Martin Havlat

Wild may offer contract to Petr Sykora

Friday, September 4th, 2009

As I guessed last weekend here, the Wild is considering making a contract offer to free-agent winger Petr Sykora, multiple sources tell me.

GM Chuck Fletcher, who knows Sykora better than most because he had him in Anaheim and Pittsburgh when he was assistant GM in both cities, is weighing the pros and cons of making an offer.

The pros: Sykora is a gifted goal scorer and as consistent as they come, topping 20 goals for 10 straight years (one of three active players, Jarome Iginla and Jason Arnott being the others).

The cons: He’s not the greatest skater, and he’d be in a skating system; and Fletcher still believes that if he waits a little longer, players could fall into his lap as teams are forced to create more salary cap flexibility as the season approaches or gets older. The Wild only has $2.4 million of cap room, so signing Sykora could hinder a later move.

But … 

Sykora, 32, is a two-time Cup winner who has 300 goals and 674 points in 921 games over 13 seasons with five teams. He’s a great guy, loved by his teammates and he’s a sharp-shooter when he gets the puck above the circles. He’s also 11 for 27 in shootouts. He’s back home in the Czech Republic awaiting an NHL team to sign with. He’d love to come to Minnesota, especially because he’s been linemates at the Olympics and World Championships in the past with Martin Havlat.

I’m told Sykora is the only free agent Fletcher is really considering right now. He has some interest in Maxim Afinogenov because of his speed, but he has not talked to Afinogenov’s agent at all. He has, however, talked with Sykora’s agent on and off all summer.

Like I said, no contract offer has been tendered yet, but Fletcher is considering maybe offering one next week.

He feels if he signs Sykora, it must be before training camp because he doesn’t want to sign any free agents who don’t have the benefit of a camp (to learn the system and get in shape). The only caveat there? If the Wild’s ravaged by injuries in camp, he’d consider free agents, of course. 

Unless there’s news, blog will likely be dormant until the middle of next week because I’m out of town.

Hockey’s getting closer

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Boy, I’m exhausted. It’s hard working everyday again, so hard I’m going to Florida in an hour for the long weekend :)

You may not see it in the paper yet, but I’ve been busy sitting down with people in preparation for the Star Tribune’s daily hockey coverage, which begins again late next week.

Just got back from the arena, where there are plenty of signs that hockey’s on the horizon. Equipment managers Tony DaCosta and Brent Proulx were running around, new strength coach Chris Pietrzak-Wegner was working out players and new video coordinator P.J. DeLuca was pulling clips of Wild games last year for new coach Todd Richards.

Got to meet assistant coach Dave Barr, and he and assistant Mike Ramsey were at their desks preparing for camp.

Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen arrived to meet Richards for the first time, and both looked in shape, tanned (well, tanned for two Finns) and ready to go. Marty Havlat gets to town for the first time since his initial press gathering tomorrow.

Richards, GM Chuck Fletcher, assistant GM Brent Flahr, Houston coach Kevin Constantine and Houston assistant coach Troy Ward also gathered the prospects and tryouts kids in the locker room for a meeting and highlight video as they prepare to travel to Traverse City for the prospects tournament.

So hockey is clearly on the horizon.

Players report for camp one week from tomorrow with on-ice sessions beginning in eight days (Sept. 13). Good news: The first two days of scrimmages (Sept. 13 and 14) are going to be open to the public.

The locker room area is a lot different than last year. Amazing what a fresh coat of paint and new carpet can do, but gone are all the pictures of players and big Wild moments that the team wallpapered the locker room with last year. That’s been painted over with “Champions Are … ” and Richards will likely have the players fill in the blanks. Richards also has added some inspirational messages all around, like his favorite, “The Man on Top of the Mountain Did Not Just Fall There.”

Richards also re-did his office, modernized the players lounge, added a room specifically for massages and modernized the fitness center. It looks good; the players should be happy.

Later today, the Wild is expected to release its new scouting staff. The team kept many, but replaced others. As I mentioned earlier this summer, Barry MacKenzie and Todd Woodcroft won’t be returning. As reported in July by Sid the Kid Hartman, part-time scout Glen Sonmor has retired from the NHL but will remain doing Gophers radio. Also, Marty Nanne, Lou’s kid, will be joining as a part-time scout.

Nanne is a former scout of the Florida Panthers, so he knows Fletcher well. In fact, yesterday Fletcher reminded me of the time in 2000 when Nanne begged the Panthers to take Paul Martin 58th overall. They took Vladimir Sapozhnikov instead. Nanne was so upset, he called the travel agent from the draft table to get out of Calgary.

Nine years later, uh, … the Panthers should have listened to Nanne.

That’s it for now, but when I land later tonight, I’ll publish a fresh blog you’ll be interested in. After tonight’s, unless there’s news, the blog will likely be dormant until mid-next week.

Update: The Wild announced changes to the team’s scouting staff today, adding Chris Kelleher (professional), Pavel Routa (European), Craig Channell (amateur) and Marty Nanne (Amateur/part time). Among the notable scouts who are no longer with the team: Marian Gaborik’s brother Branislav Gaborik and Glen Sonmor.

Q&A with Wild player rep Nick Schultz on firing of Paul Kelly

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Good afternoon from Chatteau de Russo, where I’m still laughing at some of Mark Parrish’s locker-room jabs at some of his “teammates” today. Here’s hoping Parrish’s career continues because the locker room’s a funnier place with him around.

Couple other Wild players were at the Octagon camp today that weren’t yesterday. They were Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Colton Gillies and minor-leaguer Jaime Sifers.

Martin Havlat’s been busy tweeting again. He said he was in Chicago over the weekend packing up and went to the Carrie Underwood concert with Mike Fisher. @martinhavlat added, “Back in Montreal now for last 8 days of training before heading to Minny. Can’t wait for camp to start!!”

Schultz, the Wild defenseman entering Year 2 of his six-year deal, was in Chicago on Sunday and Monday attending the NHL Players’ Association meetings. Schultz is the Wild’s player rep, so yes, he was in Sunday night and Monday morning’s 10-hour marathon of a meeting that concluded with the players firing NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly at 3:30 in the morning.

With Schultz’s soon-to-be-two-year-old son Jake sitting on his lap, Schultz talked to me this morning about the decision to fire Kelly, the public relations mess that’s ensued and the chances of another work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2011 (or 2012 if the players exercise their option to extend the CBA a year):

Q: How long has the players’ concern with Kelly been going on?
Schultz: It really all started at the PA meetings in Vegas. There were some issues in there and I think it’s been kind of going on for awhile, maybe longer than people knew. We put some checks and balances into place inside the office, they went in, kind of interviewed some people and found some stuff out and it just kind of went from there. There were some big issues in the office. We needed a change. We needed to get somebody different in there, especially with possible CBA negotiations in two years, maybe three. We thought we needed different leadership going forward and that the issues we had to get resolved meant we had to relieve him of his duties and try to look for someone new.

Q: When you say “issues in the office” and “found some stuff out,” can you be more specific because it seems that a lot of your membership doesn’t even understand what was discovered here?
Schultz: Once everything gets settled with him legally, they don’t really want us commenting on exactly the specific issues. … It’s something where I’m sure it’ll come out, but as of now, it’s something we’re keeping under wraps just until everything’s settled with him.

Q: What was that meeting like and what were the issues that caused it to go 10 hours, and kept Paul Kelly outside waiting for several hours?
Schultz: It got very heated at times. There were a lot of lawyers and players in there, and everybody had a chance to talk and give their views. It was pretty heated. There wasn’t much down time. It was a long time, but it didn’t feel like 10 hours. But it was pretty heated for the most part. I mean, it was a big decision, a big decision moving forward. But we had to make it now instead of letting it go on, especially with what’s maybe coming in a few years. We had to make the right decision.

Q: Were you up screaming away – I can’t even picture that?
Schultz: No. I’m pretty good at listening and saying something here or there. But we have some passionate guys, and if guys feel a certain way, guys say it. There are a few guys who are more vocal than others, but for the most part, guys were involved and a part of it.

Q: It seems like the players are gearing up for another fight with the league and want more of a hardliner to negotiate with Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. What are the players’ big concerns heading into the next CBA negotiations?
Schultz: You hear people talking about lengths of contracts with these big guys getting lots of term yet probably not playing out the last four or five years of their deals. I mean, it’s smart. That’s how teams are fitting guys under their cap, so you’ve got to give them credit for that. They’ve found a loophole. I’m sure that’ll be an issue. I know for the players, escrow is a big thing. Basketball, they have a cap on their escrow where they’re only losing 10 percent of their salaries. Last year, it ended up being close to 15-18 percent of our salaries. This year with the economy and sponsorships, it might even be more. It’d be nice to have a cap on that.

Q: How much are you guys worried that the league will go after guaranteed contracts?
Schultz: Bigtime. You see that in other sports where they can just get rid of you. It’s something that would be pretty hard to give up. There are different things that both sides will have to give a little bit to get something done, maybe working on the buyout structure or things like that. It’ll take some time, but it’ll eventually get sorted out.

Q: Let me ask you point blank: The perception out there right now is that your union’s a mess. Is it?
Schultz: I think now we’re better than we were before because we have an office staff in place. Obviously, we’ve lost our Executive Director, but with [General Counsel] Ian Penny, that’s going to be an interim guy that’s been there forever. He’s taking over day-to-day operations. Everything’s going to be fine that way. We have people in all different departments. Just losing our Executive Director doesn’t put us in shambles. I think going forward, people will be excited with moving forward and hopefully all our past issues are gone.

Q: But if you include Penny, you’re about to have your fifth Executive Director since the lockout. Are the players on the same page?
Schultz: We’ve got an advisory board in place and [ombudsman] Buzz [Hargrove], we’ve put all these people in place to help us and make sure there were different checks and balances so if something wasn’t going right, we’d find it and know about it and there’s people to go to. We’ve kind of figured that out. I mean last time, I mean, Ian Penny was there, but we had players, like [former ombudsman Eric] Lindros and these guys running a lot of the stuff. Now we have actually good people in there that can help us go ahead and find a search firm and look for the right guy through recommendations, through a search firm, through different things to try to find the right guy.

Q: Are the reports that Kelly was too chummy with the Commissioner’s Office a real concern of the union?
Schultz: No, I’ve heard that through the media and things like that. Maybe there were concerns going forward with him negotiating and not really being part of the labor side of it. I guess going forward we just thought we needed a different direction in leadership, especially with things coming up in a couple years.

Q: Because it again sounds like the union’s looking to battle the NHL and with the [2004-05] lockout still fresh in everybody’s mind, fans are worried. Could there be another work stoppage in a few years?
Schultz: I don’t think the players want that. From last time, I don’t think that anyone wants a lockout. With what we went through last time, to lose a season like that, to lose any time, was not right. I think we have enough time now that we can get something in place and not have to go through that again for the players, the owners, the fans – everyone. To have another one, I don’t think that can happen.

Q: You’ve been a hockey player your whole life. To be inside these high-powered, extremely important meetings, how fascinating is it to be inside part of something like that and how much have you learned the four years since you’ve become player rep?
Schultz: My wife asked me, ‘Think someone else will want your job this year as player rep?’ I said, ‘Now that I’ve been involved in it since the lockout, I know what’s going on and with negotiations possibly coming, I want to be a part of it and make the right decisions for myself and my teammates.’ Now every team essentially has a vote and say in things. We’ve got to make sure we’re on the same page and our guys believe and go in the same direction. So it’s fun to go in there and listen to high-powered labor lawyers, these big fancy lawyers, describing everything and explaining everything to a bunch of hockey players. They’re very intelligent, so as a hockey player, you’re obviously not at that level. That’s why you have these people. But I’ve learned a ton. They’re good at informing you and keeping you in the loop. Before, with [former Executive Director] Bob [Goodenow], they kind of just did whatever. It was six guys and Bob. Now we’ve got a player from every team in there involved and making the big decisions. It’s fun to be a part of that and know what’s going on. It’s our careers. We’ve got to get more players involved and wanting to be a part of that – more than just coming in and being pissed and wondering why the escrow’s 20 percent. If we have more guys involved and know what’s going on and more guys educated, we can make better decisions.

Wild opens 2009-10 season in Columbus; Gaborik, Lemaire play in Minnesota

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

(Update): Restricted free agents Benoit Pouliot, Clayton Stoner, Danny Irmen and Robbie Earl have accepted their one-year qualifying offers.

The 2009-10 NHL schedule was just released.

Some highlights:

– Wild opens on the road for the first time since the 2003-04 season (in Columbus) Oct. 3. Wild opens with six of seven on the road.

– Wild opens at home against the Ducks on Oct. 6.

– Todd Richards returns to San Jose on Oct. 10.

– All in one week, Martin Havlat returns to Chicago on Oct. 26, Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota on Oct. 30 and Chuck Fletcher returns to Pittsburgh on Oct. 31.

– Wild visits Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster and the Lightning on Nov. 12.

– The traditional New Year’s Eve game is against Los Angeles.

– Jacques Lemaire, Brian Rolston and the New Jersey Devils come to Minnesota after New Year’s Jan. 2.

– The Olympic break is Feb. 15-28; Wild’s first game after break is March 3 in Calgary.

– The Wild will play 18 games against the Eastern Conference this season, playing seven games against the Atlantic Division, six against the Southeast Division and five against the Northeast Division. Minnesota will play a home game and road game each against Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Minnesota will also visit Eastern Conference members, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington, while hosting Atlanta, Boston, Florida, New Jersey, the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

– The Wild’s longest homestand is five games: Feb. 4-Feb. 14, against Edmonton, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta and Vancouver. The club has a pair of five-game road trips: Oct. 8-Oct. 17 at Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Edmonton and Vancouver, and also Dec. 5-Dec. 12 at Nashville, Phoenix, Colorado, Calgary and Vancouver.

(Updated) Training camp starts Sept. 12 with physicals, on the ice for the first time Sept. 13; preseason schedule will be released at later date, although you can figure out some games by looking at other team’s released preseason scheds. Wild opens preseason two days after camp starts in St. Louis on Sept. 15; Blues comes here Sept. 24. Columbus plays in Minnesota on Sept. 18; Wild goes there Sept. 21. Chicago comes here Sept. 20; Wild goes there Sept. 25. I hear the Wild plays a preseason game in Philadelphia I believe Sept. 29, but we’ll see that schedule when it’s finalized soon.

– Regular-season single-game tickets go on sale Sept. 12. Preseason tickets go on sale Aug. 22. 
Sat.    3       @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
TUE.    6       ANAHEIM 8:00 P.M.
Thu.    8       @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Sat.    10      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
Wed.    14      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    16      @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    17      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
WED.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
Fri.    23      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
SAT.    24      CAROLINA        7:00 P.M.
Mon.    26      @ Chicago        7:30 p.m.
WED.    28      NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    30      N.Y. RANGERS    7:00 P.M.
Sat.    31      @ Pittsburgh     6:30 p.m.
THU.    5       VANCOUVER       7:00 P.M.
SAT.    7       DALLAS  7:00 P.M.
Tue.    10      @ Toronto       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    12      @ Tampa Bay     6:30 p.m.
Fri.    13      @ Washington    6:00 p.m.
Sun.    15      @ Carolina      12:30 p.m.
WED.    18      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    20      N.Y. ISLANDERS  7:00 P.M.
WED.    25      BOSTON  7:00 P.M.
FRI.    27      COLORADO        1:00 P.M.
Sat.    28      @ Colorado       8:00 p.m.
WED.    2       NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    4       ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M.
Sat.    5       @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Mon.    7       @ Phoenix        8:00 p.m.
Wed.    9       @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Fri.    11      @ Calgary       8:00 p.m.
Sat.    12      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
TUE.    15      COLUMBUS        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    17      @ Montreal      6:00 p.m.
Sat.    19      @ Ottawa        6:00 p.m.
MON.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
WED.    23      EDMONTON        6:00 P.M.
SAT.    26      ST. LOUIS       7:00 P.M.
Mon.    28      @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Tue.    29      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
THUR.   31      LOS ANGELES      7:00 P.M.
SAT.    2       NEW JERSEY      7:00 P.M.
Tue.    5       @ Chicago       7:30 p.m.
WED.    6       CALGARY 7:00 p.m.
SAT.    9       CHICAGO 7:00 p.m.
MON.    11      PITTSBURGH      7:00 p.m.
WED.    13      VANCOUVER       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    14      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
Sat.    16      @ Phoenix        7:00 p.m.
Mon.    18      @ Dallas         7:00 p.m.
THU.    21      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
SAT.    23      COLUMBUS        8:00 P.M.
WED.    27      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
Thu.    28      @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    30      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
Tue.    2       @ Dallas         7:30 p.m.
THU.    4       EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
SAT.    6       PHILADELPHIA    7:00 P.M.
WED.    10      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    12      ATLANTA  7:00 P.M.
SUN.    14      VANCOUVER       2:00 P.M.
Feb. 15-28              Olympic Break
Wed.    3       @ Calgary       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    5       @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
SUN.    7       CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    9       FLORIDA 7:00 P.M.
Thu.     11      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
Fri.    12      @ Buffalo       6:30 p.m.
SUN.    14      ST. LOUIS       5:00 P.M.
TUE.    16      EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    18      @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Fri.    19      @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
SUN.    21      CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    23      SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    25      @ Philadelphia  6:00 p.m.
Fri.    26      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
MON.    29      LOS ANGELES      8:00 P.M.
WED.    31      CHICAGO  7:00 P.M.
FRI.    2       SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Sun.    4       @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
Mon.    5       @ Edmonton      8:30 p.m.
Thu.    8       @ Calgary       8:30 p.m.
SAT.    10      DALLAS  7:00 P.M.

With all due respect to the Wild, Havlat tweets

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Regarding Darren Dreger’s story on this morning (link here), Blackhawks President John McDonough was on 640 The Score in Chicago this morning for just the most balanced interview ever: “I am a big fan of Marty Havlat. Unfortunately things didn’t work out here to extend him and I really wish him well in Minnesota except when he’s playing the Blackhawks. He’s a classy guy. Where that came from, I have no idea. I have never talked to Marty Havlat or his agent about a contract extension. I empower people to make those decisions, so for anybody to intimate or infer that I, a civilian, would be making decisions on Marian Hossa or Marty Havlat, it’s preposterous. … I don’t know what really Marty was told. I don’t know because I haven’t spoken to him. … Once the decision was made to go with Marian Hossa, it was a hockey operations decision. … He may be misinformed.”

Havlat was supposed to call me this morning, but Dale Tallon has begged him to stand down since the TSN story. So I don’t know if he’ll give me permission to write what he’s told me, but I can tell you his big beef has not yet been made public and it’s very interesting.

As for the Wild schedule, I’ll hit publish on this blog at 2 p.m. stat. I’ll also toss up another Wild-related blog tonight or tomorrow morning, and then adios amigos for a long time.

In the wake of Dale Tallon being fired by the Chicago Blackhawks, newly-signed Wild winger Martin Havlat sent out a string of tweets today from his Twitter account similar to what he alluded on the night of July 1 after signing with the Wild.

A lot of things happened in the end there in Chicago that Havlat would love to get off his chest. It has zero to do with Tallon, whom he and his agent adore. I talked to Havlat about this two weeks ago. Until I’m given permission by him to write it, I can’t. He’s sleeping on it and I expect to talk to him again Wednesday.

I’ve been in touch with Havlat and his agent today and they want to make it abundantly clear that what’s bothering him shouldn’t be construed as a slap in the face to Wild owner Craig Leipold, GM Chuck Fletcher, his new teammates and Wild fans. He wants to be in Minnesota and hopes what he’s been saying doesn’t appear as disloyalty to his new home. He says he’s excited to start anew and will devote himself entirely to the Wild. 

On a side note, and unrelated partially to Havlat, as I mentioned on the blog this morning, the QO fiasco just gave them an excuse to fire Tallon, and it’s hard to believe the GM of the team had any role in QO’s being sent out. That’s what you have assistant GM’s and hockey ops people for. Regardless, always loyal, Tallon took the blame.

But as I mentioned on the blog this morning, there’s a lot of political things going on upstairs in that organization, and that’s why Rick Dudley quit last month as assistant GM and why Tallon was fired yesterday.

Below are Havlat’s tweets from earlier Tuesday 

By telling truth, don’t want people to think I’m bitter. Everyone in Minn has been awesome, they believe in me and I won’t let them down
about 2 hours ago from web   

 Want to be clear. I loved my time in Chicago but moved on. Very excited about Minny,going to give everything I have to the Wild.
about 2 hours ago from web   

Just so everyone begins to understand, Dale was like a 2nd father to me about 2 hours ago from web   
 Lot’s of people are telling me to stay quiet but shouldn’t the fans know the truth? It’s your loyalty, season ticket money and emotions here
about 3 hours ago from web   

 I guess everyone saw what happened to Dale….yes, the story is starting to come out but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
about 3 hours ago from web

Wild signs Tyler Cuma; Why no Gaborik?; Bad week for Koivu; Sunday scrimmage reminder

Thursday, July 9th, 2009


Coming to you from 38,000 feet right now (yes, I paid $9.95 to blog this because I really couldn’t pull out blackberry as we were flying down the runway).

The Wild has signed 2008 first-round pick Tyler Cuma to a three-year, $2.625 million entry-level deal. An announcement is expected Friday. The Wild had until June 1, 2010, to sign this prized defenseman.

This doesn’t change the rules — Because of his age, if he doesn’t make the Wild in the fall, he’s got to be returned to Ottawa of the OHL. If that’s the case, his contract slides and the contract won’t start until he turns pro in likely 2010-11.

I still think it’ll be a longshot. Wild has seven defensemen on one-ways, barring a trade, and Cuma barely played any hockey last season at the junior level because of his meniscus injury.

Now that Delta’s got Internet on most its flights, this should be a fun upcoming season for you. Now I can tell you every time we hit turbulence or the guy next to me coughs on me — LIKE RIGHT NOW!

OK, they just served me a chef salad. It was good.

I might as well continue with this blog, eh?

How about Stephane Veilleux and Kurtis Foster signing with Tampa Bay? Both should fit in quite nice, and personally, they’ll be missed in Minnesota by this beat writer. My favorite Veilleux story I wrote is this one (click link). The guy was a true character — on and off the ice.

And Foster is by far one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve ever covered. His return from a broken leg was inspirational, and as you know from when he was playing regularly, he was a go-to quote for the beat writers.

Speaking of which, before my flight, he had a pretty hysterical line. Noting that Veilleux was Mikko Koivu’s linemate, how Foster was one of Mikko’s best friends on the team and how his brother Saku declined the Wild’s contract offers, Foster said, “Pretty tough week for Mikko.”

This plane’s bouncing around the sky right now. Onward.

Remember, if you need a hockey fix, Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m., the Wild prospects will be scrimmaging down at Xcel Energy Center. You can see guys like Cuma, Colton Gillies, Nick Leddy, Petr Kalus, Matt Hackett, Cody Almond, Carson McMillan, Marco Scandella, former Shattuck roomies Alex Fallstrom and Erik Haula and the infamous Eero Elo, who according to google doubles as a Finnish hotel.

Incidentally, I’ll be there to blog, and quite frankly folks, that might be the last you’ll be seeing/hearing from me for some time. I’ve got time off on the horizon, and it’s been a busy offseason. So to ensure my battery’s running when camp starts, I hope you understand that unless there’s big news, my byline will probably be missing for awhile and the blog will be updated by somebody else.

Lastly, I’ve gotten a gazillion (in the dictionary now) emails about why the Wild made no offers to Marian Gaborik when the team portrayed like it would. To this point, GM Chuck Fletcher has declined comment on this subject, but let me tell you, Marian Gaborik was not re-signing here even if Fletcher did the P.R. thing and offered him a contract.

I wish Gaborik well. He’s the second-best scorer I’ve ever covered (Pavel Bure being Numero Uno). Gaborik was just a sensational talent and goal scorer. But he was not re-signing here. He turned down $78.5 million last fall. Every contract he’s ever signed with Minnesota has been a problem. Think Ron Salcer was just going to sign him up here days before he had his pick of teams? It just wasn’t happening, so to me, this is beyond a moot point. If the changes were made last summer, he probably signs on the dotted line. But this close to free agency, it just wasn’t going to happen.

The Wild entered this free-agent period $13 million under the cap with a to-do list of re-signing Gaborik/finding his replacement, adding a No. 2 center, signing two defensemen, re-signing Josh Harding, Benoit Pouliot, Kyle Brodziak and others.

The team wants to be $1.5 million under the cap for injury cushion/in-season trades or waiver pickups. That means it had $11.5 million to spend. Re-sign Gaborik at $7.5 mill, that would have left $4 million to sign two defensemen, a No. 2 center and re-sign the restricted free agents. Basically, re-signing Gaborik probably would’ve meant the team could not have even made a run at Saku Koivu.

So I think the Wild made the conscious decision to pursue Martin Havlat at $5 million so it would have $6.5 million to spend on two defensemen, Saku Koivu and the RFA’s. Unfortunately, Koivu didn’t sign. But that doesn’t change the fact that the team was making a fiscal decision to try to fill as many holes as possible, something that could not have happened if Gaborik was re-signed. Havlat is a nice replacement. The guy is a stud player when healthy, somebody that WILL do things that dazzle on the ice. He’s been basically a point-a-game player since 2002 (look at his numbers in 2006-07 especially).

Again, the caveat with him has been health, but the same can be said for Gaborik, too. As I mentioned last week, there were only two real replacements for Gaborik — Mike Cammalleri and Havlat — because Marian Hossa clearly picked his team and the Sedins were off the board before free agency started.

The Wild got one of them. The Wild could have gotten none of them.

Now, yes, the team didn’t get Koivu, but going out and just signing players for the sake of signing players is a stupid idea. The Wild can’t let itself get hamstrung by bad contracts. Quite frankly, the reason for the lack of flexibility now is because it has a few unmovable contracts.

So Fletcher is trying to be patient, search the trade market and if the right move comes up, he’ll pounce. But maybe that move doesn’t happen to camp, doesn’t happen until midseason, at the trade deadline or next summer.

To use a terrible cliche, Rome wasn’t build in a day. To expect that a new GM can come in and fill every single hole in one summer when the free-agent pool was so thin was unrealistic. Fletcher is trying to build long-term, so again, to sign an Alex Kovalev at 36 years old at $5 million per makes little sense. No doubt Kovalev can still play the game and would be an upgrade.

But you know what usually happens when you make short-sighted decisions like that? Something falls into your lap later in the summer or next season, and you can’t pull the trigger because you signed a 36-year-old at $5 million per. 

I can ramble on and on, but we’re descending and the flight attendant is giving me the stare-down. So like I said to you on July 1, after reading some of these comments lately and fielding some of the emails lately, I am worried for your health.

It ain’t so bad, folks. Calm down, take a deep breath, be patient, maybe listen to a little Cat Stevens to calm the nerves and enjoy your summer.