-serving, yes, but it was a frustrating day for me too, especially when you see the type of unethical stuff I’m starting to routinely see out there by “journalists” in this Internet age.

OK, it’s been a really long day. It’ll be another news-filled day Thursday, so talk to you then.

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.


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.

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.




***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.


Heatley-Wild trade chatter; Coaching search continues with Laviolette sitdown

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

That Heatley part got your attention, eh? :)

First things first, but there’ll be a Game 7 for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup on Friday in Detroit. Great game last night, and what an ending. Detroit’s net is empty for about 1:20, and Detroit wins three draws. Is there anybody in the league who protects the puck better than Pavel Datsyuk, by the way?

Apparently the Wings don’t care that the Wild’s currently conducting a coaching search. Otherwise, they would have gotten it done last night, right?

It appears all but certain that Chuck Fletcher at least wants to interview Wings assistant Paul MacLean, and maybe even Brad McCrimmon, so by the series continuing, it delays the interview(s) to this weekend at the earliest.

Fletcher attended last night’s game and is scheduled back in his St. Paul office today. In fact, he’s been hopping around the last couple days working on the coaching search. Peter Laviolette’s been MIA since originally being quoted in the Strib, so that often means you can bet your last dollar they’ve met within the last couple days.

And that is what I’ve been told by myriad sources. As I’ve written on here in the past, of all the former NHL coaches, Laviolette makes the most sense. Well respected, won a Cup, coaches a very aggressive system in which it’s all about attacking with the puck. 

One name I’ve heard in the last couple days is former Bruins coach Mike Sullivan, who’s been given permission by Lightning boss Brian Lawton to seek a head coaching job. Not sure completely if he’s talked to Fletcher, however, although he was on the original Fletcher “list.”

Technically, Sullivan’s still a Lightning assistant. He’s known as a details guy and was loved by John Tortorella when he coached there.

But from everything I hear, this is between Todd Richards, Peter Laviolette and eventually Paul MacLean. I don’t know exactly where Craig MacTavish sits right now.

As for Heatley, there seems to be a perception out there that if the Wild loses Marian Gaborik, it can just go out and acquire $7.5 million players.

It’s a lot more complex than that, especially since it’s unknown where the salary cap will dip to in the next two or three years and because the team spent $6 million a year on Niklas Backstrom. That $4.08 million salary cap hit for Pierre-Marc Bouchard the next four years tightens things up as well.

Yes, the Wild could take Heatley’s $7.5 million cap hit the next five years, but it would affect any flexibility or ability to plug other holes, like center and defenseman though the end of his contract. And remember, Mikko Koivu’s a UFA after two seasons and Brent Burns after three seasons. It’s imperative in today’s day and age to think that far ahead.

With that said, however, I am sure Chuck Fletcher will investigate what Ottawa GM Bryan Murray would want in a package if — and I repeat, if — he moves Heatley, who’s top-three in goals per game the last several years along with Kovalchuk and Ovechkin.

He’s a true superstar, and if you want to make a splash as a first-year GM, well, Heatley would be more like a tidal wave.  

And remember, Fletcher and Murray are very close. Fletcher was his assistant GM for seven of Fletcher’s nine years in Florida, and then Murray brought Fletcher to Anaheim after Rick Dudley was hired in Florida. (Incidentally, I hear Dudley will soon be leaving Chicago as assistant GM for another top job in the league).

I’ve talked to a number of people the last day on this Heatley situation, and it’s certainly not guaranteed that Murray’s just going to move Heatley because he is asking off the second team in his career (Atlanta being the first). Plus, Heatley’s got to approve any trade, so it’s not guaranteed he’d come to Minny even if Fletcher worked out a deal.

Also, it’s not guaranteed the Wild has the pieces to get Heatley. Murray would want a ton for Heatley, and lets be honest, the Wild’s not moving Koivu or Burns. So right there, that could take them out of it. Any deal would probably have to include Tyler Cuma and a first, plus a top position player.

Murray has long been interested in Kim Johnsson, but Johnsson’s in the last year of his deal at a $4.85 million cap hit, so that probably won’t work. Neither would goalie Josh Harding anymore either since Murray dealt Antoine Vermette to Columbus for Pascal Leclaire at the trade deadline.

Either way, you can bet Fletcher will make the call and see if he can dive into the trade talks. But again, this would be a complex deal because you have to find the right fits for a trade and then decide if it’s worth potentially creating other holes and/or putting yourself in a position where you can’t fill holes that are already there. 

As for Gaborik, I’m told Fletcher and agent Ron Salcer won’t talk again until after a coach is hired. Fletcher feels it important that Gaborik knows who’s coaching the team and what direction they’ll be going in. And regardless, Salcer’s currently vacationing with his family in Israel, so he won’t be back until later next week anyway. 

OK, that’s it from here. I’ll be on KFAN from 11-11:30 today.