Manny Fernandez


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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Gushing about covering the Draft; Wild’s Summer Bash Thursday night; Draft Party at Tom Reid’s (not his house, his pub) Friday night; Russo Live Chat on Friday

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Bonjour from one of my favorite places, Montreal, where I’m readying to cover my 12th NHL Draft (Buffalo, Boston, Calgary, Florida, Toronto, Nashville, Carolina, Ottawa, Vancouver, Columbus, Ottawa and Montreal).

Twelve.

By far my favorite league event to cover. That’s because every single person in hockey shows up at the Draft, so as a beat writer, there’s no better place to be. It’s the one pro Draft where you basically have to be there to cover it because all 30 teams’ Draft tables are on an arena floor.

And usually, the teams I cover swing big deals at the Draft. The Wild’s traded for Pavol Demitra and Todd White at the Draft, and set up the Manny Fernandez and Marek Zidlicky deals.

And the Panthers, to quote Jacques Lemaire, “Oh … My … Lord.” They were busy bees at every Draft, especially Bryan Murray, who acquired Trevor Kidd at the Boston Draft in ’99 and Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha at the 2000 Draft.

The Panthers, with Chuck Fletcher playing a big part, acquired Val Bure and Jason Wiemer for Rob Niedermayer at the ’01 Draft. Rick Dudley traded the first overall picks at consecutive drafts. The Panthers tried to take Alex Ovechkin at the ’03 Draft — one year before he was eligible. They also, after I was covering the Wild, traded Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek for Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan Allen at the Vancouver Draft and acquired Tomas Vokoun the next year.

Fletcher hopes to make some similar noise as the Wild’s GM, and we will see. He did learn from the one of the best, eh, blockbusterers in NHL history in Bryan Murray, and whatyaknow, BM the GM is about to execute yet another with some team with Dany Heatley.

As I’ve written, Fletcher doesn’t have a ton of assets he can deal, so there’s got to be the right fits and, as he said during last night’s interview, “the reality is there aren’t fits with most teams most of the time.”

Wanted to jump on and give you info on three events:

1) The Wild will have its Summer Bash on Thursday night at Rice Park in St. Paul from 6-9 p.m. Hockey-themed stuff, food and lots of autographs as the Wild broadcasters will be there, along with Nordy, Brad “Bomber” Bombardir and current players Derek Boogaard, Cal Clutterbuck, Colton Gillies, John Scott and James Sheppard — barring getting traded, of course :)

2) Tom Reid’s Hockey Pub in St. Paul will be hosting a Draft party Friday night starting at 5:30 p.m. The VERSUS telecast starts at 6 p.m. and Reid will have lots of information on all the draft-eligible players, as well as food and drink specials. And bring your laptops so you can still pay close attention to startribune.com/wild and startribune.com/russo, which will have live up to date information as it happens from the draft floor.

3) I’ll be hosting a live online chat on startribune.com Friday at 10 a.m., so be there or be square.

OK, I’m going to go stalk NHL execs, including ”Chucky,” outside the Board of Governors Meeting now.

Talk to you later, I am sure.

Backstrom finalist for Vezina; Aeros to play Game 7 tonight; Two big NHL Game 6′s tonight; GM search continues

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, rehabbing in Vail from Friday’s hip surgery, is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. The other two finalists are Boston’s Tim Thomas and Columbus’ Steve Mason.

The GM’s vote for the Vezina. The winner will be announced in Las Vegas on June 18.

Here’s the graph on Backstrom from the press release: After nine seasons honing his craft in Europe and two earning increased playing time in the NHL, Backstrom established himself as the Wild’s go-to goalie this season, appearing in 71 games. He ranked among the League’s top five goaltenders in goals against average (2.33, third), save percentage (.923, fourth) and shutouts (eight, third) and his 37 wins were a franchise record in addition to being the NHL’s fifth-highest total. Backstrom established a club record with 149:19 of consecutive shutout goaltending Dec. 31-Jan. 8. 

Backstrom won the 2007 Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for best SV pct. (.929) in the NHL, and teamed with Manny Fernandez to win the 2007 William M. Jennings Trophy, given to the goaltenders for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.

Backstrom joins Jacques Lemaire and Wes Walz as members of the Wild to be designated a finalist for a voted-upon NHL end-of-the-year award. Lemaire won the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s top coach in 2002-03, the same season Walz was a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward.

Tonight, in Peoria, the Houston Aeros play Game 7 due to Saturday’s 2-1 Game 6 loss. Here’s the link for some game notes and other AHL playoff notes.

This is the best note: Houston head coach Kevin Constantine has won three Game 7’s as an NHL head coach, all three on the road.

In the NHL, tonight’s Game 6 of the Calgary-Chicago series and Anaheim-San Jose series. The home team has won every game in the Calgary-Chicago series, so there’s a great chance this is going back to Chicago for Game 7. As for Anaheim-San Jose, Game 5 was a great game. It’s always nice to see Joe Thornton, well, try. He finally instilled a little effort and anger into his game, and helped send the series back to Anaheim.

Tuesday night, there will be two Game 7′s: Rangers at Washington, and Carolina at New Jersey.

I can’t see at all how the Rangers win this series now. Boy, Rangers coach John Tortorella put this series in a whole world of hurt for the Blueshirts. As I mentioned on the blog a few days ago before it happened, I would have also considered scratching Sean Avery, but only if they actually lost Game 4.

But he scratched Avery in Game 5. The Rangers didn’t show up, then Tortorella gets himself suspended for Game 6. Plus, Avery returns and is a shell of his former self. As color analyst extraordinaire Ed Olczyk telestrated during one sequence, Avery was so trying to behave, he intentionally was refusing to even check anybody.

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