Mikko Koivu


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.

Hockey’s on the Horizon; Catching up w/ Bruno, Burnzie, Steph, etc…

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Training camp is less than two weeks away, and amazingly, two weeks from tomorrow (Tuesday) will be the Wild’s first exhibition game in St. Louis on just the third day of training camp.

Something tells me that first lineup coach Todd Richards uses won’t be a true indication of the Wild’s actual Opening Night lineup. Just a guess. We might see a whole lot of Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser. Heck, the Wild might have to summon Eero Elo from the Finnish wilderness for that Blues tilt.

Yep, hockey’s just around the corner. Went down to watch a bunch of NHLers/Wild players skate this morning in the camp put on by the Octagon player rep agency. The Wild players there this morning included in no particular order Brent Burns, Owen Nolan, John Scott, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Josh Harding and Andrew Brunette. In the coming days, other Wild players expected to skate there include Derek Boogaard (just wasn’t there today), Nick Schultz (in Chicago busy firing the NHLPA Executive Director), Greg Zanon, Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and others.

Other NHLers there this morning include Florida’s Keith Ballard, Tampa Bay’s Mike Lundin, Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski, the Isles’ Tim Jackman, Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien, Pittsburgh’s Wyatt Smith, Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie, Montreal’s Andrew Conboy, Ben Clymer and Erik Rasmussen, among others. Mark Parrish is also skating there, but he was at the doctor today because his wife is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Parrish’s only NHL option right now could be the Islanders, but Parrish might be forced to choose between Europe and retiring.

There were also a bunch of college or high school kids there, including Josh Birkholz (Gophers), Max Gardiner (Minnetonka High, Gophers recruit), Zach Budish (Edina, incoming Gopher), Anders Lee (Edina, Notre Dame recruit), Nick Bjugstad (Blaine, Gophers recruit), Nick Mattson (Indiana, USHL; UND), Travis Boyd (U-17 US team, Gophers recruit), Seth Ambroz (Gophers recruit), Christian Isackson (St.Thomas Academy, Gophers recruit) and Nick Jensen (Green Bay, USHL; St. Cloud State recruit).

Oh!!! And Tampa Bay’s Stephane Veilleux, whose hair color resembles the Gophers’ colors I suppose, was there. I talked with Veilleux for awhile, and he had a fun summer, going to Wimbledon and visiting good chum and former Wild roommate Mikko Koivu in Finland. I’ll write more about Veilleux when the Wild visits Tampa in November, but he wanted me to thank the fans and tell you how much he’ll miss playing here. He said he badly wanted to stay but understands it’s a business.

He confirmed to me what I wrote a few days ago — he turned down a two-year deal from San Jose to take one from Tampa. He said it was an agonizing decision because he said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who used to coach him in Houston, called him two minutes after free agency began. But in the end, Veilleux was told he’d have a chance to play on the second line in Tampa. He feels he owes it to himself to give that a try. He says if you look at his history here, like when he played with Marian Gaborik every training camp during exhibition games, he was able to put up points. But the second the season started, Jacques Lemaire put him back to where the coach felt comfortable with Veilleux — on the checking line.

Veilleux says if he can have the same type of camp he normally had in Minnesota, he feels he can prove to Tampa Bay he can play with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the left side of that No. 2 line. If you look at Tampa’s top-six, there’s a definite left-wing slot open, so we’ll see if Veilleux can pull it off. Of course, one would think former linemate Wes Walz, a Tampa Bay assistant, knows Veilleux better than most anybody, and I’m betting coach Rick Tocchet eventually has Veilleux on that checking line where he’s proven he can be effective.

Here’s a smattering of other little tidbits:

– I shot the breeze with a number of NHLers this morning about NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly getting fired. TSN’s Darren Dreger has done a superb job covering this from the outset and he’s in Chicago, so I direct you to tsn.ca/nhl for his coverage. We’ve been hearing a clamoring of discontent for months, and it became clear this summer that Kelly was in trouble when General Counsel Ian Penny had his contract extended without Kelly’s knowledge. But there’s got to be a lot more to this than Kelly allegedly being chummier with the Commissioner’s office than the players would like. This will all come out I’m sure as the Executive Board — guys like Chris Chelios, Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Ference — and 30 player reps communicate the reasons to the membership. But since Kelly’s dismissal and reasons for it didn’t have to go to vote to all 600 or so players, I can tell you there are some very confused and concerned members.

Regardless, the players I talked to are very concerned about what they were calling the “circus” internally at the NHLPA. I’ll have a lot more on this once my daily hockey coverage begins again, but this really should be something all fans pay attention to because it appears as if the union’s gearing up for a fight with the league in the next CBA negotiations.

– Brent Burns looks like his old self. No signs of concussion or shoulder problems, smiling again, chirping opponents like that stinkin’ Pierre-Marc Bouchard and just being a presence every time he skated this morning.

– Andrew Brunette looked very good this morning, and he’s only four months from reconstructive knee surgery. He certainly had no problem schooling some of the high school kids with a couple sick passes in traffic during one shift. Brunette said physically he feels good, but now it’s just a matter of feeling comfortable on the knee and getting over the mental hurdles of stops and starts and turning. “Just knowing I can do it,” Brunette said.

– As I’m sure most of you know because the Wild’s roster has shown the change for weeks, but goalie Josh Harding is changing his number to No. 37. Trivia question for the comment section: Who’s the only Wild player to ever wear No. 37? You’ve got to have an encyclopedia Wild mind to get this answer.

The winner gets to start paying for Russo’s Rants. Congratulations. :)

What else? What else? Let me go to my twitter real quick; I tweeted while I was in the chair waiting for my oral surgeon because I knew I would forget some things.

Oh, Owen Nolan’s goatee is one thick straight line down to below his chin. If he was walking toward you at night and you didn’t know whom he was, you’d hide your pet poodle because you’d be afraid he’d kick it.

Didn’t you miss me? That … is … it … for … now.

Lots more puck talk to come, but at a later date.

Fletcher continues to work trade market

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Good morning everyone. Nothing like the NHL schedule being released to really get one pumped up for the season.

Spent last night booking hotels through December. Might as well get a jump on it, eh?

I’m about to take some R&R, and I mean it this time. The blog and newspaper will continue to be updated by others when news breaks, but I’m going to do my best to take a giant step back for the next number of weeks.

As far as news on the horizon, there will likely be little minor-league, depth signings (I hear Duncan Milroy and Jon DiSalvatore), the negotiations and eventual signings of Josh Harding and Kyle Brodziak (Brodziak has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 31, but it would be shocking if it got there) and the release of the preseason schedule (although I think it’s pretty much ironed down on the previous blog).

The team will likely also plan some sort of trip in the middle of camp as team-building (Pittsburgh and Anaheim used to do this when Chuck Fletcher was there). A reader (or maybe readers) also emailed me recently to see if I can ask Fletcher if the team would try to get an East Coast Hockey League affiliate. I asked Fletcher the other day, and he and assistant to the GM Jim Mill plan to investigate this. Fletcher doesn’t feel it’s a pressing issue, but if there’s a possibility out there, it could happen in time for next season.

As for the current roster, Fletcher says he continues to scour the trade market and that if there’s a next move this summer, that’ll likely be it. He said there are a few quality free agents out there, but none that really gets his appetite whet.

As I reported earlier this summer, he’s willing to go a player or two short deep into the summer with the hope of having the cap space and roster flexibility to make a move.

“I think we still have some cap flexibility and there are teams that need to acquire cap flexibility,” Fletcher said. ”So there’s certainly the ability to acquire somebody by trade if something makes sense. We’ll look at all the options and see what makes sense and see what the best fit is. But with this group, we feel comfortable going into training camp if it doesn’t happen.

“I don’t think it was the deepest free-agent class to begin with. There was a pretty good rush on July 1. There are still some possibilities out there. But in the cap system, once you spend your money, it’s spent. So how patient do you want to be? There’s certainly conversation now amongst teams and I expect there will continue to be right until the trade deadline. So the question would be: When do you want to make your play and what makes sense? It’s obviously the process we’re going through on a daily and weekly basis, but it’s tough to handicap.”

So what is Fletcher saying here?

Later in the summer or into next season, some teams are likely going to have to move some bigtime players to get under the $56.8 million cap ceiling or create cap flexibility going into next summer. I know some fans are dying for the team to take a “risk,” but the risk has to be the right one. And if there are no free agents out there, there are no free agents — plain and simple.

You can’t dump players in an NHL world with guaranteed contracts, so if you make a mistake and spend your money on a player that is inferior to one maybe you can get via trade later on, you simply can’t make the next move.

So Fletcher wants to save the cap space now to allow him to hopefully trade for a significant player.

Remember, teams can go over the cap by 10 percent during the summer as long as they get below the ceiling by the last day of training camp. Boston, Ottawa and Chicago are over the cap right now. San Jose’s not over the cap, but if you plug in three or four holes the Sharks still have on their roster, they’re basically over the cap.

What does this mean? Maybe Phil Kessel still becomes available in Boston. Maybe Ottawa’s Dany Heatley can still be had. Maybe Jonathan Cheechoo in San Jose. Eventually, Chicago will undoubtedly have to dump salary — whether that’s Patrick Kane himself, or a Patrick Sharp or Dustin Byfuglien.

The Blackhawks might be fine going into the season because if you send Brent Sopel to the minors and one of their one-way contract goalies (Crawford or Niemi), by my math, they’re under the cap for this season (BUT BARELY).

So do you really want to sign Mike Comrie or Jason Williams now if there’s some sort of chance to maybe land a Patrick Sharp?

This is the stuff that has to be weighed. I agree that when you look at the Wild’s depth chart as it currently stands, there’s one giant hole — whether it’s a top center, or if Pierre-Marc Bouchard can fill that hole, a scoring winger.

But sometimes it’s better to wait — especially if there are few exciting free agents available.

As you can tell, it’s hard to make a trade right now in the NHL. The only really substantial one that’s happened since the end of the season was Chris Pronger to Philly, and the Flyers paid an enormous price.

It’s hard to move money outright. Even if you take a pretty good player for a pick or prospect, teams are still asking you to take a player back to balance it off a little bit. It’s not quite like the NBA, but teams are trying to balance contracts and money all the time.

But there are teams like the Wild that have left a little flexibility, so just maybe you can take a $3 or $4 million player from Chicago and not make the Blackhawks take a contract back.

Interestingly, a team that’s left a lot of flexibility is New Jersey. Lou Lamoriello’s left a lot of cap room, which is interesting to me because historically the Devils are a team at the other end. They still have to re-sign Zajac, but by laying in the weeds, Lamoriello’s another guy I expect to eventually make a move.

OK, as usual, I got sidetracked. But things just pop in my head and come out my fingertips.

As I mentioned last week, patience everyone. And when I say patience, I’m not saying be “satisfied with being mediocre” as some fans accuse. Like I said, I agree there are holes. But it’s imperative to figure out the correct way to fill those holes because in a league where it’s proving impossible to repair a mistake via trade, you better not make mistakes. Make cap mistakes, and it could wind up costing you a Patrick Kane, or in the Wild’s case, a Mikko Koivu or Brent Burns eventually.

Now, as Fletcher said above, this could be the team if he can’t make his “play” before the season. The only reason before the summer I was talking about Colton Gillies potentially being in the minors is I thought the team would probably need his $1-plus million cap space. But right now, if no move is made, he’s got a good shot at making the team.

And I know he was playing prospects in that scrimmage the other day, but he looked very, very good. Fast, nasty (buried Petr Kalus) and scored two goals — one exceptional one.

Anyway, I’ve said my peace. Have a good rest of the summer, and hopefully I’ve got it in myself to stand down and let others cover the team. Mid-July is usually the official end of the previous hockey season for me, so I hope you enjoyed the coverage this season. See you next season, amazingly, my fifth already covering the Wild.

(OK, I’m back. Nashville signed Peter Olvecky).

I’ll leave you with this. Here’s a look at the depth chart as of now:

Goalie 

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

Barry Brust

Anton Khudobin

LD-RD

Kim Johnsson-Brent Burns

Nick Schultz-Marek Zidlicky

Greg Zanon-Shane Hnidy

John Scott-Jaime Sifers

Tyler Cuma-Justin Falk

Clayton Stoner-Jamie Fraser

Marco Scandella-Maxim Noreau

LW-C-RW

Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Martin Havlat

Owen Nolan-James Sheppard-Pierre-Marc Bouchard (RW until training camp)

Antti Miettinen-Eric Belanger-Cal Clutterbuck

Colton Gillies-Kyle Brodziak-Derek Boogaard

Petr Kalus-Benoit Pouliot-Craig Weller

Robbie Earl-Morten Madsen-Danny Irmen

Matt Kassian-Cody Almond-Carson McMillan

(the depth chart will change when the Wild plugs some minor-league holes, believed to be Duncan Milroy and Jon DiSalvatore, to replace Corey Locke and Krys Kolanos).

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

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

UPDATED FROM 11,323 FEET

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.

Ducks sign Saku Koivu, turns down better term, money from the Wild

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

UPDATE: Kurtis Foster has signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.

UPDATE: Got to ask Saku a few questions on his presser. Quotes below, but as you’ll see, short of the Wild trading Mikko Koivu, the Wild had no shot in the end. Saku decided he just didn’t feel comfortable playing with his brother.

As you probably saw on the previous blog or my Twitter, Saku Koivu has indeed signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks — proof positive there’s nothing the Wild could have done to sweeten that pot. 

If somebody doesn’t want to play here, he doesn’t; there’s no use chasing your own tail and throwing money and term if there are other factors at play. He could’ve gotten a better deal in Minny — sources say the deal would have been in the $4 million annual range on a two-year deal, in the $3-million-plus range on a three-year deal.

As I warned you before last weekend, the Wild started to get the impression things were heading south with negotiations with Koivu. To me, this contract with Anaheim shows two things — 1) he wants to play with buddy Teemu Selanne and only signed for one year because Selanne claims this time he will really retire in one year; 2) there were serious concerns amongst the Koivu Bros. about playing together.

Now you know why I wrote that July 1 column saying the Koivu’s parents wanted them to play together, but “if only it were that simple.”

Where does this leave the Wild? Exactly where GM Chuck Fletcher said he’d be the other day with Koivu did not sign (here’s the link). He’ll continue to look at the trade route for a No. 2 center, and if that can’t be done before the season, the internal options remain James Sheppard, Benoit Pouliot or Eric Belanger — or moving Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the middle.

I briefly talked to Bouchard today, but I was driving at the time. I hope to speak to him on the record later this afternoon, but he was a natural center before the NHL and I think he’s willing to give it a try again in training camp.

The Wild will not look at the free-agent route now at No. 2 center. Contrary to Internet rumors, the Wild IS NOT signing Mike Comrie, I’ve been told.

As you saw in the blog below, columnist Jim Souhan sat down with Marian Gaborik this morning for a one-on-one. That’ll be in tomorrow’s paper, as well as a Koivu/maybe Bouchard story. Also, the Wild will announce later it’s signed Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser to two-way contracts. Both have played some NHL games but are likely Houston-bound.

Update: Here are quotes from Saku on Minny:

On not signing in Minnesota: “We spoke to Minnesota a few times. All the talks went very well, but it was more personal reasons. I didn’t feel comfortable. I kind of felt that Minnesota’s Mikko’s place at this point. I wanted him to have his own privacy in a way and make his own name and career. And I just felt there were too many risks for us as brothers and as family members to join on the same team and kind of compete for the same ice time. And I felt we’re better off playing somewhere else.”Did Mikko understand this because it seems like he was intrigued by being teammates: “I think Mikko was really excited about the possibility for us playing on the same team and I can’t deny, if you really think about the possibilities and only the positive side, it would have been a pretty exciting thing. But I looked at it in, I guess, a more negative way and I was thinking, ‘what if this happens or what if things won’t work out?’ And right now, we have such a great relationship and I was too afraid to challenge that. You never know what is going to happen. For me, this was a safer option and I felt myself, I felt more comfortable.

“When I spoke to Mikko today, he understood totally. I guess I looked at things as more of an older brother and I wanted to protect him in a way and I felt there were too many risks for me to sign there.”

But isn’t it riskier taking a one-year than the multi-years the Wild offered? “I felt that the fit for the team in Anaheim and for myself, it was perfect for a one-year deal. We’re going from one extreme coming from Montreal to a very different lifestyle, different weather and hockey not being as big as it is in Montreal. At this point in my career, being an older player and with my family, I felt I wanted to have control for our future. Obviously I’m hoping and I’m confident things will work out and hopefully I play many years in Anaheim. I felt it was an easier decision for me to take it a year at a time at this point and see how everything works out, how we like it there. And then if everything works out well, then we can spend many years hopefully to come. “

SIFERS, FRASER BIOS FROM PRESS RELEASE

Fraser, 23 (11/17/85), played one game with the New York Islanders in 2008-09, making his NHL debut April 4 versus Tampa Bay. Fraser posted 21 points (7-14=21) and 30 penalty minutes (PIM) in 66 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League (AHL). The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Sarnia, Ont., played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Brampton Battalion and Sarnia Sting. He was originally signed by the Islanders on Feb. 22, 2007.

Sifers, 26 (1/18/83), recorded two assists and 18 PIM in 23 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008-09 season. He also posted 20 points (4-16=20) and 47 PIM in 43 games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound native of Stratford, Conn., played collegiately at the University of Vermont, where he was an ECAC Second All-Star Team selection in 2005. Sifers was signed as a free agent by Toronto on July 20, 2006.

Friday morning check-in; July 12 development camp scrimmage open to public

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Real quick hello.

I’ll be heading to the Martin Havlat presser at the arena this early afternoon. It’ll be more of an informal meet-and-greet in the locker room mostly for the TV cameras, radio mikes and newspaper photogs because the print media’s already gotten him and the electronic media hasn’t been able to.

Nothing new right now on Saku Koivu or Ruslan Fedotenko.

As mentioned in the earlier post, Koivu to Minny not looking good right now. Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anything more the Wild can do to sweeten the pot. As I wrote on the blog, I think, June 30 or July 1, the Wild was going to make an offer and if the Koivus wanted to make it happen, they could.

But as Mikko expressed in my story July 1, there are significant concerns there between the two brothers about playing together, and I think that is very, very real. This is Mikko’s team now, and these are two proud guys. If Saku isn’t the same player a year or two into the contract and he’s being taken to task, I think there is very real concern there how that would weigh on both of them.

And like Mikko alluded, as much as it would be a dream for them to play together this is likely Saku’s last contract. He’s looking for the best deal and best fit for his family — he’s got two young children.

So as of now, it’s not looking good. Maybe it changes, but from what I hear, the Wild’s not optimistic.

If the Wild can’t sign Koivu, it’ll likely look at the trade market or go into camp with the same centers. And quite frankly, that is the absolute correct move.

In a cap system, you can’t make mistakes and it makes zero sense to go out and sign one of the remaining centers to a long-term deal if he can’t fit the No. 2 role. That’s what the Wild needs. Dominic Moore, Manny Malhotra, Todd Marchant, these guys are real good centers. But they’re No. 3′s. The Wild already has James Sheppard, Eric Belanger and Kyle Brodziak. Those guys can handle the No. 3 and 4 roles as well as any of the guys available.

And yes, Sheppard or P-M Bouchard or even Benoit Pouliot could very well wind up at the No. 2 spot. Fletcher will undoubtedly try to acquire a No. 2 center, but this might very well have to be the solution because there’s few other options. It is not easy to acquire centers in the NHL. Look at last summer, the Wild tried for centers and just like this year, it was an awful free-agent class. It missed out on the couple available, and let’s be honest, one was Brendan Morrison and the team lucked out he chose Anaheim.

Just like last year’s class, there were only two centers even worth going after — Koivu and Nik Antropov (and that pains me to say because as I mentioned the other day, I’m not a big Antropov guy).

To me, you only sign a Mike Comrie or Jason Williams later in the summer if you can get them as bargains or you can’t make a trade. Waiting sometimes is the right move.

Same thing for wingers. There is no use overspending on a winger now when maybe you can get somebody in a trade or there’s a better free-agent crop next summer.

The Wild cannot give out bad contracts, not when you have to ensure you’ll have the money to re-sign Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns — relatively — soon.

The Wild has targeted a few guys, but if it misses, it’ll wait. It did tender an offer to Ruslan Fedotenko, and he’s expected to make a decision today. A number of teams are interested.

Lastly, the Wild starts its development camp Tuesday. Below is the roster. On Sunday, July 12, if you want a hockey fix, the prospects will be scrimmaging at the X from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Gate 1 at the X opens at noon.

54 Cody Almond  6-2     200     Left    7/24/89 Calgary, Alberta        Kelowna WHL     70      33      33      66      105     EN/07
68 Eero Elo     6-3     189     Right   4/26/90 Rauma, Finland  Lukko Rauma     Fin. Jr.         3       0       0       0       0       EN/08
47 Alexander Fallstrom6-2       195     Right   9/15/90 Gothenburg, Sweden      Shattuck St. Mary’s     H.S.    52      40      47      87      52      EN/09
56 Kristopher Foucault6-1       202     Left    12/12/90        Calgary, Alberta        Kootenay/Calgary        WHL     26      9       8       17      16      EN/08
18 Colton Gillies       6-4     196     Left    2/12/89 Surrey, British Columbia        Minnesota       NHL     45      2       5       7       18      EN/07
49 Anthony Hamburg      6-1     185     Right   8/30/91 Houston, Texas  Dallas Stars AAA        H.S.    70      29      70      99      76      EN/09
60 Erik Haula   6-0     170     Left    3/23/91 Pori, Finland   Shattuck St. Mary’s     H.S.    53      26      58      84      46      EN/09
51 Chris Hickey 6-3     185     Right   9/2/88  St. Paul, Minnesota     Wisconsin       WCHA    8       1       0       1       4       EN/06  
23 Petr Kalus   6-1     201     Left    6/29/87 Ostrava, Czechoslovakia Balashikha       KHL     17      0       2       2       106     TRD/07
57 Matt Kassian 6-4     247     Left    10/28/86        Edmonton, Alberta       Houston AHL     56      1       2       3       130     EN/05
53 Brian Kaufman        6-4     205     Left    2/25/84 Shoreview, Minnesota    Miami University        CCHA    41      10      12      22      12      FA/09
63 Morten Madsen        6-2     191     Left    1/16/87 Rodovre, Denmark        Houston AHL     56      6       16      22      33      EN/05  
65 Carson McMillan      6-2     200     Right   9/10/88 Brandon, Manitoba       Calgary WHL     68      31      41      72      93      EN/07
72 Jarod Palmer 6-0     200     Right   2/10/86 Fridley, Minnesota      Miami University        CCHA    41      8       19      27      34      INVITEE
58 Jere Sallinen        6-0     183     Left    10/26/90        Espoo, Finland  Blues Espoo     Fin. Jr.        9       1       2       3       31      EN/09
 
# DEFENSEMEN     HT      WT      SHOOTS  BORN    BIRTHPLACE      2008-09 TEAM    LGE     GP      G       A       PTS     PIM     ACQ
61 Tyler Cuma   6-1     189     Left    1/19/90 Toronto, Ontario        Ottawa  OHL     21      1       8       9       27      EN/08
73 Justin Falk  6-5     213     Left    10/11/88        Snowflake, Manitoba     Houston AHL     65      0       3       3       44      EN/07
71 Harri Ilvonen        6-2     187     Left    11/3/88 Helsinki, Finland       LeKi Lempaala   Finland 21      4       3       7       8       EN/07
48 Nick Leddy   5-11½    185     Left    3/20/91 Edina, Minnesota        Eden Prairie    H.S.    31      12      33      45      26      EN/09   
52 Sean Lorenz  6-1     198     Right   3/10/90 Littleton, Colorado     Notre Dame      CCHA    39      0       3       3       18      EN/08
59 Kyle Medvec  6-6     205     Left    6/16/88 Westminster, Colorado   Vermont HE      36      2       10      12      40      EN/06
74 Maxim Noreau 5-11    192     Right   5/14/87 Montreal, Quebec        Houston AHL     77      14      25      39      49      FA/08
64 Marco Scandella      6-3     206     Left    2/23/90 Montreal, Quebec        Val d’Or        QMJHL   58      10      27      37      64      EN/08
62 J.P. Testwuide       6-0     210     Left    11/5/84 Vail, Colorado  Denver University       WCHA    36      3       10      13      110     INVITEE
 
# GOALTENDERS    HT      WT      CATCHES BORN    BIRTHPLACE      2008-09 TEAM    LGE     GPI     W-L-OT  SO      GAA     SV%     ACQ
50 Matthew Hackett      6-2     170     Left    3/7/90  London, Ontario Plymouth        OHL     55      34-15-3 2       3.04    .913    EN/09  
70 Darcy Kuemper        6-4     195     Left    5/5/90  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Red Deer        WHL     55      21-25-8 3       2.96    .898    EN/09