Marek Zidlicky

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.


Wild trades for Edmonton’s Brodziak; Wild takes top-ranked goalie; Wild still into Heatley; Bouwmeester’s rights traded to Calgary

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

The Wild just traded the 99th and 133rd pick to Edmonton for center Kyle Brodziak and the 161st.  He’s a right-handed center who’s solid in the faceoff circle. Oil, I’m told, thought he’d be a third-line center after the year he had two years ago with Glencross and Stortini the last month-and-a-half, but he played mostly on the fourth line last year.

He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He played for Todd Richards in  Wilkes-Barre.

The Wild just took Matthew Hackett, the top-ranked goalie in the draft, at 77th overall. He plays at Plymouth of the OHL. Hackett is the nephew of former NHLer Jeff Hackett, who was just fired as the Avs’ goalie coach when Tony Granato was fired.

In the fourth round, the Wild took left wing Kris Foucault, a teammate of Carson McMillan’s with the Calgary Hitman at 103 overall.

At 116, the Wild took Shattuck St. Mary’s Alexander Fallstrom, from Sweden. He was senior captain there and a power forward.

At 163, the Wild took Jere Sallinen out of Finland, then at 182ns (first pick of seventh round), the Wild took future Gopher Erik Haula, from Shattuck, who will play next year with the USHL Omaha Lancers.

Good morning back in the Cities. Coming to you from the Draft risers, and I’m reminded by a hilarious line from former Wild assistant GM Tom Lynn last night.

“I’ve been a sportswriter for two days, and I’ve already gained four pounds and can’t roll out of bed in the morning.”

Welcome to our unhealthy lifestyle, Mr. Lynn, who shouldn’t take long to get back on the other side of the barricade.

Here is his blog today on the Hockey News’ web site.

I am told Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will be trying very hard to gain a second-round pick this morning — perhaps again dangling Josh Harding (Edmonton is at 40). He’s also now got a third-round pick and three fourths. Wild also would like to add a goalie today to its depth chart.

I am also told the Wild IS NOT out of the Dany Heatley sweepstakes. Ottawa still wants to trade him by July 1 and if the Senators likely get off their demand of Brent Burns, there’s a possibility.

The day started off with the Florida Panthers trading Jay Bouwmeester’s rights to Calgary for Jordon Leopold’s rights and a third. 

Edina’s Zach Budish went to Nashville at No. 41. At least the Preds didn’t rub the Wild’s nose in it by taking Budish at 41 — the pick they got from Minnesota in Zidlicky trade. Wild wanted to somehow get Budish today.

Little Falls’ Ben Hanowski just went 63rd (second pick in the third round) to Pittsburgh.

Good morning, … Chat with me at 10 a.m.

Friday, June 26th, 2009


In nine hours, after lots and lots of buildup, the LNH Draft (French) begins.

I’ll be hosting a live chat on (Internet permitting because it’s sloooooooooooooooowww) at 10 a.m. today, so get your Draft, trade, new regime, free agency questions ready. Free agency is right around the corner after the weekend.

Right now, crickets as far as trades. I made the rounds around town last night, bumping into scores of NHL types and getting to hang out with guys like Dale Hunter (hysterical dude) and others I’ll keep nameless. Hey, I kept it off Twitter, I might as well keep it off here. :)

I did bump into Chuck Fletcher and Todd Richards on the street last night, and you can bet they were talking trade. As I think I’ve mentioned on here, and will in a more in-depth story I’m sure during training camp, Fletcher wants to have a wide-open working relationship with Richards.

So he will discuss every trade with Richards to make certain the player will be somebody Richards will be comfortable with, will give ice time to and will be able to excel in his system. So there will be no, “Who?” from the coach if they trade for say, Dominic Moore. And conversely, if a player is not working out for Richards, Fletcher will have an open door. He doesn’t want quality players wasting away on the fourth line or sitting in the press box so the asset value dies.

Now, will anything happen today? We will see. There hasn’t been a single NHL trade yet for all the reasons I’ve mentioned the last couple days and in today’s paper. As Fletcher’s said a couple times, “there’s too much money in the system right now. I mean, the cap’s not going up 20 percent again. There are some teams in bad shape right now.”

I also heard last night Ottawa’s getting a little nervous that’ll be unable to deal Dany Heatley today. Lots of teams have done character references, and the latest trade demand has really caused lots of potential trade partners to back off in their interest. It’s not just his salary, it’s not just the assets you’d give up. It’s definitely him, some off-ice issues and the fact that when the going gets tough, he demands to get going.

Tampa Bay is another interesting situation to watch today. There is still immense friction there involving the fact that one owner wants to trade Vincent Lecavalier and the other doesn’t. His no-trade kicks in July 1 and Montreal, wanting to make a major splash because it’s hosting the Draft, is willing to overpay for him. As somebody said to me, this is the “perfect storm” to move him for huge assets and rid the 11-year contract off the books.

Also, if you read the rumor sights, it’s been reported for weeks that the Wild was hot after Tomas Kaberle for Marek Zidlicky and Josh Harding. I’ve never written that because as I’ve told you before, I don’t like throwing stuff out there unless I personally report it out or confirm it or refute it through sources. It’s a good thing I didn’t throw that against the wall and pray it stuck because I confirmed the Wild is not in the Tomas Kaberle talks. Obviously, things could change I suppose, but I believe the people that told me this, and they’d know.

I do have some other little interesting tidbits I picked up on the Wild last night, and I’ll throw them in tomorrow’s paper or on the blog later once I do a little more reporting. Nothing earth-shattering, but just some potential stuff on the horizon.

OK, I’ll be back on for the chat at 10.